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Fluency, rhythm and intonation A top-down look at English.

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Presentation on theme: "Fluency, rhythm and intonation A top-down look at English."— Presentation transcript:

1 Fluency, rhythm and intonation A top-down look at English

2 Starting from the top Fluency, rhythm and intonation: the overall structures of language sound Does it make sense to start by focusing on these large structures rather than on individual sounds? –We are probably more used to thinking bottom-up, particularly concerning sounds –The overall structures obviously depend on the smaller units: it is difficult to become fluent without knowing how to pronounce the individual sounds

3 However, communicative language teaching means that we want to present the pupils with texts that have meaning to them from the very beginning (such as songs and rhymes) This means that rhythm, intonation and fluency are factors that in the teaching we do will be there from the beginning

4 Starting from the top Pronunciation is in many ways the one area where we are most dependent on thinking wholeness from the very beginning –Working with vocabulary, we will usually have a gradual and (to some extent) controlled introduction of new words –Working with grammar, starting with a few simple structures and then introducing more and more complicated ones is at least an option –Controlling the teaching material on pronunciation criteria (using only words with sounds which has been specifically taught) is hardly an option –We must often let the children start with the tools they already have (their Norwegian sound system), and adjust it gradually –As a counterweight to this, it is useful to have them listen to and think about what English spoken language sounds like overall (in manageable chunks) from the very beginning

5 Starting from the top Children who learn their first language start mimicking the sound of connected speech, often before they can make meaningful words or the language sounds are firmly established This also means that they have to relate to quite complicated sound patterns from the beginning In foreign language teaching, this should be an opportunity, not a problem: most children enjoy playing with sounds We need to work with pronunciation from the top down and from the bottom up simultaneously

6 The structure of the workshop 1.Fluency 2.Stress and rhythm 3.Intonation I will at times put in bits of text written in phonemic symbols: you do not have to read these to follow my points, so this is primarily meant to make you used to seeing them…

7 Fluency Fluency in pronunciation is about the ability to speak at a suitable speed without too much hesitation and false starts In this sense all skills in (oral) language get together in fluency: pronunciation of individual sounds, vocabulary, grammar, rhythm, intonation BUT: we cannot wait until everything else is in place before we start focusing on fluency It must be in focus from the beginning

8 Fluency This means we have to find a balance between accuracy training and fluency training Accuracy training is necessary for fluency in the long run, but may hinder it in the short run

9 Fluency Fluency training – training which focuses on producing connected speech at natural speed Part of this must be focused on unplanned communication – conversation training However, training rhythm and intonation are also central elements in fluency training

10 Stress In speech, some syllables will be pronounced with greater force – they are stressed: ¤Tension /"tenSn/ Per’form If you look in a dictionary, the vertical line which marks stress is placed before the first phoneme

11 We can look at stress in two ways: –Word stress –Sentence stress

12 Word stress Where does the stress go in a word spoken in isolation (word stress) In relation to natural speech, word stress tells us where the stress may come, but it does not have to come anywhere in the word: not every word is stressed in natural speech.

13 Sentence stress Sentence stress: the syllables in an actual, spoken sentence which receive stress. Syllables that receive stress when a word is pronounced in isolation will often lose it in connected speech –our –If you think our ‘car’s dirty, you ought to see our ‘house. /If jU ¤TINk "kA:z d3:tI| jU ¤si: ¤haUs/

14 More on word stress Getting word stress right is important in order for our words to be understood by the listener Stress on the wrong syllable is more likely to cause misunderstanding than the use of a wrong sound In two-syllable words, stress is normally on the first syllable. In words of Three or more syllables, stress tends to come on the second- or third last syllable

15 Where would you put the stress in the following words? Participation Claustrophobia NeutralityPotential PhilosopherNecessity Inform Intonation DialectHorseradish Outgun Uncool

16 Sentence Stress While word stress is simply a part of the pronunciation of a word, sentence stress is connected to the meaning we want to express. In connected speech only the words most important to the content of the sentence will receive stress. –These tend to be the content words or lexical words: nouns, verbs (not auxiliaries), adjectives, adverbs. –The other words are known as form words or grammatical words: auxiliaries, articles, prepositions, conjunctions etc., will normally be unstressed in a sentence.

17 The pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables are very important in English (think poetry): English is fundamentally stress-timed, not syllable timed. The length it takes to pronounce a sentence depends on the number of stressed syllables, not the total number of syllables. This is the same in Norwegian, but remember: some of our students may have a background from a language which is fundamentally different: where all syllables are the same length

18 –In’variably ‘rude (5 syllables) –‘Very ‘rude (3 syllables) –I have ‘heard your ‘excuses (7 syllables) –I won’t ‘listen to any more of your silly ‘excuses (15 syllables) The two phrases in these pairs should take approximately the same time The unstressed syllables are pronounced very quickly, and therefore tend to be reduced

19 Your tools for teaching rhythm Probably your most important tool is your own pronunciation: make sure that you use rhythm and weak forms appropriately However, there are many types of exercises which are appropriate for this purpose, e.g. –Rhymes, poems, songs –Growing sentences –Forward- and back-chaining

