Intonation : asking yes-no questions with a falling tone?

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tobyfive1222

New Member
Cantonese
Hi everyone, I'm an English learner and Linguistics major. I am currently learning intonation in English. I was told that when we ask yes-no questions, we generally use a rising tone.

However, when I hear my British friend asking such questions, it seems like she uses a falling/flat tone (e.g. Do you like it? Are you okay?).

I have looked for books and websites about the usage but can't find any. Could anyone please tell me under what circumstances we use falling tone instead of rising tone? Would it be used in informal / friend-friend conversations whilst rising tone is used in relative formal situations?

Thank you!!
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I’m absolutely not an expert on this, but what I do know is that a lot of (non-British) English-speakers talk with upward inflection that makes everything sound like a question. Apparently it’s called uptalk.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    That's interesting. I hadn't noticed that, but you're right. There is a high pitch on the last stressed syllable, then it can either rise or fall after that.

    Do you /like /it? Do you /like \it?
    Are you o/kay? Are you o/\kay?
    Have you /got /a/ny? Have you /got \a\ny?

    It does seem to be a little less formal. I think I'd use a rise to strangers, or people in general, and a fall when I'm confirming something with a friend.

    But be careful. If you exaggerate either pattern it'll start to sound different. An exaggerated rise could sound surprised or uncertain, while an exaggerated rise-fall could sound annoyed or impatient.
     
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