Click here for some thoughts on how to teach intonation.

What’s intonation? Why is it important?

Intonation is when your voice goes up or down in a sentence. Said another way, intonation is your voice going from high to low or low to high. Your voice can start high and go down (falling intonation). It can start low and go up (rising intonation). It can go up, down, up. It can go down, up, down.

It’s important because intonation affects meaning in different ways. Lets look at some examples.

Falling intonation

I eat apples.

Rising intonation

You like apples?

Rising and then falling

Where did he go?

Note that if you change the intonation pattern, the meaning changes.

Rising intonation changes a statement to a question.

I eat apples?

Falling intonation makes a question sound unimportant to you. (You don’t care about the answer.)

You like apples?

Double rising intonation on a wh- question makes it sound like you misunderstood the first time you heard the answer.

Where did he go?

Here are some more resources for you to check out to learn more about intonation and all the ways it can affect meaning.

While learning all the rules for how intonation can affect meaning can be useful, just listening a lot and unconsciously imitating patterns is even better.

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