Intonation in questions

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Poland91pl

Senior Member
Polish
Hello. I know for sure that you use a rising intonation when asking a yes/no question. Eg. Do you want to go home now?

HOWEVER is it possible to use a falling intonation with yes no question e.g when you know the answer or want a confirmation?
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    As far as I know, Poland91pl, people use a rising intonation in just about every question that they ask in English. I don't think I've ever heard anything that I would call a "falling intonation" when somebody was asking me a question.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    I think actually yes, the falling intonation (on 'home now', beginning with the last stressed syllable) indicates you think they want to go home now, so you're checking, whereas a rise from that point means you actually don't know.

    This is probably something you should listen for but not use yourself. A parent might use it to a child, or one lover to another when they have been arguing or irritable.
     

    Poland91pl

    Senior Member
    Polish
    As far as I know, Poland91pl, people use a rising intonation in just about every question that they ask in English. I don't think I've ever heard anything that I would call a "falling intonation" when somebody was asking me a question.
    I'm afraid but you're wrong :( all of the wh- question have a falling intonation. Eg. " what are you talking about"?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I'm afraid but you're wrong :( all of the wh- question have a falling intonation. Eg. " what are you talking about"?
    Am I? When I utter or hear the question "What are you talking about?", the intonation typically rises at the beginning of "talking" and returns to roughly the original intonation for the word "about." I'm not aware of any question that rises in intonation from the beginning of the question all the way through to its end. Are you?
     

    Poland91pl

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Am I? When I utter or hear the question "What are you talking about?", the intonation typically rises at the beginning of "talking" and returns to roughly the original intonation for the word "about." I'm not aware of any question that rises in intonation from the beginning of the question all the way through to its end. Are you?
    It does rise at the beginning of the word"talking " but then goes back down, which means it is a falling intonation. Compare" are you talking to me"? And " what are talking to me"?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Thanks for clarifying your meaning, Poland91pl. I agree that "What are you talking about?" and "Are you talking to me?" often use roughly the same intonation.

    The only way that last question would end on a rising pitch would be if somebody was trying to emphasize the word "me" at the end of the question, much as a character from the old movie "Taxi Driver" asked the question in the movie: Are you talking to me?

    I don't think I hear any questions that rise in intonation from the beginning of the question all the way through to the end of the question. I can't even imagine a question in which the intonation would fall from the first word and continue falling until the end of the question.

    Talk about the intonation of sentences isn't something that I'm very familiar with, however. I occasionally see references to intonation in questions that people ask in this forum.
     
    Last edited:

    Poland91pl

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Thanks for clarifying your meaning, Poland91pl. I agree that "What are you talking about?" and "Are you talking to me?" often use roughly the same intonation.

    The only way that last question would end on a rising pitch would be if somebody was trying to emphasize the word "me" at the end of the question, much as a character from the old movie "Taxi Driver" asked the question in the movie: Are you talking to me?

    I don't think I hear any questions that rise in intonation from the beginning of the question all the way through to the end of the question. I can't even imagine a question in which the intonation would fall from the first word and continue falling until the end of the question.

    Talk about the intonation of sentences isn't something that I'm very familiar with, however. I occasionally see references to intonation in questions that people ask in this forum.
    It's not about rising from the very beginning of the question. It happens on a last content word.

    See. CAN I HELP? VS HOW CAN I HELP?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Okay. I'll take your word for it. I probably hear more questions that end with a falling intonation than questions that end with a rising intonation.

    I never hear any questions that rise from beginning to end, fall from beginning to end, or remain flat without any intonation from beginning to end.

    HOWEVER is it possible to use a falling intonation with yes no question e.g when you know the answer or want a confirmation?
    Eg. Do you want to go home now?
    It is possible to end this yes or no question with a rising intonation or a falling intonation. Ordinarily, people use a falling intonation when they ask this question. If they want to emphasize the idea of "now", they use a rising intonation, according to your definition of those terms: (Ordinary, falling intonation) Do you want to go home now?

    (Emphasizing "now" as the important word in the question. Rising intonation) Do you want to go home now?

    Native English-speakers can ordinarily use word stress or intonation to give different meanings to sentences that contain exactly the same words. From talking to friends who use English as a second language, I have learned that the use of intonation or word stress isn't as free in some other languages as it is in English.
     
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