20 Nursery rhymes/children’s rhymes Clear rhythmic pattern Rhymed lines – easy to remember Often used as part of skipping games – further emphasis on rhythm May help the speaker achieve a natural speaking speed, which also makes it more natural to get the weak forms right –Of course, the rhythm in such verses tends to be exaggerated, but this exaggeration is likely to be automatically evened out in real speech

21 Childrens rhymes Georgie Porgie pudding and pie Kissed the girls and made them cry When the boys came out to play Georgie Porgie ran away! (Note how the number of syllables in ”pudding and” forces each syllable to be shortened)

22 Older children When the children become too big for traditional nursery rhymes, there are other types of rhythmic poetry that can be used – or there are of course twists on (or twisted versions of) the rhymes they already know (if you want to subject children to such brutality): Mary had a little lamb Tommy had a pup Alfonzo had a crocodile That ate the others up Mary had a little lamb You've heard this tale before But did you know she passed her plate And had a little more

23 Limericks Again, the clear rhythm makes these a useful tool. There was a young lady of Niger Who smiled as she rode on a tiger They returned from the ride With the lady inside And the smile on the face of the tiger Here the strict form also means that students can produce these themselves

24 Growing Sentences A sentence begins with the most important content words, and id then expanded, mainly with function words. The number of stresses, and therefore the time it takes, remains unchanged, and the added words are likely to be unstressed; many of them weak forms. Clyderobbed banks Bonnie and Clyderobbedbanks Bonnie and Clyde must haverobbed thebanks Bonnie and Clyde must havebeen robbed by the banks Bonnie and Clyde must havebeen robbed by the greedy banks

25 Forward-chaining: Building a sentence by beginning at the first word and then adding new items – noticing how the rhythm changes. Note that the focus of the sentences keeps moving, since the most important item of information tends to come last Priscilla Priscilla played Priscilla played the lead role Priscilla played the lead role in an amateur production Priscilla played the lead role in an amateur production of “Twelfth Night”. Priscilla played the lead role in an amateur production of “Twelfth Night” which was an enormous success.

26 Back-chaining Note how with back-chaining the focus of the sentence – and thus the intonation pattern – stays the same: –Restaurant –Really nice restaurant –At a really nice restaurant –Dinner at a really nice restaurant –Bought me dinner at a really nice restaurant –My aunt bought me dinner at a really nice restaurant –Strangely enough, my aunt bought me dinner at a really nice restaurant.

27 Finding rhythmic patterns Mark likely full stresses in the following list and group the words or sentences into four groups of four, so that each group has the same stress pattern. Then transcribe all the sets ConsiderationRemember TerminologyBanana I met some artistsNevertheless We left herElectricity Merry-go-roundCharacteristic So you lost againLet’s face it He’s a countrymanJack-in-the-box Under the windowThey ought to know

28 Intonation is: “Continuous changing of the pitch (tone) of the speaker’s voice to express meanings” (Bradford) It is linked to rhythm, because rhythm and stress decides where we get pitch- changes

29 Changes in pitch that express meaning: Pitch changes are not used in English to distinguish between words with different basic meaning, as it is used extensively in e.g. Chinese (and even in Norwegian to a much smaller extent: håpet vs. håpe.) They are used to mark the communicative function of an utterance (is it a question or a statement?) and to mark emotional attitude.

30 This may well be the psychologically most difficult part of language to copy for foreign speakers – it may also feel like giving up part of your personality. It is important to keep ears open, observe and copy.

31 General points on English intonation Pitch within an utterance tends to start low and be kept low until the first stressed syllable (if the first syllable in the utterance is stressed, we will start off at a high pitch level). The first stressed syllable usually jumps to a higher pitch The pitch then tends to stay on a high and fairly even level At the main communicative focus of the sentence, the stressed syllable will have a glide either up or down.

32 The communicative focus of an English sentence tends to lie towards the end If the focus moves towards the front, this needs a more special context to be natural The main pitch change will therefore also lie towards the end

33 Where would the main stress naturally go? What happens if we move it? I always take the bus. Would you like some tea? We first met them in France. I thought John had fixed that. Can you hear that strange noise?

34 Note particularly that the pitch tends to stay even (and relatively high) from the first stressed syllable until the tonic syllable In Norwegian, every stressed syllable tends to be emphasised by a pitch-change from the speaking tone, but this is not the case in English – stressed syllables except for the first one and the tonic one tend to have the same pitch as the surrounding unstressed ones.

35 Two points we should think about when we speak English (or try to teach it to others) are –Keeping the speaking tone from the first stress to the main focus of a meaning unit high and relatively even –Having a clear focus of each spoken unit, marked by a clear pitch-change

36 Chunking Rhythm and intonation come together in the concept of ”chunking” Breaking your spoken language into manageable ”chunks” If you make them too short, fluency will suffer If the chunks become too long, intonation will become flat and difficult to follow


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