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In the Name of God
Contrastive Analysis of English-
Dr. Mitra Ahmad Soltani
Table of Contents
Significance of Contrastive Analysis in ESL classrooms
Chapter one 6
What is the difference between "Farsi" and "Persian"?
What is intonation?
What is Prosody ?
What is a Tone Unit?
What are tonetic stress marks ?
What is fO?
What are functions of intonation?
What are the different types of tone?
What is pitch and pitch level?
What is focus?
How is focus marked in Farsi?
Chapter Two 29
How to study Intonation
1-The harmonic of the voice
2-The pitch of the voice
3-The interval between the pitch Levels
Chapter Three 34
An Investigation of Farsi Intonation patterns
Types of Declarative Sentences
Declaratives with Focus
Focus in Wh-Questions
Chapter Four 75
Summary statement 79
Contrasting English Intonation patterns with Persian
I should like to thank Professor Rod Walters for his kind comments, help and
permission to use his valuable work on intonation,
Mr Behzad Mahjani for the permission to rewrite his dissertation chapter on Persian
prosodic features and intonation in Modem Farsi,
And Ms Rebecca Scarborough for the permission to use her work on the intonation of
focus in Farsi.
Significance of Contrastive Analysis in ESL classrooms
A person who understands Persian can enter a crowded bus in New York
and among the passengers' chatter can recognize that the people three
rows back are speaking Persian even though he may not actually overhear
any single word clearly enough to say what the people are talking about.
It's because Persian like all other languages has its own distinctive
melodies and rhythms.
Mastery of stress and intonation of any language needs active training
because when learning a foreign language we tend to transfer the entire
native language system in the process. We tend to transfer to that
language our phonemes and their variants, our stress and rhythm patterns,
our transitions, our intonation patterns and their interactions with other
Much less known and often not even suspected is that the speaker of one
language listening to another does not actually hear the foreign language
sound unit- phonemes. He hears his own. Phonemic differences in the
foreign language will be constantly missed by him if there is no similar
phonemic differences in his native language. (Lado, 1971, 11)
That causes the ridiculous situation of an ESL classroom where the
teacher says a sentence in English intonations but students repeat after
him/her with their own native language intonation. The teacher repeats
again to correct them but the students find the repetitions redundant and
boring. They don't even get the point of those repetitions.
We now see more clearly the need for comparing the native and foreign
sound systems as a means of predicting and describing the pronunciation
problems of Persian language learners of English.
Mitra Ahmad Soltani
MD, MS in Midwifery, MA in TEFL
Azad University- Tehran School of Medicine
► What is the difference between "Farsi" and "Persian"?
"Farsi" (an Arabic adaptation of the word "Parsi"), is another name of the
Persian language. Just as the German speaking people refer to their
language as 'Deutsch', the Greek 'Ellinika' and the Spanish 'Espanol', the
Persians use Tarsi' or 'Parsi' to identify their native form of verbal
The Academy of the Persian Language and Literature (Farhangestan) in
Tehran has also delivered a pronouncement on this matter and rejected
any usage of the word "Farsi" instead of Persian/Persa/Persane/Persisch
in the Western languages. The first paragraph of the pronouncement
states: "PERSIAN has been used in a variety of publications including
cultural, scientific and diplomatic documents for centuries and, therefore,
it connotes a very significant historical and cultural meaning. Hence,
changing 'Persian' to 'Farsi' is to negate this established important
precedence. Changing 'Persian' to 'Farsi' may give the impression that it is
a new language, and this may well be the intention of some Farsi users"
Fortunately all international broadcasting radios with Persian language
service (e.g. VOA, BBC, DW, RFE/RL, etc.) use "Persian Service", in
lieu of the incorrect "Farsi Service." That is also the case for the
American Association of Teachers of Persian, The Centre for Promotion
of Persian Language and Literature, and several American and European
Some mistakably believe that, in English, the official language of Iran
should be called "Farsi," while the language spoken in Tajikistan or
Afghanistan should be labeled as "Dari," and "Persian" should be utilized
to refer to all of them! However, the difference between the Persian
spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, or Tajikistan is not significant and
substantial enough to warrant such a distinction and classification.
Persians, Tajiks or Afghans can converse in Persian and easily understand
Since 600 BC, Greeks used the name "Persis" for Persia/Iran. Persis was
taken from "Pars" (the name of the region where the Persian rulers lived).
Persian people likewise used the name of "Younaan" (instead of internal
term of "Hellas") for Greece. " Younan" in fact is taken from the name of
"Lonia", in the south-east of Greece. "Persis" since then has been used as
the name of Iran in all European documents, maps, etc. Only in later
centuries did some Europeans (in view of their languages) changed it to
"Persia" (English, Italian and Spanish), "La Perse" (French), "Persien"
(German), etc. The name "Persia" until 1935 was the official name of Iran
in the world, but Persian people inside their country since the Sassanian
period have called it "Iran" meaning "the land of Aryans". They also used
"Parsa" in the Achaemenids period.
In 1935, Reza Shah announced that all Western countries should use the
name of "Iran" in their languages too. This act brought cultural damage to
the country and separated Iran from its past in the West. Also, many
people confused it with Iraq (an Arab state West of Iran). For many
westerners, "Persia" became a dead empire that does not exist anymore.
After some Persian scholars protested this announcement, in 1959 Prof.
Ehsan Yarshater made a committee to research this matter. The
committee announced that "changing the name has not been right", so
Mohammad Reza Shah announced that both 'Persia' and 'Iran' can be used
► What is intonation?
In Farsi, intonation is translated as "sentence music" (Samareh, 1984,
220)When speaking, people generally raise and lower the pitch of their
voices and form pitch patterns. They also give some syllables a greater
degree of loudness and change their speech rhythm. These phenomena
are called intonation. Intonation does not happen at random but has
definite patterns which can be analyzed according to their structure and
Intonation patterns often differ between languages or even between
varieties of the same language, e.g. between Australian English and
American English. In some communities there is a difference in the
intonation patterns of different age groups or sexes. (Richards, 1987, 148)
A more technical definition of intonation would be "the variations which
take place in the pitch of the voice in connected speech, i.e. the variations
in the pitch of the musical note produced by vibration of the vocal cords."
O'Connor and Arnold (1973) divided intonation groups into four parts:
my Jccturcu, they're sJwsy& grumbling
12 3 i
1. The pre-head - all the initial unaccented syllables. (At)
2. The head - between the pre-head and the nucleus. (my lectures, they're)
3. The nucleus - the main accented syllable, (alw-)
4. The tail - all the syllables after the nucleus. (ays grumbling)
► What is Prosody ?
As John S Coleman (2005) states prosody is features (or groups of
features) not located at a single place in the sequence of consonants and
vowels (e.g. stress, tone) determine the prosody. So Virtually anything
can be prosody! Some examples:
1- (groups of) features associated with a whole syllable, word or phrase.
2-Or features of the boundaries of syllables and words (e.g. assimilation,
linking, absence vs. presence of initial [h] in the 'to him/her' examples
above). ' Grenzsignale' '.
3) Place of articulation (cf place assimilation at word-junctures).
