General pronunciation: Pronunciation, intonation, rhythm

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New Member
Hi guys, I have a question for the native English speakers. Which is more important: the intonation, the rythm of the language or the right pronunciation? Which one makes it easier for you to understand the non native speakers?
  • cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    I would say the correct pronunciation is most important. Intonation and rhythm can affect meaning, depending on the situation. There have been some discussions of this previously. Use the search tool above.

    Welcome to the forum.



    English, born in Japan
    They are all important of course but I believe intonation affects your meaning the most in English, so while that is the most important factor when communicating, if you don't pronounce the words well then there's no hope in the first place!

    Having said that I rarely hear a foreign person speak English with correct pronunciation, but most of the time their intonation is correct.

    As for accents, accents vary so much within England anyway that it's not so important.

    In my opinion :)


    Senior Member
    If by "intonation" you only mean the varying pitch of the voice, then I'd place pronunciation first.

    On the other hand, I think stress is also related to intonation and rythm, right?
    And I also believe it is crucial. I think you're more likely to be understood if you slightly alter a vowel than if you misplace a stress.

    Ms Missy

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Hi ... you asked what makes it "easier" to undertand non-native speakers, but I always think in terms of what makes it "harder" to understand them. For me that's always been when non-native English speakers use incorrect construction of the words in the sentence. However, I think no matter what our native language, we all tend to make literal translations of other languages, as closely as possible to our own native tongue.

    Heavy accents are next on my list.
    Accents don't bother me as there are so many, but to some English speakers they may cause a real problem. I used to be either mis-understood or not understood at all by other people because I spoke with a different accent than that of my area and even that of my parents. My area is Central Ohio in the USA. Edit: But that's just my personal experience. Take it as you wish.

    The intonation can change a meaning of a word. Pronunciation....goes along with accent. But if it's completely mis-pronounced then it won't be understood at all.

    The stress on a syllable? I'm not sure on that one. I think if you said neVER instead of NEver, it wouldn't be a problem. Only for poetry.

    Word order? yeah, that can also change the meaning of the sentence, but in general, it could be understood.
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