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Rhythm and Intonation


Rhythm and intonation patterns of speech provide clues to help us understand! Our ears can detect the rhythm and intonation of words which signals meaning to our brain. We use our familiar language patterns to help us make sense of what is being spoken.

RHYTHM: The rhythm pattern and emphasis of a voice signals whether it is a question, command, excitement or fear, etc.  Speech rhythms signal turn-taking in conversations.  Pauses signal an opportunity to interject or change topics. The rhythm of a sentence gives powerful clues as to what word is important for meaning by using emphasis on that word.

INTONATION: Intonation patterns, pauses and inflection can change the meaning of the same utterance. Rising intonation expresses happiness, surprise, excitement and questions.  Falling intonation in interpreted as decisive and commanding.

Rhythm and intonation patterns vary with different languages. This is why foreign accents are so difficult to understand because the words they are saying are being spoken with unfamiliar rhythm and intonation patterns.

Our ears and brain find it difficult to make meaning out of unfamiliar speech rhythms, intonation patterns, pauses and inflection. It can signal underlying mood, sarcasm, apathy and more.

It is difficult for someone with hearing loss to detect the unspoken subtleties of rhythm and intonation patterns and can be a cause for unintentional misunderstandings! Try using different rhythms and inflections when saying the same sentence and see how it changes the meaning . . .

Get to know the power of your ears and what they can do! Hearing wellness will have a ripple effect on your life and relationships! Make hearing a priority for 2023 and you will see improved relationships and less stress.

Dr. Anita Carroll is a licensed Audiologist and owner of Hearing Solutions in the Triangle, PLLC with over 25 years of experience. Need some wellness tips – she can be contacted here.  If you’re looking to test hearing or improve listening skills visit our online scheduling here.