4) Manner of articulation (cf. initial consonant mutation e.g. in Welsh),
5) Degree of stricture (e.g. spirantization of final stops as a boundary
6) Voicing (cf. voicing assimilation at word-junctures and in initial
7) Retroflexion (e.g. Sanskrit)
8) Frontness and backness (e.g. umlaut, vowel harmony)
9) Openness and closeness (e.g. vowel harmony)
10) Centrality and peripherality (cf. English stress above).
1 1) Aspiration, whisper (cf. stress above, Sanskrit). In English [h] may
only occur once in a word. Apparent exceptions like jojoba are loan-
12) Nasality e.g. in Terena, Sundanese, and in the Urhobo examples in
13) Glottality (e.g. [ ] in vowel-initial words in English or German,
14) Lip-rounding (vowel harmony; cf. also discussion of stress above).
► What is a Tone Unit? Tone refers to significant (i.e. meaningful,
contrastive, phonemic) contrasts between words signaled by pitch
differences. Tone may be lexical, as in Mandarin Chinese:
Tone number Description
1 high level
2 high rising
3 low (falling+)rising
4 high fall
"no tone/neutral (depends on preceding
IP A transcription
Or grammatical tone, as in many African languages, e.g. Edo:
Tense Monosyllabic verbs Disyllabic verbs
Timeless [i ma] ' I show'
[i hrule] ' I run'
Continuous [i ma] T am showing' [i hrule] T am running'
[i ma] ' I showed' [i hrule] ' I ran'
However, as with stress, there may also be non-pitch aspects of tone.
Lexical tones are often related to durational, phonatory and vowel quality
distinctions as well as frequency distinctions. For example, Mandarin
Chinese tone 3 (low rise) is long with creaky voice, Hunanese tone 2 has
breathy or chesty voice. Tibetan tone 1 words have voiceless initial
consonants whereas tone 2 words have voiced beginnings. Long vowels
in tone 4 or 5 open syllables in Thai are checked by a final glottal stop.
In Persian sometimes we can make a distinction between different tones:
Mahi (rising tone) means "fish"
Mahi (fall- rise tone) means "month"
Mahi (falling tone) means "you are splendid"
Tarkesh (rising tone) means gunshot
Tarkesh (fall-rise) means on its back
Tarkesh (falling tone) means leave him/her
Sazesh (rising tone) means his/her musical instrument
Sazesh (falling tone) means coping
Shooresh ( rising tone) means rebellion
Shooresh ( falling tone) means (make ) it salty
Tone unit or tone group is the basic unit of intonation in a language. A
tone unit is usually divided into several parts. The most important part
contains the syllable on which a change of pitch begins the tonic syllable.
The way in which linguists have divided the tone unit into its different
parts and the terms they have used for these parts are not always the
same. The simplified table- 1 shows the main parts of a tone unit together
with different divisions and terms used to define it.
Very long sto-
Table I: The main parts of a tone unit together with different divisions and terms used
to define it
Where the first syllable of "very" is the "onset", the first prominent
syllable in the tone unit and the first syllable of story" is the tonic
syllable. Here the pitch of the speaker's voice begins to fall. Some
linguists refer to a tone unit as an intonation contour.
Pierrehumbert is another linguist who introduced the concept of
Intonation Phrase to describe a tone unit. He used some signs to explain
L* + H- "Scoop". A low tone with sharp rise to a high peak.
L- + H* "Rising peak". A high peak preceded by a sharp rise from a
valley in the lowest part of the pitch range.
H* + L- A H* that induces following downstep. (Abandoned since
Silverman et al. 1992).
H- + L* Downstepped H that induces downstep on later H's.
Characteristic of catathesis e.g.
I rcaJJy bcJJCTC Ebcncicr i& a dealer in magna Mum
H* H- + L* H- + L* H- + \* H- + L* L- I.ft
H A + H- (Abandoned after Liberman and Pierrehumbert 1984).
Each English intonational phrase, then, has the following structure:
Optional intial boundary
tone: one of
One or more pitch A phrase accent:
accents: one of one of
A final boundary tone:
L- + H*
H- + L*
Pierrehumbert (1980) characterized this structure by a finite-state
transition network. The advantage of Pierrehumbert' s model over the
previous models is delineated by Walters (2003):
"The nuclear segment theory abandons the traditional tone-unit theory
notion of 'nucleus' as being the 'phonetically the most salient'
prominence (Halliday, 1967, p. 14; Crystal, 1969, p. 205) or 'main focus of
information' (Halliday, 1967, p.22; Gussenhoven, 1986, p. 78) in a tone-
unit. It maintains, instead, that such a 'nucleus' or 'tonic' can be viewed
as a conflation of two separate elements (1) the final accent of the tone-
unit with an information focusing / highlighting role and (2) the 'terminal
tone', which is the final single pitch movement of the IP (falling, rising or
The example 'only the fight mind' (Figure 2) is taken from an auditory
experiment reported in Walters' study (1999, pp.220-244), in which six
intonationalists listened to passages of RVE (a place in Wales)
spontaneous conversations. For the utterance in Figure 2, not only
auditory clues but the full context of the situation was available to them.
As can be seen in the acoustic record in Figure 3, the word 'only' is
phonetically much the most salient word in the IP; and the conversation
leading up to it identifies it as the 'contrastive' information. With 'fight'
also marked as 'prominent' by all six volunteer intonationalists, the
familiar dilemma for tone-unit theorists presented itself as to where to
place the nucleus. Their decisions are shown in Figure 2. ('VI', 'V2' etc.
refer to their code-names)
IP (Intonation Phrase) Boundary
minor demarcation within the IP (cf intermediate phrases)
a contour-point which is higher in pitch than the previous one
one which is lower
pitch movement of 3 - 6 semitones
an accent contour; the star denotes the centre of stress.
the final contour-point of the IP
the nuclear segment
Figure 1: The KEY
/ ONlv the fight m ind /
V2,3,5 / only the FIGHT mind /
Nucleus on 'only'
Nucleus on 'fight'
/ ONlv the FIGHT mind /
Figure 2. Listener's different analyses of the phrase 'only the fight mind'
(underlining = prominences; capitalization = nucleus)
M" " l[| ■ I "J
IF*— ' ^W
- - ' i- -i- i r
■ i I i l i i | i i -I'll i i i;ii i i I i — ii| i i i ■ r
■ ijiji" i i
l'li ii 1 1 i i i i I i
L 1 "! I
nHjan.i , , , i- . , .1
i__i ■ ■ ■ • _^i
WSmv-K-:- ■ -:l"
-1 !-!-■ ij ■ ■ ■ ■ I - _t
3 a 111 a s
ajn . ... ??.m
Figure 3. Acoustic record of the phrase 'only the fight mind. '
Abandonment of the traditional notion of nucleus as 'phonetically the
most prominent' or 'main focus of information' enables a somewhat more
straightforward analysis to be made (Figure 4). In this, one is not forced
to choose between 'only' and fight' as 'nucleus'. Both of them may be
judged to carry accents. The second, on 'fight', begins the 'nuclear
segment' of the IP. The nuclear segment also contains the 'terminal tone'
(final single pitch movement), which is rising - the rise beginning on
'fight' and finishing on 'mind'.
