A local, stepwise lowering of pitch at specific accents. Unlike declination, downstep is not a property of the complete intonation phrase but of each particular accent. The notion of downstep derives from the behaviour observed in African tone languages, where H tones are lowered or downstepped when preceded by a L tone. Thus, whereas in a sequence HH, the two high tones will be scaled at a similar F0 level, in the sequence HLH, the second H will realised at a lower level than the first H due to the presence of the intervening L tone.

The official IPA notation for downstep is a leading superscript downward arrow: H. When this is not available typographically, a leading superscript exclamation mark is often used: !H.

Also called catathesis.