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Pitch possibilities in the simple tone-units

Two important things have to be known: tone is carried by the tonic syllable and intonation is carried by the tone-unit. These two things are going to be analyzed in this article.

In one-syllable utterance, the single syllable must have one of the five tones that were presented in one of the previous articles. In a tone-unit of more than one syllable, the tonic-syllable must have one of those tones. Here we can have two possibilities: the tonic-syllable is the final syllable and there are other syllables that follow the tonic syllable.

If the tonic-syllable is the final syllable then the tone doesn’t sound much different from that of a corresponding one-syllable tone-unit.

Example:
/here
‘shall we ‘sit /here

The word “here” is said in the same way (with a rising pitch) in both examples.

If there are other syllables following the tonic syllable then the pitch tone is not completed on the tonic syllable. If the tonic syllable has a rising tone then the syllables that follow it will continue to move upwards from the pitch of the tonic syllable.

Example:
One syllable: /what
Four syllables: /what did you say’

Rising tone Rising tone four syllables

As we can see in the above pictures, the pitch of the syllables that follow the tonic syllable is getting progressively higher. Of course, the pitch can’t just rise indefinitely. If it reaches the highest part of the speaker’s normal pitch then following syllables will continue at that level.

The situation is similar in the case of the falling tone.

Example:
One syllable: \why
Four syllables: \why did you go

Falling tone Falling tone four syllables

The same as in the rising tone example, in the case of the falling tone, if the speaker’s lowest pitch is reached before the end of the tail then the pitch will continue at the bottom level.

Other possibilities include a level tone, a tail following a fall-rise tone, and a tail following a rise-fall tone.


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