II ONly the FIGHT ! mind //
H*+'H L 'L*+ H II H%
Figure 4. Transcription of 'only the fight mind'
The speaker might well, however, have used a different terminal tone
contour on 'mind'. For example, if he had finished L L% the terminal
tone would have been falling. Although the break-down of nuclear
segment into 'final accent' + 'terminal tone' represents a somewhat
different theoretical stance from tone-unit theory, cross comparisons can
be made: a falling terminal tone would be the same as saying, in tone-unit
theory, that a 'nuclear tone' is ultimately falling, and a rising terminal
tone that it is ultimately rising.
// HE was the SAME . .
H*+H L H"+ T H%
// and the PArrv brothers . II
L H >L*+H H%
(> = the second L H is down-stepped from (he first)
// 1 was a sup-~a GOOD supPORter of CAR diff. II
H L H'(H H L*+H L L*-( H%
// more than ONCE a WEEK II
H [i U--H H*+'L%
// IN the CLUB/ to HEAR the FIGHT II
L* H <L* H*+H L*+L%
(< = the second L is up-stepped from the first)
// there was PITS / EVery coup le of . Villages II
L H*+H L* + H <L HO H*+H+'L%
// 1 spent mv BIRTHdav/ in Fernhill COLliery ■ ■
L 0* + H H 0*+H + L%
// SHOULDnt have a CHILD/ in the ClUB ... .11
L*+ 'H 'L L'-t-H L H*+L+H%
Figure 5. Examples of the contour types occurring in RVE (examples of Persian contour types are
presented in pp:68-73)
► What are tonetic stress marks ?
Kingdon, O'Connor and Arnold and others employed a variety of diacritic
symbols known as tonetic stress marks to denote various intonational
events. Accents were held to be dynamic (contour) tones. The most
important accents in English are:
It "b- raining.
Bond had in&tnictinn& to--Jca7c.
Do you Jifcc (he food?
To -morrow did you fi-aiy?
vPciftonaJJy, I Jos the it
(Current IPA tone marks include: high (level) tone: e, low (level) tone: e,
(high) falling tone: e, rising tone: v )
This approach, characteristically of structuralist methodology,
concentrates on compendious exemplification and collection of large,
annotated, orderly corpora of categorized examples, rather than the
formulation of inviolable rules for determining the intonation patterns and
their alignment with text. (Russel,2000)
Goldsmith (1981) proposed that English lexical stress could be
characterised by a MHL autosegmental melody, in which the H tone
corresponds with the strongest stress, marked with a *:
M H I
M H L
Liberman (1975) pursued the same approach to characterise English
intonation more generally. For example, he identified a LHM "calling"
intonation, in which the H tone docks onto the main stress, and the initial
L tone spreads in the usual autosegmental fashion to all pre-stress
L H M
1 1 1
h:;: ;r „ 1 1
Oh, Alonzo Davis!
► What is fO?
fo corresponds to rate of vibration of the vocal cords. Therefore, /
equals zero during unvoiced speech e.g. during voiceless consonants as
well as pauses.
The overall shape of the fo contour is under the conscious control of the
speaker, but some speech sounds introduce fine-scale "microprosodic"
perturbations, often due to aerodynamic factors. In particular, high
vowels tend to raise / ; voiceless obstruents tend to raise f at the start of
the following vowel; and voiced consonants and the glottal stop are
associated with a drop in/ . It is important not to mistake such
perturbations for accents.
Speakers do not usually use their full pitch range in speech. The actual
range may vary e.g. be larger in more animated speech. In addition,
speakers may employ a higher or lower "register" within their normal
spoken pitch range. In some languages, register appears to be
A speaker's pitch range may fall or rise during speech, independently of
the falls and rises of/ :
This Lhas the
same/ Q as this H
This phenomenon is called downdrift or declination.
When the top line appears to step down, rather than gradually drift, we
have the related phenomenon of downstep, catathesis or tone terracing:
E ase line
In tone languages, downstep typically affects H tones after a L. "List
intonation" is similar . Take the intonation of this list as an example:
"Blueberries, bayberries, raspberries, mulberries and brambleberries".
The high-pitched "calling" intonation shows two high peaks.
Pierrehumbert analysed such cases as an instance of downstep, and thus
analyzed the first accent as not just a simple H tone, but as a H on the
stressed syllable, combined with a L target at the end of the first syllable,
which conditions downstep of the following H tone. As in other areas of
autosegmental phonology, Pierrehumbert treated dynamic accents as a
sequence of two tones (bitonal accents). (Coleman,2005)
► What are functions of intonation?
A. Intonation and syntactic structure
la) Here's a word you can look up. ("Up" is a particle.)
b) Here's a chimney you can look up. ("Up" is a preposition.)
2 a) Bond had instructions to leave. (So he left.)
b) Bond had instructions to leave. (So he left them.)
In the preceding examples, placement of the accent encodes a difference
in syntactic structure. In the following examples, the major intonational
phrase may be broken into two intermediate phrases, to denote a higher
3 a) Have you seen any Martians who have green noses? (One phrase:
b) Have you seen any Martians, who have green noses? (Two phrases:
4 a) He can't see clearly. (One accent, one phrase.)
b) He can't see, clearly. (Two accents, two phrases.)
In earlier descriptive studies, this phrasing was regarded as a question of
two intonational boundaries:
Word-group boundary: |
Tone-group boundary: ||
In contemporary approaches, intonation is characterized by a constituent
structure (the prosodic hierarchy). In its simplest form, this is a simple
two level structure:
Major /in to national phrase
Intermediate phrases, each bearing
one or more accents
B. Intonation and meaning
1 a) John, called Billy a Republican, and then he y insulted him,. (To call
someone a Republican is an insult.)
b) John, called Billy a Republican, and then he, insulted him,. (To call
someone a Republican is not an insult.)
2 a) I didn't go, because my hair was dirty.
b) I didn't go because my hair was 'dirty. (I went for some other reason.)
C. Intonation and discourse structure, specifically focus
Refer to "Aren't legumes a lousy source of vitamins?"
A suitable reply to the preface "Legumes aren't good for anything, are
they?" Here A, vitamins is accented, and hence focussed . Or to answer
the question"What's a good source of vitamins?" legumes is accented and
► What are the different types of tone?
Pierrehumbert distinguished between different types of tonal targets. We
have seen various examples of dynamic accents, which are the head
elements of intonational phrases. In addition, Pierrehumbert proposed to
use H and L boundary tones at the beginning and end of major phrases,
as well as a H or L phrase accent at the end of each intermediate phrase.
Unlike standard autosegmental theory, Pierrehumbert did not employ
spreading to derive the tone of unaccented syllables, but saw that as a
matter of phonetic interpolation between phonologically-specified targets.
In other words, the phonological representation of intonation is
Phrase accents and boundary tones are edge elements that have a
Pitch accents are head elements with culminative function.
Pitch accents were marked with a *
Phrase accents were marked with a -
Boundary tones were marked with a %
*, - and % are just diacritics, unrelated to f value. They only show how
the tone is related to the text.
H* L- L%
It's perambulating Peter!
H* L- L%
Phrase accents and boundary tones are not associated to segmental
material, like pitch accents, but to prosodic nodes:
[Major phrase] <■
[Intermediate phrase] 1 "
It's perambulating Peter!
