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Intonation in Theory and Practice, Revisited

John M. Levis
TESOL Quarterly
Vol. 33, No. 1 (Spring, 1999), pp. 37-63
DOI: 10.2307/3588190
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3588190
Page Count: 27
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Intonation in Theory and Practice, Revisited
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Abstract

Intonation as currently presented in North American textbooks bears a strong resemblance to textbook treatments from 30-50 years ago despite tremendous advances in both theoretical and applied research on intonational description and the role of intonation in communication. This article reviews current intonational research that is relevant to teaching and presents implications for pedagogy. It then argues that there are two primary reasons for a lack of innovation in intonation teaching materials. First, current materials are based on an inadequate view of the functions of intonation, especially in their overemphasis on its role in signaling grammatical relations and in their emphasis on its role in conveying speakers' attitudes and emotions. Second, materials lack a communicative purpose, focusing instead on uncontextualized, sentence-level practice of intonational forms. Four principles for intonation teaching materials-namely, (a) that intonation must be taught in context, (b) that intonational meanings must be generalizable, (c) that the teaching of intonation must always be subordinate to larger communicative purposes, and (d) that intonation should be taught with realistic language-are discussed and contrasted with current practice.

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