Rising Pitch Words
Purpose of rising pitch words
In American English intonation, a rising pitch word has two primary purposes:
- to contrast something previously mentioned
- to contradict something previously mentioned
Because of the similarities between correcting a previous speaker and contrasting or contradicting what the speaker said, rising pitch words can be similar to extra-high pitch words. Usually, a rising pitch word is more likely to indicate a statement of opinion, and an extra-high pitch to express a statement of certainty or fact, although both types of pitch words can sometimes be used interchangeably.
How to create rising pitch words
A rising pitch word begins with a lower pitch, then glides upward to a height that can be equal to a high pitch word or an extra-high pitch word. The glide typically occurs on the stressed syllable of the word. A greater climb in pitch signals a greater importance placed on the contrast or contradiction.
Examples of rising pitch words
The rising pitch words of the following dialog are bolded, and their change in pitch is shown. A line-by-line analysis follows.
The first speaker is focusing on a rumor about the difficulty of a test. The second speaker first contrasts an opinion that is emphatically her own, and not that of others, and then contrasts her opinion with that of the first speaker on the difficulty of the test.
The first speaker is stating an assumed opinion of the second speaker. The second speaker is contradicting that assumption of motivation for riding the bus that long each day and is stating that it isn't a matter of preference, but of necessity.
The first speaker is setting the stage with his missing items. The second speaker changes to focus of the topic to Henry. The first speaker then uses a rising pitch on the word stole to contradict the idea that Henry was given permission to drink the orange juice. Using a rising pitch and not an extra-high pitch on that word signals a lesser severity in the action. The second speaker then plays with the term stole by giving a contrasting pitch to the word opinion. This playfully tells the first speaker that she doesn't agree that Henry shouldn't have drunk the juice.
Function words as rising pitch words
Any word in a sentence that can show distinction between two or more options can become a rising pitch word. While this will usually occur on a content word, it is possible to happen on function words as well. It is especially important to give attention to function words as pitch words because they will signal something less expected or out of the ordinary.
The first speaker is asking which of two options the second speaker requested. The second speaker contradicts the idea that the options were mutually exclusive by putting a rising pitch on the word and, signaling that she didn't ask for one or the other, but both.
Review related lessons:
Introduction to American English pitch words
American English high pitch words
American English extra-high pitch words
Compating extra-high and rising pitch words