H* L* H* L- L%
► What is pitch and pitch level? When we listen to people speaking,
we can hear some sounds or group of sounds in their speech to be
relatively higher or lower than others. This relative height of speech
sounds as perceived by a listener is called pitch. For example, in the
English question, "Ready?" meaning "Are you ready?" the second
syllable-dy- will be heard as having a higher pitch than the first syllable
though pitch movement upwards will begin on the first syllable-rea-.
What we can hear as pitch is produced by the vocal cord vibrations. The
faster the vocal cords vibrate, the higher the pitch.
For English, three pitch levels have often been recognized: normal pitch
level, higher than normal level and lower than normal level.
These three levels can not be identified in absolute terms. One person's
high pitch will not be the same as another person's high pitch.
Differences in pitch level are therefore relative (Richards. 1985,220)
Pitch is used in two distinctive ways in languages:
1) as part of the word
2) as part of the sentence and phrase
English uses voice pitch as part of the sentence and phrase but not as part
of the word.
Chinese ,for example, uses voice pitch as part of the word, so Chinese is a
tone language. English is an intonation language.
The first problem of comparing the pitch system of two languages will
vary depending on whether both the native and foreign languages are
intonation languages or one is a tone language, while the other is an
intonation language (like the present case).
The second problem is to identify that component of intonation which can
be measured and recorded objectively.
► What is focus?
The terms narrow focus and broad focus are used to refer to emphasis
triggered by context (e.g., a question that is to be answered) on either a
single word (narrow) or a longer phrase (broad).
Contrastive focus is a more specific term that refers to emphasis used to
explicitly contrast one thing or action with another thing or action in the
discourse. Contrastive focus may be either narrow or broad. There may
also be a type of focus (or something that looks much like focus) that is
grammatical or semantic. Grammatical or semantic focus is triggered not
by context, but by a syntactic structure or by the semantics of a particular
lexical item. This type of focus will be discussed as well. (Scarborough
► How is focus marked in Farsi?
A focused word in Farsi has a higher pitch (in fact, generally the highest
pitch peak in the Intonation Phrase or IP). Though high F0 for focus is
phonetic in many languages (e.g., English and Korean), it may actually
be phonological in Farsi. Focused words are also impressionistically
louder and longer (though no systematic phonetic measurements have yet
been made). A focused word is further marked phonologically by
becoming the left head of an accentual phrases or AP with deaccenting
and dephrasing of the following words until the end of the IP. The default
focus pitch accent type looks very similar to the normal pitch accent type,
L+H*, though the possibilities of analyzing it as L+ A H* or L+H*L will
also exist. It will simply be labeled as L+H*. (Scarborough, 2003)
How to study Intonation
Intonation has been recorded in terms of harmonic , pitch, and interval
between pitch levels when we go through related literature.
1-The harmonic of the voice: The levels of the pitches is not steady but
waves considerably within an utterance, or to put it another way, there
are variations within each pitch level as the sentence progresses. These
variations within each pitch level seem to correlate in part with variations
in stress and with particular sound segments, but have no primary
significance in communication.
A sound spectrogram can show the harmonics of voice.
Spectrum diagrams are useful for seeing the state of a complex wave
during a very short period of time. But in speech, sounds are constantly
changing. Spectrograms are a convenient way to diagram the changes in
a sound's spectrum over time.
In a spectrogram, the horizontal dimension represents time and the
vertical dimension represents frequency. Each thin vertical slice of the
spectrogram shows the spectrum during a short period of time, using
darkness to stand for amplitude. Darker areas show those frequencies
where the simple component waves have high amplitude.
Spectrum at first jjoiii t in fin
For situations where we are more interested in the frequency response
curve of the vocal tract than in raw spectra, we can use "wide band"
spectrograms. In these, the dark areas are smeared over a wider area. This
often hides the individual harmonics, but it makes formants easier to see -
they show up as dark bands.
l#'i *"S »■*■■■* »
Spectrograms let us look at, for example, the changing formants in a
diphthong. (Russel, 2000)
The spectrogram of an utterance of the sentence We were away a year ago:
Professor Peterson.G (1954) gave the following information concerning
the spectrographic charts:
"For the voiceless consonants the vocal cords do not normally vibrate and
thus these consonants have no fundamental voice frequency. Also, it is
often difficult to identify the overtone structure in voiced consonants with
strong friction. These considerations largely account for the breaks in
charts of the fundamental voice frequency by the sound spectograph. In
complex waves such as those for the vowels and voiced consonants of
speech, the overtones are integral multiples of the fundamental. Thus the
fundamental voice frequency can be plotted by tracing one of the
harmonics and dividing the frequency scale by the corresponding
harmonic numbers. It has been demonstrated that the perception of the
pitch of a complex wave is influenced by its overtone structure. Since
there is greater emphasis in the energy of higher for front vowels, the
pitch of a high front vowel might seem higher than that of a high back
vowel at the same fundamental voice frequency. It follows that there is
not an exact correspondence between fundamental voice frequency and
perceived tone and intonation but the correspondence is usually sufficient
to be of aid in determining linguistic structure ".(Peterson, 1954,7)
2-The pitch of the voice: Measuring pitch as a representation of
intonation is a complex procedure. First we have to divide each sentence
into its many "pure tones".
Then these many tones should be kept to be shown at one single acoustic
The nan sees a chair
Picture-6: An illustration on how to show the pitch of a sentence. (The intended focused word is
indicated in all caps in the gloss tier andFarsi word order here, is subject-object-verb.)
As can be seen, when a word is accented, its FO is raised relative to the
default neutral case, and it becomes the highest pitch peak in the
utterance. Furthermore, due to deaccenting and dephrasing following the
focused word, the focus pitch accent becomes the nuclear pitch
accent. (Scarborough, 2003, 4)
3-The interval between the pitch Levels: This is another component of
intonation that is a subjective description of intonation and it has been
Persian sentences are divided into a series of tone groups with each tone
group containing one prominent stressed syllable. This stressed syllable
makes a change in tone direction. Intonation groups can be divided into
"suspensive" (with more to follow) and "final". As can be see in table-2
the basic final patterns are similar to those used in English with a fall
typical for a completed statement, a rise for a yes/no question and a fall
when an interrogative word is used. For the suspensive tone groups there
is a rise to high tone on the stressed syllable, which is maintained to the
end of the tone group. When carried over into English, some of these
intonation patterns can produce an unusual high-pitched "whining" effect,
which is disconcerting (Swan, 1987,132).
Hayati (1996) believes that if we only consider the sentence-final position
we see some ground in Swan's theory because the sentence-final
intonation patterns of the two languages are quite similar (falling in
statements and wh-questions, rising in yes/no questions, etc.) . But
through his study, he found another element of interference which causes
intonation problems of Persian learners. He believes that stress
placement is the source of interference to intonation. (Hayati, 1996,85-
Grabe,E, Kochanski,G and Coleman, J. in their research "Quantitative
Modelling of Intonational Variation" found that both dialect and
utterance type can affect the shape of/0 but not the intonation patterns.
