Talk:Prosody (linguistics)

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An anon editor wrote that breathing only corresponds to prosodic boundaries in careful speech, as when reading. Actually, audible breathing is an extremely reliable indicator of prosodic boundaries. (Remember, we're not talking about syntactic boundaries here.) In reviewing the pitch traces of hundreds of prosodic units from spontaneous English conversation, I have never once come across a breath in the middle of a prosodic contour. In fact, breathing occurs at major prosodic units, and is generally accompanied by a reset in pitch and speed. Similar results obtain for other European, Asian, African, and American languages. Wikipedia says “Qualitatively, one can understand prosody as the difference (in terms of acoustic properties) between a well-performed play, and one on first reading. kwami 11:38, 21 November 2005 (UTC)

Could you give a link to where Wikipedia says this? It seems rather an odd sort of explanation to me. RoachPeter (talk) 08:34, 3 June 2012 (UTC)


Can anyone provide an explanation of the notation that can be used to record intonation (IPA or otherwise)?

See Intonation (linguistics) There are many notation schemes available: This page mentions a few, or this one. ---23:56, 18 January 2006 (UTC)


The term is used in neuropathology, bcz the ability (or abilities?) to utter and interpret prosody resides in one (or two?) specific area(s) of the brain, and a stroke can destroy it/them. It may even deserve a Prosody (neurology) article, but until then, does it perhaps deserve some mention in the accompanying article?
--Jerzyt 22:59, 17 December 2007 (UTC)

just poorly written[edit]

Could simplify the definitions and explanations in the first paragraph so I can understand it, instead to merely relating it to concepts in specific fields. --Blue Spider (talk) 04:46, 10 January 2008 (UTC)

You're right, it's gotten really garbled. kwami (talk) 05:12, 10 January 2008 (UTC)
Okay, hopefully that's a little better. If you still can't follow, the links should give you the background you need. Or give us the specifics here, and we'll see what we can do. kwami (talk) 06:27, 10 January 2008 (UTC)


I have reviewed this article for cleanup. I removed the {{technical}} template; kwami's edits some time ago were excellent, and I had no trouble understanding the article, even though I knew little about the topic. If another editor thinks it's still too technical, please respond to kwami's comment above. I have also done some rephrasing, wikification, and Manual of Style editing of the Prosody and emotion section, and repaired the quote (from which an em dash in the original was improperly deleted). --Unconventional (talk) 18:18, 26 November 2008 (UTC)


About "dessert" and "desert" (n.): their first syllables are different anyway, as in "detach" and "den". "desert" (v.) is spoken (by me, at least) identically to "dessert". Dsalt (talk) 14:03, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

There's also the "desert" (n.) of "just deserts" that is pronounced identically to dessert. — kwami (talk) 10:25, 27 October 2010 (UTC)
There may be dilecticle variation, because I pronounce them just like the article says. (I live in North Texas) (but I do pronounce desert the noun and desert the verb identically) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:24, 22 July 2012 (UTC)


The article says there is no written form of prosody, but this is no longer true if you include the ways people use online text to express themselves, exaggerating words, using italics, bold or caps for emphasis and peppering speech with emoticons. If anyone has detailed informtion about this please add it to the article. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:21, 27 October 2010 (UTC)

There's always been such things, but it' extremely primitive compared to our ability to write words--more like proto-writing. — kwami (talk) 10:24, 27 October 2010 (UTC)

Transcribed works also show prosodic features via symbols; for example small pauses such as for breaths being represented by (.); or stressed syllables being underlined. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:18, 10 March 2011 (UTC)

Unclear connotation[edit]

I have heard this word used by educators, and I am a bit confused. They speak of a child having "prosody" when they read, and sometimes they sound like that's a good thing, making it seem like prosody is an inherently positive noun. But I read this article, and it seems like it's a neutral word. So I ask:

If a child's oral reading is poor, do we say that

  • A) this child has poor/bad/weak prosody,

or do we say that

  • B) this child lacks prosody?

If "prosody" is a neutral noun, then I would think "A" is correct, and that we need a modifier to clarify, but if "prosody" is an inherently positive term, then I would think "B" is correct. Can anyone explain this to me? (talk) 15:26, 19 April 2012 (UTC)

When reading, prosidy is usually considered good, because it shows the reader understands what they are reading, and is effectively turning the writing into speach. Words are not simply divided into positive, negative, and neutral categories. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:34, 22 July 2012 (UTC)

Acoustic attributes[edit]

The terms syllable length, loudness and pitch refer, strictly speaking, to subjective impressions experienced by the listener. They correspond to the physically measurable variables of duration, intensity and fundamental frequency. In acoustic phonetics it is these physically measurable variables that are studied. I think the use of the word acoustic is inappropriate here. The list of prosodic variables could be longer. The work of David Crystal (1969) established a very rich set of variables including, for example, tempo and voice quality, and I think it would be worth mentioning some of them, if only as minor extras. RoachPeter (talk) 18:24, 7 May 2012 (UTC)

More Cleanup[edit]

