Teach English in Dayushu Zhen - Tongliao Shi

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Nowadays, pronunciation has become one of the key elements in teaching a foreign language because the interchange between different nationalities is growing very fast. With the changes that appear in the real world, there also appear some natural changes in the way pronunciation is taught. Therefore, being consistently neglected in such methods as Grammar Translation method or in Reading-based Approach just because it was believed that learners needed grammar more than pronunciation, it became one of the most important aspects of teaching English is such methods like Community Language Teaching or Communicative Approach. This proves that methods and techniques used in teaching, develop alongside the learners’ needs and the requirements of the modern world. One of the elements of suprasegmental phonology is intonation. Of course, there is a variety of intonation patterns a person can use, depending on different factors that affect it. Nevertheless, we are interested specifically in the intonation of four basic types of questions that exist in Received Pronunciation. First of all the definition of intonation will be given according to different linguists. The majority of linguists who have investigated this aspect of suprasegmental phonology, like Kolnroad K. and Scott W., Pârlog H., Kelly G., etc., come to the conclusion that intonation is the change that appears in the pitch of voice when one speaks. Armstrong L.E. and Ward I.C. specify that pitch variation is possible as a result of vibration of vocal cords [1]. Being closely related to stress and, consequently, to rhythm, intonation is also called the melody of a language, varying the pitch, the quantity and the quality of the voice. It is the speech melody which is made up of various tones [2]. Tones are called pitch patterns and variations during speech [5]. Though speakers of any language are very sensitive to intonation, mostly on an unconscious level, every language has its specific pattern of intonation. It means that foreign learners have to acquire a new intonation with the language they are learning, so that they do not transfer the intonation appropriate only to their native language to the foreign one. Thus they will be able to avoid offensive or ridiculous situations. Intonation helps us express our thoughts and understand others’, it helps us emphasize the information we consider the most important and to convey the meaning of our ideas. Therefore, intonation displays specific functions. Here are some of them: 1. attitudinal or emotional function- using different intonation, people express attitudes and feelings, thus conveying specific meaning of what they want to say. Therefore, intonation signals the mood, the attitude of the speaker towards different situations or people, the interest or indifference towards a specific topic, etc. [3]; 2. accentual function- this function of intonation makes possible the emphasis of different words or syllables, so that they are more prominent than the others and are recognized as stressed. Here plays a great role the tonic stress which marks a word or a syllable as the most important in a tone unit [6]; 3.grammatical or communicative function- intonation helps listeners recognize different grammatical and syntactical structures of language like the contrast between various types of sentences, questions, statements or exclamations. Intonation also indicates the difference between restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses, sentence structure in general, etc.; 4. discourse, information structure or textual function- intonation is the aspect of speech that signals where the new information is and where the old one is; the contrast or the linking between ideas; in conversation it can also be a clue of what the speakers expects to hear back. [6; 2]; 5. psychological function- this function of intonation helps hearers and speakers comprehend and memorize specific information easier and quicker, as it is structured into units of speech. For example: people, especially English speaking ones, tend to group telephone numbers into rhythmical chunks. As this research deals with the intonation specifically of four basic types of questions existing in English language, there follows a presentation of those question types and their intonation patterns: 1. General questions are those questions which require the short answer “Yes” or “No” or a full statement answer. They are also called Yes/No questions. These types of questions require a rising intonation, e.g.: Is it the blue ↗one?; Have you got a ↗pen?. Nevertheless, there can be a variation of intonation. Thus, if general questions are pronounced with a falling tone, this will denote impatience and even sarcasm from the speaker’s part. For example: Are you ↘ready?; Can’t you ↘see it?. Consequently, the first pattern of intonation is more polite and friendly [4]. 2. Special questions are questions that require the presence of interrogative word like how, whom, when, why, where, who, which, etc. These types of questions mostly require a complete answer, though short answers are also possible. Also called information questions, they require a falling intonation in case they are asked for the first time. For example: What is your ↘name?; Where do you ↘live?. If these types of questions are pronounced with a rising intonation, that will mean that the speaker is highly interested in getting an answer, or he/she wants to show amiability. For example: Who was at the ↗door?; Where are you ↗going? [4]. 3. Alternative questions are also called questions with a choice and require a complete answer, for the hearer needs to make a choice. The alternative is presented by the conjunction “or”. The intonation in alternative questions is the following: there is a rise on the first element of the choice and a fall on the second one (after “or”). For example: Would you like ↗tea or ↘coffee?; Is you house ↗large or ↘small?. There is also possible to use a rising tone at the end of alternative question, but it will mean that there exists another alternative that has not been mentioned. For example: Will you take ↗milk, ↗coffee or ↗tea?; Is it ↗red, ↗white or ↗blue?. Thus, the hearer may have another answer for such questions. [4] 4. Disjunctive or tag questions are composed of two parts: the first part consists of a statement and the second part consists of a short general question, also called tag. Disjunctive questions can be of two types: the first type sounds like a confirmation and the second type shows less certainty. In order to differentiate these two variations of disjunctive questions, one should use intonation. Consequently, questions of the first type (which sound like a confirmation) will be pronounced with a falling tone on both parts. For example: You are ↘French, ↘aren’t you?; He is very ↘tall, ↘isn’t he?. It means that the speaker is sure of what he is saying, and these questions sound more like an acknowledgement of already known facts. The questions of second type (which show less certainty) are used with the falling intonation on the first part and with the rising one on the second part. For example: You are ↘ French, ↗aren’t you?; He is very ↘tall, ↗isn’t he? The speaker is not sure about what he is saying and these questions will clarify his/her thoughts [5]. To conclude, an appropriate intonation may be sometimes more important than the correct pronunciation of isolated sounds or words, because the meaning of a word or of the whole idea can change according to the intonation chosen. The use of a wrong intonation in the conversation with a native speaker may create conflicts or unpleasant situations. Therefore, learners should be aware of the usual intonation patterns of different questions and some variations that sometimes show indifference, irritation or impatience. Bibliography 1. Armstrong L.E., Ward I.C. The Phonetics of English. Cambridge, 1962. 2. Dalton Ch., Seidlhofer B. Pronunciation. Oxford: University Press, 1994. 3. Harmer J. The Practice of English Language Teaching. Third Edition. England: Longman, 2001. 4. Kelly G. How to Teach Pronunciation. Edinburgh: Longman Pearson Education, 2000. 5. Kolnroad K., Scott W. An Introduction to English Language: Sound, Word and Sentence, 1996 6. Roach P. Introducing Phonetics, London: Penguin English, 1992. 7. http://www.ameprc.mq.edu.au/docs/fact_sheets/01Pronunciation.pdf