They also found that differences in/0 between questions and statements
were made throughout the utterance, in the shape of the contour and in
the register. Traditional accounts of English intonation describe questions
as having a final rise in/D and statements as having a final fall. This
account is valid in some dialects, but not in all.
They found in all dialects, average JO was lowest in statements, higher in
wh- and yes/no questions and highest in declarative questions. In all
dialects, yD sloped downwards in declaratives. Declarative questions were
modelled as level or overall rising. In wh- and yes/no questions the slope
did not contribute to the distinction between questions and statements.
This observation has been made for a number of other languages and it
may be evidence of an intonational universal. (Grabe, Kochansky and
Mahjani (2003) in his MSc. Dissertation studied the intonation of Farsi
The rest of this chapter is an excerpt from his work as it is more
comprehensive and precise than other works (quite scant in number) done
for Persian prosody and intonation patterns.
"The default pitch accent in Farsi is the bitonal pattern L+H* (figure 3-1),
which corresponds to a sharp rise from a low point in the speaker's range
to a high peak featured on the accented syllable. This default pattern can
also be realized as H* when the pitch accented syllable is the first syllable
of an Accentual Phrase. This mostly happens at end of the utterances i.e.
the unmarked position of verbs (In Farsi it is usually the verbs which can
get an accent on their first syllable.), (figure 3-1)
- barddar-as qazd rd mipazad. (His brother makes the food.)
brother-his food Ace makes.
Figure 3-1: simple declarative sentence hierarchical structure and pitch accent type
(Acc= accentuated, SG= segments)
An idiosyncrasy of Farsi, which is worthy of mentioning, is the special
tone used with relative clauses. The beginning and the end of the relative
clause in this language are marked by a high tone and the middle of the
clause shows a low plateau (This shows a great degree of mapping
between syntax and phonology.), (figure 3-2)
-\ — ^
Wi n d oiflj 4.2 28988 se co n ds
ruz-e rnariz barnarne-?i radiyo nernud
?ali Ike iom?e bud Idar dar serkat
- ?ali Ice ruz-e jom?e mariz bud dar barname-?i dar radiyo serkat nemud.
ali who day-Ezffriday ill was in program-Indef in radio part-taking did-
3SG. (Ali who was ill on Friday participated in a program in radio.)
Figure 3-2: A relative clause in Farsi marked by two high tones at the beginning and
end of the clause with a low plateau in the middle
Two tonally marked levels of phrasing may be suggested for Farsi; An
intermediate phrase level and an intonational phrase level. The two
phrase accents delimiting the edges of intermediate phrases in Farsi are:
L-: a low phrase tone, which controls the pitch between the last pitch
accent and the edge of the intermediate phrase. If this stretch is not large,
a fall of pitch to a low part in the speaker's range will be observed. If the
stretch is long, L- creates a flat valley stretch between the nuclear and the
edge of the intermediate phrase.
H-: a high phrase tone, which usually creates a slightly rising pitch for the
stretch between a nuclear accent and the edge of the intermediate phrase
man pul bordarn ta meqdari qaza begirarr
- man pul bordam ta meqdari qaza begiram.
I money took-lSG in order that some food get-lSG
(I am taking some money to get some food.)
Figure 3-3: Example of an H tone with relatively higher pitch register iP
The two boundary tones demarcating the edges of intonational phrases in
Farsi are L% and H%. Intonational phrases are formed of at least one
intermediate phrase. The last intermediate phrase occurring in an
intonational phrase will have its phrase accent followed immediately by
the boundary tone. In other words, the last intermediate phrase
accent combines with the intonational boundary tones to yield one of the
configurations, namely L-L%, L-H%, H-L%. L% can be observed on the
final word in declaratives and H% typically ends yes/no questions.
An Investigation of Farsi Intonation patterns
The sample declaratives mentioned here consists of some individual
sentences with neutral focus, mostly covering the unmarked Farsi word
order i.e. SOV. But there are a few sentences among them, which have
marked word order like VSO, or SVO.
Nearly all simple declaratives investigated consist of accentual phrases
with L+H* pitch accent pattern. Each AP contains one or more content
words. However the H tone in the right hand side of the AP is sometimes
realized as L when the AP includes a focused word. Also if an AP is IP-
final, the default H* tone will be replaced by L* followed by the
boundary tone of the IP, either L% or H%.
By default in nearly all Farsi sentence types either declaratives, and
interrogatives, or imperatives, the None-final APs preserve their default
L+H* pitch accents all through the sentence. This pitch accent usually is
in agreement with the lexical stress pattern of Farsi content words. The
final AP however occurs where usually the verb group stands by default.
Farsi verbs have quite complex behavior in choosing the place of their
lexical stress. Considering this fact and the fact that the end of
intonational phrase (here a simple sentence) is followed by a boundary
tone makes the last AP get various patterns. However having a relatively
unified pitch accent structure all through intonational phrases, various
Farsi sentence types can mostly be differentiated according to type of
their boundary tones.
Investigation of the declarative sentences in the sample corpora (each
read by four different speakers including both sexes) suggests that in all
Farsi statements fO starts usually at the bottom of the speaker's pitch
range and reaches the highest point in the speaker's pitch range for the
given intermediate phrase within the first or second starting AP. In
following the APs, again fO drops in the first syllable of the AP to nearly
the bottom of the speaker's pitch range, and then increases to the highest
point in the speaker's pitch range at the boundary of the AP. However the
peak of each subsequent H tone is lower than the preceding one. This
leads to the establishment of a rather smooth declination in the fO all
through the statement. The longer the intonation phrase (here it
corresponds to a declarative) the better this declination can be depicted.
9Ar,a ,, Q furuqi, „behruz-e , . vakil-e„ . , <8
?Aqa-ye | M y frabasi | dadgostarj
- ?Aqd-ye furuqi bd behruz-e ?abasi vakil-e dddgostari diddr nemud.
Mr.-Ezfl forughi with behruz-Ezf abasi lawyer-Ezf judiciary meeting did.
(Mr. Forughi met Behrooz Abassi, a lawyer of justice ministry.)
Figure 3-4: Example of a Farsi utterance with numerous instances of L+H* pitch
accent showing downsetpping
Types of Declarative Sentences
As it was mentioned above, in Farsi pitch accent patterns are the same
whether the sentence is declarative or interrogative. So the sentence types
are distinguished mainly by the boundary tone.
In Farsi in a neutral declarative sentence typically the nuclear pitch accent
is an H* on the last stressed syllable, followed by a L% boundary tone,
and all pre-nuclear pitch accents are L+H*. This pattern leads into a
terminal intonation in which the pitch decreases at the end, thus is seems
as if it were signaling the message is completed, (figure 3-5)
- ?ali diruz dar emtehdn movaffaq sod.
ali yesterday in exam success becameSSG.
(Yesterday Ali succeeded in the exam.)
Figure 3-5: A typical neutral declarative with %L tone boundary
As majority of Farsi verbs have a compound construction e.g. consisting
of a noun, adjective, etc. followed by a verb, the nucleus pitch accent
usually occurs on the last syllable of the none verb element of the verb
Apart from this neutral declarative sentence pattern, which in fact occurs
quite rarely in the natural flow of speech, there is a more common
progressive intonation for declaratives in which throughout the
declarative sentence the pitch either increases slightly or does not show
any lowering at the end, thus leading to a high tone boundary %H. This
resembles the high tone boundary in yes/no questions, however here
differences in pitch range and duration of the last stretched syllable
differentiates between them . This signals the message is not completed
yet. It is typically used as the sentence pattern for declaratives in longer
instances of speech (such as a narration, etc.). (figure 3-6
Total duration 3.138277
- man raftam manzel. zud bargashtarn.
