Intonation is a feature of speech that affects the understanding of a message. This is the rise and fall of the voice in speech (or the variation in pitch). Intonation conveys the attitude or mood of the speaker to the listener (audience) he is speaking to.

For instance, whether the speaker is doubtful, angry, impatient, polite, or impolite is a sign through the intonation pattern he uses. It is the change in the level of pitch (how high or low the voice is) that makes speech interesting.

If there is no change in the level of pitch while we speak, then it will be difficult for others to understand us and it will also be boring to our listeners.

There are two basic patterns of intonation (also known as tunes): the falling tune and the rising tune. A conventional way of indicating the tune is to use the arrow ↘ for the falling tune and ↗ for the rising tune.

Identification of Intonation

Patterns in statement

Examples: Using statements like:

  1. The student is working hard (↘)
  2. Bola will be here anytime (↘)
  3. The people in the shop stole the car (↘)

Intonation using WH – questions. Examples

  1. Why did you come here: (↘)
  2. Whose book is this? (↘)
  3. How did you get here? (↘)

Intonation is used as a command or order.


  1. Get out of here! (↘)
  2. Open the door at once! (↘)
  3. Don’t touch the girl! (↘)
  4. Be careful! (↘)


New Oxford (2) for junior secondary schools. Page 103

Read the passage below aloud varying your intonation. (Exercise K)

A conversation between Garba and Lawrence

See also


VOWEL /ᴐ:/ AND /ᴐ/




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