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Prosodic Co-Ordination and Prosodic Subordination

The degree of prominence of each of the intonation-groups depends on the semantic relations between the adjacent parts of an utterance. These may be classified into relations of:

a) equality,

b) inequality

c) mutual dependence.


The first type implies a relatively equal degree of semantic importance of the adjacent parts which is often associated with their relative semantic independence. It means that each of them can exist separately.Such tone-sequences can be called coordinative.

eg. It is 'very vgenerous of you, | but you 'must be vcareful.

The second type means a kind of relationship where one of the two parts is semantically dependent, in other words: it requires either an obligatory continuation or a preceding part containing more important information. These are subordinative tone-sequences.

eg. I shall 'have to 'take `these, | if there is no ˏchoice.

Co-ordinative and subordinative tone-sequences often correlate with grammatical co­ordination and subordination. At the same time semantic relations between the parts of an utterance in oral speech are not strictly bound to the grammatical structure. Thus, co-ordinative relations may often be observed in complex sentences, whereas parts of a compound sentence may sound as unequal in their semantic weight.

The third type - relations of mutual dependence- is intermediate between the first and the second. Both groups are equally important as far as the information message is concerned, yet neither of them can be isolated. Such utterances are frequently characterized by contrastive comparison and parallelism of the lexical and syntactical structure of the adjacent groups, which are symmetrically balanced as a result,

eg. Where there is a ´wish | there is a `way.

Since the semantic relations between the parts of a spoken utterance are always reflected in its intonation (prosody), it is possible to identify the same types of prosodic relations between the adjacent intonation-groups.


I. Co-ordinative Relations.

One of the specific features here is similarity of nuclear tones in both groups, i.e. tonal reduplication or synonymous tones.

It must be stressed that similarity does not only concern the direction of the nuclear pitch-change. The nuclear tones must also coincide in the width of the pitch interval. The latter feature is most significant,

e.g.: `Yes, `certainly.

We must `do it | without de`lay.

A relevant feature of co-ordinative sequences is also similarity of prenuclear pattern, particularly, the pitch height of the head,

e.g.: I 'couldn't `see him | as I was in a 'great `hurry.

The following combinations of nuclear tones are typical of this kind of prosodic relationship.

1. High (Mid) Fall | High (Mid) Fall || Low Fall | Low Fall

Both parts of an utterance sound decisive, complete and final. Prosodically each group may exist independently. The pattern is used when it is desired to give more emphasis and individuality to both groups, e.g.: We 'told him to ˎstop | and he im'mediately ˎdid so.

2. High (Mid) Fall | Rise-Fall

The Rise-Fall in the second group, besides the definiteness of a falling tone, gives a note of either mockery or impatience, or some other kind of emotional colouring according to the context in which it occurs.

e.g.: I was at a `loss | and ˌthought you ´`knew what was ˌcoming.


3. High Rise | High Rise

This combination occurs mostly when two general questions are asked in succession, their semantic value and the speaker's attitude being identical,

e.g.: ˈDoesn't it ´cost˙ more | and ˈisn't it ˙less a´musing?

4. Low Rise | Low Rise

This sequence is used when an afterthought is added to a perfunctory statement which means keeping the same casual attitude throughout the utterance,

e.g.: He ˌlooked very ˏbusy | and ˌdidn't say a ˏword.

5. Fall-Rise | Fall-Rise

The sequence Fall-Rise + Fall-Rise is used when the two adjacent parts of an utterance contain some implication without being contrasted to each other,

e.g.: I'll 'do it avlone | and 'don't need 'anybody's vhelp.

II. Subordinative Relations

The most significant feature of prosodic subordination is inequality of the nuclear pitch intervals, i.e. the first interval is wider than the second, or vice versa.

When the nuclear tones are of the same type (tonal reduplication) the difference in their width is very easy to recognize and reproduce. In the case of nuclear tones of an opposite direction, (e.g. a fall in the first group and a rise in the second, or vice versa) it is more difficult to catch.

A point of importance here is that the effect of semantic prominence produced by particular nuclear tones may be different due to the specific inherent meaning of a kinetic tone. Thus a falling tone - final, decisive, complete — is generally associated with greater prominence than a rising tone, which implies incompleteness, non-finality or tentativeness, even though the pitch-change intervals themselves may be the same width. This seems to be an objective cue for the notion of prosodic subordination.

The identification of inequality of the adjacent intonation-groups is facilitated by the difference in the width of the pitch-range of the whole group, the initial pitch-level of the prenuclear part being lower and the general pitch-range narrower in the subordinate group.

Subordinative intonation-groups most frequently stand in post-position to superordinate (major) groups, although the reverse order of intonation-groups -preposed subordination - is not infrequent either.

An essential characteristic of preposed subordination is that the nuclear tones in the adjacent groups are of an opposite direction: a Low Rise, Fall-Rise or Mid Level in the subordinate group and a High or Mid Wide Fall in the superordinate (main) group, e.g.:

1. Low (Narrow/Wide) Rise | High/Mid Wide Fall

eg. 'New 'Oxford ‚Street | was jammed with `traffic.

2. High Narrow Fall | High/Mid Wide Fall

eg. At the `bus stop | 'Robinson ΄found a 'queue of a 'dozen ˋ people.


3. Mid Level | High/Mid Wide Fall

eg. He >waited ∣a 'quarter of an ˋ hour.

4. Low Fall-Rise | High/Mid Wide Fall

eg. To 'make ΄matters ˎˏworse ∣'each 'traffic light in 'turn was aˋgainst them.

The most typical case of postposed subordination is an afterthought or an insertion added to a statement (or any kind of utterance) conveying the main part of the message. Depending on the speaker's attitude the afterthought takes a rising, a falling or a falling-rising nuclear tone of a low narrow variety.

1. High/Mid Wide Fall | Low Narrow Fall

eg. The ΄king got ˋangry with him | and ˌsent him to ˎprison.


2. High/Mid Wide Fall or Fall-Rise | Low Narrow Rise

eg. I 'don't underˋstand you | when you ˌspeak so ˏfast.


3. High/Mid Wide Fall or Fall-Rise | Low Fall-Rise or Low Fall-Rise D.

eg. I rather ˋgrudge those prices | for a v film.


III. Mutual Dependence

The following patterns will be found in adjacent intonation-groups perceived as mutually dependent.

1. High Wide Rise | High Wide Fall

eg. 'In for a /penny | 'in for a \pound.


2. High Narrow Rise | Low Narrow Fall

eg.In the 'morning she'd ΄say ´Yes |and ˌthat same 'evening she'd ˙say ˎNo.


3. Fall-Rise | Fall-Rise or Fall-Rise Divided

eg. 'I believe in vyou | 'more than you be'lieve in yourvself.


As is seen from the given examples semantic interdependence is realized:

a) by combinations of contrasting, diametrically opposite tones (High Wide Rise - High Wide Fall, High Narrow Rise - Low Narrow Fall)

b) by the r e d u p 1 i с a t i о n of a Fall-Rise or Rise-Fall, i.e. by tones expressing contrast, comparison and confrontation. It should be noted that the pattern Fall-Rise + Fall-Rise in mutual dependence differs from Fall-Rise + Fall-Rise in co-ordination, firstly, in the position of the nuclear syllable which is typically shifted and marked in the case of mutual dependence and, secondly, in the underlined rhythmical parallelism of both parts.

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