Iwent-ISG home, soon returned-lSG.
(I went home. Soon I came back.)
Figure3-6: A more common declarative with a raised pitch and a high tone boundary
Compound or complex sentences also get the same rising at their
junctions i.e. a raised pitch at the end of the preceding clause and a falling
tone with a low boundary at the end of the last clause. At the same time
some verbs 1 usually are used with this progressive intonation pattern like
"porsidan" (ask), "goftan" (say), "pasox dadan" (answer), etc. (figure 3-
Total duration 3.67431)1 seoonds
?u ?az man
man koja mi ram
- ?u ?az man porsid man koja miram.
he from me askedSSG I where go-lSG.
(He asked me where I was going.)
Figure 3-7: A progressive tone of a declarative initiated by the verb "porsidan" (ask)
Declaratives with Focus
In Farsi, like many other languages, focus affects the prosodic structure
of the whole sentence. It assigns the nuclear pitch accent to the focus
word. As a result all post-focal pitch accents will be de-accented.
Furthermore, on the phonetic level, the focused word lengthens in
duration considerably, while words before and after it usually shorten in
duration, (figure 3-8)
Wind™ 1.913354 seconds
(a) man ?ALI ra be manzel bordam. (I took Ali home.)
(b) man ?ALI ra be manzel bordam. (I took Ali home. )I ALI Ace to home took-lSG.
Figure 3-8: (a) a neutral declarative vs. (b) a declarative with a narrow focus on the
It is significant to mention that Farsi, being a free word order language,
makes use of various devices (syntactic and prosodic) separately or in
combination for focusing on the words and phrases of interest. This
provides a relatively large number of potential word reorderings along
with alternations in the prosodic gestures.,
Usually Farsi uses topicalization for emphasis on some words and
phrases. When the topicalized word or phrase appears at the beginning of
the sentence, it forms slightly different variations on the original
intonational pattern of the sentence, thus in purely descriptive terms it
creates a special kind of intonation. However usually the reordering of the
sentence elements does not change the overall structure of intonational
phrasing, e.g. the overall declination of a declarative sentence, the low
boundary tone at the end of the phrase, etc.
Wi n d dim 1 .SBti 1 k 1 1 se oo n ds
Total duration 6.387438 seconds
baradar-e naqi ra
ration 6.555964 seconds
(a) ?ali baradar-e naqi ra did. (Ali saw the brother ofNaghi)
(b) ?ali did baradar-e naqi ra. (Ali saw the brother ofNaghi.)
ali saw-3SG brother-Ezf naghi Ace
Figure3-9: Change of prosodic phrasing due to a different word order
In Farsi the yes/no questions are simply made by adding the word "?aya"
to the beginning of sentences. After insertion of "?aya" the word order
remains unaffected, however, in ordinary speech people only make such
questions with using the proper rising intonation. The situation is a bit
complicated for formation of wh-questions . Wh-words can be in situ or
they can be moved overtly to the beginning of the sentence.
- nader ki ra did? (Who did Nader see?)
Nader who Ace saw
- ki ra nader did? (Who did Nader see?)
who Ace Nader saw
It is worth mentioning that such an option can only be seen in simple
sentences. In Complex NPs, and nested clauses, overt extraction of the
wh-element from an island results in total ungrammaticality.
In yes/no question generally the pitch slightly increases on the last
syllable of the intonational phrase. This signals a wait for response from
the speaker hence maintains a continuous flow of conversation between
two interlocutors. In this way yes/no questions are different form wh-
questions firstly due to the fact that they take a high boundary tone at the
end of the phrase (sometimes the last syllable gets an LH boundary) while
in whquestions the boundary tone is almost always L%, secondly because
in yes/no questions contrary to wh-questions there is no deaccenting of
any words all through the utterance (figure3-10).
- ?aya diruz ?abri bud? (Was it cloudy yesterday?)
Q-particle yesterday cloudy was-3SG?
Figure3-10: A typical Farsi yes/no question
Figure 3-10 shows a typical Farsi yes/no question with the default L+H*
pitch accents and the final H% boundary tone spreads over the last
syllable (here the verb "bud"). Just like declaratives there is a declination
all through the utterance but with a much shorter downsteps.
Investigation of many sample recorded utterances reveals that the lower
bound of the pitch range in yes/no questions is higher than that of the
lower bound of the pitch range of neutral declaratives (and obviously that
of wh- questions' because due to deaccenting which happens after the wh-
word, wh-questions have intrinsically much lower lower-bound pitch
The question particle "?aya" which almost always only comes at the
beginning of a yes/no question is not comparable to wh-words in wh-
questions as far as its function and its effect on the utterance is concerned.
Here "?aya" does not enforce any sort of deaccenting to rest of the
intonational phrase. In fact All APs after "?aya" preserve their original
pitch accents. However the presence of this particle at the beginning of
the utterance make the rest of the utterance take a slightly lower register
compared to the pitch register of the corresponding question without
question particle "?aya". Another difference is that the H% of such
questions also takes a significant higher register compared to that of
normal question (figure 3-11).
W)i(iM(l»j*»*^ wj *+if^ —
Window 1 .737615 second;
Total duration 4.677188 seconds
i'aya | soma
(a) "?dyd" soma bazigar hastid? (Are you an actor? )Q-p article you actor are?
(b) soma bazigar hastid? (Are you an actor?)you actor are?
Figure 3-11: A normal yes/no question (a) vs. an echo question (b). The latter has
slightly higher pitch register and a significant higher H%.
Just like declaratives with focus here a narrow focus on any word affects
the prosodic structure of the whole utterance. It assigns a prominent pitch
accent to the focus word, and consequently all the post-focal pitch accents
will be de-accented.
However because of existence of a high boundary tone right at the end of
the utterance, there is a small but noticeable upset in the low deaccented
plateau area up until the very final syllable in which suddenly there is
sharp rise of the pitch toward the H% boundary right at the end of the
phrase. The interesting thing about this final rise is its unbelievably high
pitch range at the boundary tone (in case of male speakers for example
the H% tone could expand up to 220 Hz), (figure 3-12)
Window 1.92643) second;
Total duration 2i
- SOM_ bdbak-o bordid dnjd? (Did YOU take Babak there?)
you babak- Ace took-2PL there?
Figure3-12: An echo yes/no question with focus
Wh-questions in general are tonally marked in a similar, though not quite
identical, way as the narrow focus cases I explained in the previous
section on declaratives. Where wh-word occurs in the utterance, the pitch
increases on the stressed syllable of that wh-word.
