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In the Name of God 

Contrastive Analysis of English- 

Persian Intonation 


Dr. Mitra Ahmad Soltani 


Table of Contents 

Introduction 4 

Significance of Contrastive Analysis in ESL classrooms 

Chapter one 6 

Word Definition 

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 

Persian Intonation 

An Investigation of Farsi Intonation patterns 

Declarative Sentences 


Types of Declarative Sentences 

Declaratives with Focus 


Yes/No Questions 


Focus in Wh-Questions 

Imperative Sentences 

Exclamatory Sentences 

Declarative Exclamations 

Chapter Four 75 

English Intonation 

Summary statement 79 

Contrasting English Intonation patterns with Persian 

Reference 80 


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 


Chapter one 
Word Definition 

► 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 
notable universities. 

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 
each other. 

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." 
(Jones, 1960) 
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), 
including ... 

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 
previous handouts. 


13) Glottality (e.g. [ ] in vowel-initial words in English or German, 
Danish st0d). 

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 

tone" syllable) 

IP A transcription 


[m a] 





* mother' 

' hemp' 


' scold' 


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- 



Onset first 
stressed syllable 

Tonic syllable 
where pitch 
movement begins 

Continuation and 
completion pitch 















Tonic segmaent 

Enclitic segment 

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: 

one of 












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) 


stress (underline) 




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 / 

Two nuclei 

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 

T ■"'"■' 

l'li ii 1 1 i i i i I i 

L 1 "! I 

w — 




nHjan.i , , , i- . , .1 

i__i ■ ■ ■ • _^i 

WSmv-K-:- ■ -:l" 




.. '■■■M 

-1 !-!-■ ij ■ ■ ■ ■ I - _t 

3 a 111 a s 

:1 1 

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. 

High fail: 

Bond had in&tnictinn& to--Jca7c. 

Low riiw: 

Do you Jifcc (he food? 

High riiw: 

To -morrow did you fi-aiy? 

(High) faJI-mc: 

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 

A 1 

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 

1 V 

Oh, Anna! 

Oh, Alonzo Davis! 

Oh, Jim! 

► 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 

Top line 

Base line 

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: 

Top line 
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 
syntactic boundary. 

3 a) Have you seen any Martians who have green noses? (One phrase: 
restrictive relative.) 

b) Have you seen any Martians, who have green noses? (Two phrases: 
non-restrictive relative.) 

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 

phonetically underspecified. 

Phrase accents and boundary tones are edge elements that have a 
demarcative function. 

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 ; 

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) 

Chapter Two 
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 »■*■■■* » 

1 J 


B.B0BBe< B> 

Tim li/rff) 


Tine (sec) 

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 

widely used. 


Chapter Three 
Persian Intonation 

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) 




58.695472 58.69547 



-\ — ^ 

low plateau 



Wi n d oiflj 4.2 28988 se co n ds 


62.922460 2.441540 

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 


Edge Tones 

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 
(figure 3-3). 


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 

Boundary Tones 

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 
Declarative Sentences 

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. 
(Figure 3-4) 


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 

man raftarn 

Total duration 3.138277 



zud bargashtarn 



- 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- 




0.423288 0.423288 



Window 2.085022 






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) 



-0 .858 

0.3-10788 0.340788 


Wind™ 1.913354 seconds 




?ali ra 

be manzel 


(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 
object "?ali" 


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 


naqi ra 




(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. 
Yes/No Questions 

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). 






2.416166 2.416166 

W)i(iM(l»j*»*^ wj *+if^ — 


135.04 Hz 


Window 1 .737615 second; 


4.153781 0.523407 

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) 

0.3 41329 

-0.54-13 | 

0.312015 |o.312015 




Window 1.92643) second; 

23 Hz 

2.237444 0.647137 

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 
(figure 3-13). 

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 


0.6237 f 



bound limit 


Tot. I duration 6.48031 




569 seconds 


7 seconds 



(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. 









1.964560 0.742379 


- 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. 


0.401454 |o.401454 



1 .64076'! 

Window 1.65818C second; 
soma | koja 


320 Hz 



bar did 

- 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 


Imperative Sentences 

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) 


9.381251 9.381251 


1 .308365 

Window 1.322783 seconds 

420 Hz 

10.704034 14.71 



- ?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- 





420 Hz 



- 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. 

Exclamatory Sentences 

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- 


Declarative Exclamations 

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. 
Wh-word Exclamations 

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 

Edinburgh.September 2003 

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 

construed."(Scarborough, 2003) 

Her diagrams of Persian Intonation are presented here: 








L + H* 










man sees a chair 




.»— **** J 




ms 250 



1000 1250 

Figure3-21: A man's declarative statement (no focus) 








L + H* 







THE MflN sees 

a chair 






ms 300 


800 1200 


Figure3-22: a man's declarative statement with subject focus 




L + H* 


L + H* 








The nan sees a CHAIR 





1 .- 1 

ms 300 



1200 * 1500 

Figure3-23: A man's declarative statement with object focus 







L + H* 







s Indfllio 




The man SEES a chair 




•*-_ "* 




* _.l 

I I 

ms 300 600 000 1200 1500 

Figure3-24: A man's declarative statement verb focused 






nar Je 





th e nan see the chair? 

Figure3-25: A man's yes/no question statement(no focus) 














What does the nan see? 




***** ************* 



1 1 

ms 250 

500 750 

1000 12: 

Figure3-26: A woman's Wh question statement(no focus) 











L + H* 


L + H* 








What does the nan see? 

,JL, r \ 


^PIF* ""■" 







***** * 


ms 250 


750 1000 

Figure3-27: A man's Wh question statement(no focus) 







L+H Ha 







fin; bio 



The nan sees the BURGANDV CHhIR 


- _•' 


l "'" w 


* 1 


ms 400 

800 1200 1600 2000 

Figure3-28: A woman 's statement of a two-word object sentence 




L+H Ma 







A laLiiru mibine 





Tlie man sees tie BUFGHNDV CHOIR 

^ > *s~ 


^"V . 4. 

Figure3-29: A man's statement of a two-word object sentence 






L+H* Ha 
mflr Iflro 






I drag the nan who sees Nanaz 

Figure3-30: A man's statement of a relative clause 


Chapter Four 
English Intonation 

English has a number of intonation patterns which add conventionalized 
meanings to the utterance: question, statement, surprise, disbelief, 
sarcasm, teasing. 

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 
something else. 

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 
word, Ntmty, 

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. 
Instead of 

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) 


Summary statement 

Contrasting English Intonation patterns with Persian 




A normal matter -of-fact report 



(declarative intonation) 

(Swan, 1973 ,48) 

(Swan,1973, 132) 

Affirmative/negative and questions 

beginning with a question word 

Yes/no questions 




(Fallahi,l 992,1 13) 

Tag questions for confirmation 

M-H-L ,H-L 

M-M-L, M-L 

(ELS,1 973,73-74) 


Tag questions for asking 

M-H-M ,M 

M-M-L ,M-L 

(ELS,1 973,73-74) 


Incomplete sentence 



[A clause beginning with a 


(Swan,l 973,1 32) 

connecting word (before, when, 

since, because, if)] 

Direct address (like: Good evening 



Mr. Johnson.) 

(ELS,1 973,5) 


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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