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.