Uhhh... the word is "ellipsis" not "ellipses.' (Needs correction in the main article.) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jabeles (talkcontribs) 16:13, 11 February 2013 (UTC)

"Ellipses" is the plural for, of "ellipsis." Seeing as all of the other terms in that sentence are in their plural forms, "ellipses" is the only form that is grammatically correct. Thanks for looking out for the integrity of the page, though.Rob Hurt (talk) 18:06, 11 February 2013 (UTC)

Definition of prosody[edit]

The lead of the article gives the meaning of 'prosody' as "song sung to music; pronunciation of syllable". I think the latter part is a bit too vague - it really relates to the tone or accent of the syllable (checked this with my old copy of Liddell and Scott). Would it be OK to change this to "song sung to music; tone or accent of a syllable"? RoachPeter (talk) 17:20, 30 December 2014 (UTC)

I think I was the one who added that etymology, and the change sounds reasonable. — Eru·tuon 18:14, 30 December 2014 (UTC)

Domain: Hebrew example[edit]

The example from Hebrew morphophonology (3rd para in the "Domain" section) seems to me to have almost nothing to do with prosody as described in this article - I feel sure it belongs somewhere else. OK if I delete it? RoachPeter (talk) 16:22, 6 March 2015 (UTC)

That example seems a little odd. I guess it's using "prosody" in the sense of syllable structure defined by consonants and vowels, or relative obstruction of the vocal tract, which I'm not sure is usually considered "prosody". However, perhaps some people use it that way — I have a book on Ancient Greek prosody that includes details of syllable structure. I would say if you delete it from the article, copy it here so that people can comment on it. — Eru·tuon 20:43, 6 March 2015 (UTC)
The source cited for that paragraph is worth glancing at. It uses the term "prosodic structure" in the sense of syllable structure. I think the paragraph doesn't belong where it's been placed in this article, and the article needs some rewriting for the paragraph to properly belong in it. It's confusing how exactly "prosodic structure" as used by the source relates to prosody as described in this article. — Eru·tuon 20:50, 6 March 2015 (UTC)
I suppose syllable structure may have some marginal importance in this topic. The para does have some similarity to work by J.R.Firth and his followers: this unusual approach to phonology was called Prosodic Analysis. Firthian analysts were able to posit an abstract skeleton of segmental material (similar to what is given in the Hebrew example here) to which various "prosodies" covering more than one segment were attached (vowel harmony is a good example). If this is the theory underlying this example, it isn't made clear how it's relevant. I'm hoping to make quite a few changes to the Prosody article, so maybe I could do something to preserve this bit if it's felt worth keeping. RoachPeter (talk) 07:53, 7 March 2015 (UTC)

Structure of article[edit]

I think the present organization of this article is rather unclear. I’d like to suggest redesigning it along these lines:

1. The section ‘Classification’ is concerned with assigning languages to categories according to the rhythm of their spoken form. This does belong in this article, but I don’t feel it should be the first thing to be introduced, and I propose shifting it to lower down.
2. ‘Acoustic attributes’ ought to set out a clearer account of the major prosodic variables. The term ‘acoustic’ is not used appropriately here, as I noted earlier on this Talk page, and I would want to set out both the auditory and the corresponding acoustic variables (for example, both Pitch and Fundamental frequency). Various things need correcting in this section: the example of a child “stressing an entire word” by shouting “Give me dessert” does not make sense to me. There is a need for more references for material like the rather poetic description of Mandarin prosody.
3. ‘Domain’ seems to be a collection of general remarks about prosody, some explaining its function, some its form. I feel it could be more coherently organized. The sentence in the first para ends “ … these facts suggest insights into how the brain processes speech”, which needs to be expanded and given references if it is to mean anything. There is a vast literature on the role of prosody in speech processing. I continue to believe that the Hebrew example is not relevant to this topic.

Any comments, please? This would mean quite a lot of rewriting and reference-chasing, and I don’t want to embark on it if it’s likely to be objected to. RoachPeter (talk) 14:00, 9 March 2015 (UTC)

I agree that the article needs reorganization. See Aspirated consonant, which I recently reorganized and rewrote. It may provide a model we could follow here, although the section names can be changed. There are two main sections there: Description, which describes articulatory or acoustic details relating to aspiration, and Phonology, which describes how aspiration is used in languages' phonologies. In this article, we could have a section in this article describing, as you say, the major prosodic variables, and then a separate section describing how these variables are used in languages' phonologies. Then, finally, we could have a section on Examples with English as a subsection, describing how stress is used lexically or syntactically (though those may not be the right terms).
(Actually, I just retitled the Description section in Aspirated consonant as Phonetics, because Description is too broad and non-specific.) — Eru·tuon 19:23, 9 March 2015 (UTC) — Eru·tuon 19:21, 9 March 2015 (UTC)
That sounds like a useful way to go. Aspirated consonants looks good. I'll see if I can draft something, then I'll put a note here to direct to my sandbox. There is a lot of overlap with other articles for this topic, therefore a lot of cross-referencing needed. RoachPeter (talk) 16:50, 10 March 2015 (UTC)