TONI questions

TONI is a web-based program I wrote more than 10 years ago. It presents English sentences in orthography with the intonation nucleus highlighted in red. Users also hear a sound clip of the sentence and the task is to identify the nuclear tone. If you’re interested, TONI is here. A little warning though: things have moved on greatly since I wrote TONI, so I cannot guarantee that it will work well in modern browsers. One day I may get around to updating it, but don’t hold your breath.

The reason I am bringing it up here is that I have just received an email from Jacob Chu with an attached sound clip of five TONI sentences that he recorded. He is worried about the answers TONI gives for these. Rather than respond to him personally I’m going to deal with them here. Others may be interested in my answers. I’ll just do one today and leave the others for another time.

Jacob asks about the sentence: Would you like to go to a concert? He says:

I heard high fall rather than fall-rise. I’ve shown that to many people. Most said it’s a high fall, although some said they heard an extremely short rise at cert.

The sentence that TONI presented is here (it will open in a new window/tab). What do you reckon?

Here is a sound clip of the same sentence with a high fall nuclear tone. Hear the difference?

I think they are distinct, but that the difference is quite subtle. Why should that be? Well, the nuclear tone we call a fall-rise doesn’t always fall from high to low and then rise to mid. Why not? Because it doesn’t have time to do so. A fairly frequent variant of a fall-rise is a high to mid fall, leaving out the middle low bit. That is what TONI presented in the sentence above.

More on Jacob’s questions in later posts.

7 thoughts on “TONI questions

  1. This cert·nly does put the cat amongst the pigeons. For the moment I shd like to repeat two quotes from A. C. Gimson I made in my article on ‘The Teaching of Pronunciation’ which I suggest are relevant: ‘How often do we look at a notation which one of our respected colleagues has made and then check it against the actual recording and find there are great discrepancies?’
    and ‘People have accused O’Connor and Arnold of being over-complex although their [intonation notation] system is so simplified that we can’t use it with native speakers because native English speakers use tunes which don’t occur in the O’Connor and Arnold system’.
    My preferred descriptions of these two sentences are, for the first “Toni” one: what I call on the final climactic word an Alt-Rise-Bass tone: Would you ˈlike to go to a ˈˏˌconcert?
    and for the second a simple (High) Fall (but too short to be realised as an Alt [high level tone] descending on the ‘con’ syllable): Would you ˈlike to go to a `concert?
    It has to be admitted to be a very delicate distinction.
    My system is described and exemplified on my website at Section 8.5.

  2. The rise in the fall-rise version is very minute auditorily. Praat does not show any rise in pitch though.

  3. John, could we possibly have a better version of the fall-rise sentence – comparable to the one illustrating a high fall?

  4. Thanks! The previous version sounded as if the sentence had been recorded over the phone. And there was a glitch at the end.

  5. At last I’ve found something on the fall rise that does not rise!! I’ve been wondering about this ‘strange’ tone for a long time now. I’ve found instances of this type of fall-rise in several materials intended for L2 learners of English. I always had a hunch it’s related to the stylised tone discussed by Cruttenden (2007:119-120), only that instead of the third minor difference between the F0 peak and the endpoint of the tone, there’s a larger difference. Could this be possible?
    In any case, it seems to me native speakers have some tacit knowledge of the pitch differential that makes the tune sound ‘statement-like’ or ‘question-like’ (putting aside the influence of lexis and syntax in the interpretation of the utterance as a checking question).
    This would also explain why, although Praat does not show a terminal rise, the utterance still can be identified as a question.
    By the way, there’s another stylised tone that is clearly a fall to me, and this one also begins relatively high and is somewhat flattened at the end. In the contexts I’ve heard this tone, it was clearly meant as a ‘statement’ tone. Are these truncated tones? How far would you say the fall-rise that doesn’t rise and the fall with a flattened end are common in English?

  6. Hello! I hear a rise-fall-rise in the first sound file. The /n/ has a separate movement because of compression. The small final rise then makes sense. Andrea, truncated tones are most noticeable in Leeds and Belfast as far as I know.

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