When the wh-word comes at the beginning of an utterance, the remaining
of the utterance will become deaccented, but in case the wh-word occurs
anywhere else, the phrases before the wh-word preserve their original
pitch accents but the ones following the wh-word all will be deaccented
After the process of deaccenting, one can still traces the weak deaccented
L+H patterns , however here the pitch movements are so lowered in their
pitch range that L and H tones become almost identical situating at the
same level. This resembles the narrow focus case in declarative
sentences. Yet one can differentiate between these two (wh-questions and
declaratives with focus) on the bases of some acoustic evidence, i.e. the
focus word uses a greater register expansion than the wh-word,
consequently the after-focus-deaccenting in declaratives with focus is
more severe than the deaccenting which happens after the wh-word, thus
in the former case the fO gets a noticeable lower frequency in its lower
Tot. I duration 6.48031
(a) _ cegune polis babak ra dastgir nemud? (How did the police arrest Babak?)
(b) _ceg une polis babak ra dastgir nemud? (How did the police arrest Babak?)
how polis babak Ace arrest did-3SC?
Figure3-13: Loss of pitch accents after a wh-word in a Wh-question, (the words before wh-word all
preserve their original pitch accents.)
Focus in Wh-Questions
Focus in wh-questions is a little bit complicated. In fact it is quite rich in
terms of the presence of various prosodic features and intonational
events, (figure 3-14).
<||0 M t* M -~ t > H .
koja soma BABAK
(a) kojd soma babah-o bordid? (Where did you take Babak to?)
where you babak- Ace took-2PL ?
(b) kojd soma B_BAK-o bordid? (Where did you take Babak to?)
where you babak- Ace took-2PL ?
Figure 3-14: mechanism of handling focus in a wh-question
In this example sentence:
(a) is a normal wh-question with wh-word coming right at the beginning
of the sentence.
As it can be observed the stressed syllable of the wh-word gets
prominence and as a normal wh-question the remaining of the utterance
become deaccented. Finally at the final syllable there is a very slight fall
leading to the final L% boundary tone (the slightness is because of
deaccenting process). In the second sentence
(b), we expect "soma" (you) to be deaccented right after the wh-word,
but because of focus on the object, i.e. "babak", there is a suspension over
the deaccenting process of wh-word.
What happens next is very interesting. The first phrase "koja soma" ends
up forming like an independent iP accompanied by the expected high
tone on its final syllable in such situations 1. Now the rest of the utterance
starts right with the focus word "babak". It gets the nucleus accent of the
phrase and quite expectedly deaccents the final verb. This leads to a
relatively steep fall merging rapidly with the final low boundary tone
right at the last syllable of the utterance.
Either focused word or wh-word can cancel out the deaccenting process
of the other one on the basis of their position, i.e. whichever occurs later,
it will cancel out the deaccenting process of the other one which precedes
Figure 3-15 confirms this claim. If we topicalized the focus (here
"babak") we can observe clearly how this mechanism is handling the
coexistence of these two intonational events.
In this example the focus word "babak" precedes the wh-word. What
happens is the local cancellation of the deaccenting property of the focus
(much more like the previous example). The focus word has its normal
prominence thus preserving its L+H* pitch accent as expected. The
deaccenting process of focus almost gets started at the Ace marker "ra"
(here pronounced as "o"), but soon it gets cancelled by the presence of
Now here the wh-word becomes prominent and as we expect it deaccent
the rest of the phrase. Finally we have the normal low boundary tone,
which is typical of such utterances. The process is much the same as the
previous example with one difference, i.e. there is no intuitional hint to
show the need for a compulsory pause before the second prominent word
(here the wh-word). Thus no rephrasing of the utterance is expected.
- B_BAK-o kojd soma bordid? (Where did you take Babak to?)
babak-Acc where you took-2PL?
Figure 3-15: The precedence of focus to the wh-word in a wh-question and the
mechanism of handling this coexistence
The last example reveals yet another aspect of this complicated
phenomenon, i.e. when the subject "soma" comes between the focus and
the wh-word. The focus word has again its normal prominence thus
preserving the default L+H* pitch accent as expected. The deaccenting
process of focus again gets started at the Ace marker "ra" (here
pronounced as "o"), but contrary to what we expect this time it gets
cancelled out on the subject "soma", i.e. the subject stay out prominent
and rejects the deaccenting. In fact it also preserves the default L+H*
pitch accent. Now the interesting thing is that this time the deaccenting
starts again right at the wh-word, i.e. contrary to our expectation the wh-
word becomes deaccented. Finally comes the normal low boundary tone
at the end of the phrase.
Window 1.65818C second;
soma | koja
- B_BAK-o soma kojd bordid? (Where did you take Babak to?)
babak-Acc you where took-2PL?
Figure 3-16: A more complicated mechanism of treating focus and wh-word in a
The intention behind using imperative sentences is mostly to order or
request some one to do something or to prevent him/her form doing it
(either for you, somebody else or for him/herself). You can also use them
when you want to give someone directives or advice. It may be expressed
as a polite request, sometimes it can be an impolite command, and other
times it may take the form of a suggestion. Usually however in daily
social conversations very rarely people use an assertive direct command
for communication due to the strong sense of impoliteness that it implies.
So if somebody uses an imperative, it usually takes the form of a request,
in that case he or she will pick up some polite adverbs like "lotfan"
(please), etc. and makes the tone of his/her speech less assertive. But the
point is that usually in Farsi a speaker has the option of using some other
structures (such as an echo yes/no question) to fulfill this requirement and
avoid using imperatives at all.
Imperatives take a short pitch range, in Farsi their average lower bound fO
is higher than that of neutral declaratives, and also their higher bound fO
is lower than that of declaratives. So all tones distribute within a quite
narrow band frequency. Tones are quite flat, and there are not really
many falling or rising tones within each AP, however the whole pitch
contour gradually and slightly declines, thus giving a smooth and even fO
movement. At the very end of the utterance, however, there is An L tone
shortly merging into a lower boundary tone (L%). Usually in imperative
utterances speaker's voice starts from a higher pitch right at the beginning
of the utterance (figure 3-17)
Window 1.322783 seconds
- ?aram sohbat kon. (Speak slowly.)
slowly speech do.
Figure 3-17: An imperative sentence. It has the typical characteristics: a narrow
bandfrequency, higher starting point fO, and relatively flat pitch contour.
However in polite requests, parts of a Farsi imperative sentence resemble
exactly a declarative sentence preserving the default pitch accent pattern.
But the verb group preserves the typical structure of imperative. (figure 3-
- lotfan ?drdm-tar harf bezanid. (Please speak more slowly.)
please slowly-more speech beat.
Figure 3-18: A polite request, only the final part of the utterance (verb group) truly
represents the real imperative intonation.
In Farsi exclamatory sentences express a wide range of emotions,
passions and good or bad feelings like love or hate. That is why such
sentences take a wide variety of different forms and structures. This
makes them hard to study and any observations regarding their behavior
should only cautiously be framed as some general and typical
representation of such sentence types.
Authentic data can only be collected in natural real situations when
people truly are impressed by some event and express themselves
verbally at once. We briefly look at two very common types of Farsi
exclamation sentences namely; declarative exclamations, and wh-
In Farsi it is possible to use a declarative sentence to express an
exclamation. A general pitch contour of such structures resembles the
following example. (figure 3-19)
- xeyli zibd ?dbu?d mizani! (You play oboe very nicely!)
very nice oboe beat-2SG!
