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CHAPTER III

PITCH VARIATION

9. The cause of pitch variation , All normal speech is characterized by variety in pitch and range of the voice. If you listen closely to one in earnest conversation, you will observe that the numerous tone changes do not come by chance, although the speaker may not be at all conscious of what the voice is doing, but that they are determined by the thought and the intention of the speaker. Every departure from monotone is significant and indicates the particular meaning the speaker attaches to the words he utters, and every change in the melody of a phrase or sentence changes its meaning to the listener. Obviously, then, a reader must make sure that he understands the author's thought before he ventures to speak his words. Note how the following portion of a line from Othello, as read by a student, was perverted from its serious import to a meaning of ludicrous implication. The true sense may be expressed something like this:

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e(!).

10. Inflection and change of pitch The two factors of pitch variation by which words are made to express accurately the speaker's purpose are in-flection (vocal glides), and change of pitch (vocal leaps). The rise or fall of the voice during the utterance of a word is called inflection; the leap of the voice from one key to another during intervals of silence between words, phrases, and sentences is called change of pitch. These modulations supplement each other, and are firmly allied in showing the relation of words, phrases, and sentences. Speaking generally, the upward trend of the voice, whether limited to the glide on a particular word or to the melody of the whole phrase, indicates incompleteness of thought; the falling, completeness. Both are illustrated in the following sentence:

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1 If there were no consonants in our language which interrupt vocalization
in the utterance of phrases, the melody of phrases would be made up
largely of glides merging into each other. (See paragraph 3, page 32.) Within
the phrase there would be few leaps of the voice other than those that might
occur for emphasis. The phrase " We all know how well we are" may be
spoken with a melody made up entirely of glides of varying length and direc-
tion. Such combinations rarely occur, however. The flow of the voice is often
broken by consonants, and the range between syllables and words beginning
or ending with stop-consonants is effected by vocal leaps, thus:-

thick
den
Ac

is to-day. ci

tal. The

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II. Word values within the phrase The particular meaning conveyed by any group of spoken words is determined largely by inflection and change of pitch.1 By means of these, attention is directed to significant words, which are lifted into prominence, while those of less importance are subordinated, as in the illustration above. Inflection and change of pitch are therefore important means of emphasis.

I. Emphasis by inflection. While every word in expressive speech has some inflectional variation, words in which the thought is most strongly centered are set out by inflections of greater range and duration, the range and duration varying according to the purpose of the speaker and the importance of the thought. Suppose, for example, that some circumstance has arisen in which one is unable to decide at once upon a course of action or to state a definite opinion. The perplexity of the mind might be expressed by some such inflectional emphasis as this :

W

h
know
not

t
do

to I

say. But if one is being urged unexpectedly to speak and cannot think of anything to say, the sentence might be spoken thus:

а

S

a

to
what
know
not
do

I i How would you speak the sentence "There is honor among thieves” so

2. Emphasis by change of pitch. Significant words are often made prominent by change of pitch before or after them. Note how the word "now" is made emphatic by the upward leap of the voice in the command:

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Often the change of pitch comes between the unaccented and accented syllables of the emphatic word, as in

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i
your
"Let

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be
your

tutor." 3. Change of pitch essential to proper inflectional emphasis. Change of pitch itself is not only a means of emphasis, but it often helps to make inflectional emphasis possible by placing the important words on such a key that the emphatic rise and fall of the voice shall be within its easy range. In the following sentence the words “animal,” “unique,” and “ striking” receive strong rising inflections, yet it would be vocally impossible to give each of these words an equal inflectional range were it not for the downward leaps of the voice throughout the sentence, by which its melody is given balance and proportion. as to justify the reply, “Nonsense! thieves are just as bad as other people"? Repeat the sentence in a way to imply that even among thieves there is some sense of honor..

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12. Phrase and clause relations As the pitch variation within the word-group helps to convey the exact meaning the speaker intends, so it reveals the relation between the ideas of the various phrases and clauses within the sentence.

1. Completeness of thought. Notwithstanding an old and arbitrary rule that the voice should rise at a comma and fall at a period, we find that in normal speech the voice often falls at a comma, or whenever, comma or no comma, the attention is momentarily centered on a phrase, the thought of which is clear and complete in itself and of sufficient importance to stand as an independent affirmation. Then one virtually “makes periods in the midst of sentences.” Take, for example, the following sentence from Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address. Beginning with the clause, “ let us finish the work we are in,” it, and each subsequent clause, states a thought complete in itself, and, in reading, each may be given the falling inflection of completeness, as indicated in the illustration:

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