a query about sentences

Dan Everett dan.everett at MAN.AC.UK
Sat Apr 12 18:16:10 UTC 2003

Ardis says: Though I've not attempted to teach too much intonation,
post-verbal operators (clitics) provide illocutionary force in this
language anyway.  Also, sentences are used to chunk information into
digestible blocks for students to process.


Well, we can't do everything, I agree. And intonation is not the
solution to all the world's problems. But intonation has a wider range
of functions than what Ardis seems to imply. Pike's pioneering work on
intonation was in fact largely for applied reasons, to develop material
for teaching English. His textbook from the 40s on the Intonation of
American English is still a useful text for helping English speakers
begin to 'get a handle' on intonation. Even in my classes in the UK
examples from that text have been extremely useful teaching tools. But
since these are phonology classes that I use it in, students are then
asked to analyze Pike's examples using different models of intonation,
another use of that textbook.

But even Pike's work seriously underestimates the complexities of
intonation. Many of us take it for granted that intonation is used to
mark questions, surprise, maybe a bit of contrast and focus, and that it
has a few paralinguistics functions. But it is much more complex than
that. Bolinger argued that one cannot even understand basic phonology
without a detailed understanding of intonation. And others have shown
over the years that syntactic studies which omit intonation, whether
generative or functional, in languages with illocutionary force-marking
clitics or not, are simply going to short-change themselves.

-- Dan

Dan Everett
Professor of Phonetics and Phonology
Department of Linguistics
Arts Building
University of Manchester
Oxford Road
M13 9PL
Manchester, UK
dan.everett at man.ac.uk
Phone: 44-161-275-3158
Dept. Fax and Phone: 44-161-275-3187

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