Figure 3-19: A declarative exclamatory sentence
The pitch accent of the first AP, which is usually an adverb (this modifies
an adjective, another adverb or a nominal which follows it immediately),
is realized as an H*, that is the voice of speaker suddenly rises from the
lower bound of his/her frequency to the limit of its upper bound (here
about 225 Hz). Then there is a deaccenting all through the sentence until
the last syllable combines with the L%. Such sort of deaccenting in Farsi
declaratives is not a rare phenomenon (we have already seen the case of
narrow focusing). But it appears that in other cases, this first AP is always
realized as "L+H*" i.e. the default pitch accent in Farsi (in case the focus
occurs in the first AP in non exclamatory cases). Duration and the relative
value of the frequency of H* is also a good signal (This is relative to
individual speakers. No absolute value in this regard can be suggested.).
It is worth mentioning that this is only one of the ways an exclamation
can be realized within a declarative.
Another structure, which Farsi speakers usually use to express their
exclamations with, consists of a wh-word, which comes at the very
beginning of an utterance. Usually an adverb that modifies the verb of the
sentence (like the example below), or a noun phrase follows the
whword. Almost never the wh-word gets the prominence, either the
adverb or the noun, which follows the wh-word gets the nucleus pitch
accent and the rest of the utterance up to the very end will be deaccented.
For example in the following sentence there are two possibilities; either
"ziba" (nice) will get the main pitch accent of the exclamation or the
noun "?almani" (German). Figure 4.15 depicts the latter case, (the
focused word usually have an exaggerated duration)"
0.440448 |o.440449 Window 1 .635804 seconds 2.076253 0.317897
ce ziba | ?almani | half rnizani
- _e ziba ?dlmdni harf rnizani! (How nicely you speak German!)
what nice German speech beat-2SG!
Figure3-20: A typical wh-word exclamation sentence
(An excerpt from MSc dissertation on "An Instrumental Study ofProsodic Features
and Intonation in Modern Farsi (Persian") by Behzad Mahjani and Supervied by
Robert Ladd .Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics University of
On the contrary, and based on hierarchically structured prosodic model,
Scarborough believes that the main determinant of a sentence intonation
in Persian is the "focus" of the sentence used to refer to emphasis
triggered by context and not through an embedded characteristic in a
word or sentence (like English or like what we observed in Mahjani's
"Since focus in wh- questions, relative clauses, 'know that' constructions,
negation, and verb-initial yes/no questions all involve deaccenting, it is
appealing to be able to account for them all with a single phonological
mechanism . We can consider them all types of focus, broadly
Her diagrams of Persian Intonation are presented here:
L + H*
man sees a chair
.»— **** J
Figure3-21: A man's declarative statement (no focus)
L + H*
THE MflN sees
Figure3-22: a man's declarative statement with subject focus
L + H*
L + H*
The nan sees a CHAIR
1 .- 1
1200 * 1500
Figure3-23: A man's declarative statement with object focus
L + H*
The man SEES a chair
ms 300 600 000 1200 1500
Figure3-24: A man's declarative statement verb focused
th e nan see the chair?
Figure3-25: A man's yes/no question statement(no focus)
What does the nan see?
Figure3-26: A woman's Wh question statement(no focus)
L + H*
L + H*
What does the nan see?
,JL, r \
Figure3-27: A man's Wh question statement(no focus)
The nan sees the BURGANDV CHhIR
l "'" w
800 1200 1600 2000
Figure3-28: A woman 's statement of a two-word object sentence
A laLiiru mibine
Tlie man sees tie BUFGHNDV CHOIR
^ > *s~
^"V . 4.
Figure3-29: A man's statement of a two-word object sentence
I drag the nan who sees Nanaz
Figure3-30: A man's statement of a relative clause
English has a number of intonation patterns which add conventionalized
meanings to the utterance: question, statement, surprise, disbelief,
An important feature of English intonation is the use of an intonational
accent (and extra stress) to mark the focus of a sentence. Normally this
focus accent goes on the last major word of the sentence, but it can come
earlier in order to emphasize one of the earlier words or to contrast it with
We know that English has four pitch phonemes, not four fixed points on a
musical scale but four relative levels. The intervals between them change
in amplitude from speaker to speaker and from situation to situation even
for the same speaker. In the sentence, "He is a student.", spoken with a
normal mid-pitch at the beginning, a high pitch on -STU- and dropping
to a low pitch at the end, we hear three of those four pitches in operation.
A woman would normally render the same sentence at a higher general
pitch than a man. And both would raise the level of the pitches and widen
the height of the intervals under various circumstances when attempting
to communicate with some one across the street. They would lower the
pitches and keep them close together when speaking to someone next to
them in a dentist's waiting room.
Intonaimn ton lour for a jtolvMritrr wilh irreis an Thursday.
Inh>no1iort contour for c No 10111*11 with tlreii l>n hunt
Imonaliofi eamsuf for o 1(01*111*11 wto \iir*,Knn vw
.**Yit:i buuiibl u nuw hoatc on Thurvtar.
9 hhinrihoo gorrtour tor o MMn»m with ma 0*1 fit *1
a- Nancy bought a new house on Thursday.(stress on Thursday)
b- Nancy bought a new house on Thursday.(stress on house)
c- Nancy bought a new house on Thursday.(stress on new)
d- Nancy bought a new house on Thursday.(stress on Nancy)
Many languages mark contrastive emphasis like English, using an
intonational accent and additional stress.
Many other languages use only syntactic devices for contrastive
emphasis, for example, moving the emphasized phrase to the beginning
of the sentence.
I want a car for my birthday, (as opposed to a bike)
you would have to say something like:
A car I want for my birthday.
It's a car that I want for my birthday.
Listeners who speak the second type of language will not necessarily
interpret extra pitch and volume as marking emphasis. Listeners who
don't speak the second type of language will not necessarily interpret a
different word order as marking emphasis (as opposed to assuming that
the speaker doesn't know basic grammar).
The normal intonation contours for questions in English use:
final rising pitch for a Yes/No question
Are you coming today?
final falling pitch for a Wh-question
When are you coming? Where are you going?
Using a different pattern typically adds something extra to the question.
E.g., falling intonation on a Yes/No question can be interpreted as
abruptness. Rising intonation on a Wh-question can imply surprise or that
you didn't hear the answer the first time and are asking to have it
These patterns too can be different across languages. Even small
differences can be important:
reading the one language with the intonation pattern appropriate to the
other can give rise to entirely unintentional effects: English with Russian
intonation sounds unfriendly, rude or threatening, to the native speaker of
English; Russian with an English intonation sounds affected or
hypocritical to the native speaker of Russian. (Russel,2000)
Contrasting English Intonation patterns with Persian
A normal matter -of-fact report
(Swan, 1973 ,48)
Affirmative/negative and questions
beginning with a question word
(Fallahi,l 992,1 13)
Tag questions for confirmation
Tag questions for asking
[A clause beginning with a
(Swan,l 973,1 32)
connecting word (before, when,
since, because, if)]
Direct address (like: Good evening
Table-2: Contrasting English Intonation patterns with Persian.
( L stands for low/M stands for mid/H stands for high /X stand for extra high)
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