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Last time I planned for us to step further, to work on dividing a message into tone units. This is done easier in speech than in writing, since oral communication is more variable in its structuring of information than the written communication.
This lesson will be easier for our Chinese students to assimilate than any other people in the world, since the tones we are going to use here are the rising tone (á), falling tone (à) and the falling-rising tone (ǎ) typically used in Chinese. Good for you, my friends, and if your language does not distinguish between these tones, well... I'm afraid you're just going to have to work hard on understanding this aspect. Without further ado, let us start this lesson:
1) A single sentence may have only one tone unit, as in:
friend has a cat and two ràbbits.”¦
- if you remember, from the lesson on pieces of information.
2) However, when the sentence is larger than, say ten words, the listener would be more comfortable if the message would come in a number of separate pieces of information:
Cutting up speech into tone units depends on such things as
Usually we use a single tone unit for each sentence, meaning each sentence ends with a downward tone:
¦“I’d like some àpples.”¦
There are a few exceptions and this is when you have different tones:
i) When a sentence starts with an adverbial phrase, this one gets a separate tone unit:
¦“Before he moved to Chína,¦my friend travelled around the wὸrld.”¦
ii) If there is an explanation within the sentence (a non-restrictive postmodifier, like a relative clause) we would give this a separate tone unit as well:
¦“The prettiest girl in the whole cláss,¦the one wearing a blue dress todǎy, is my brother’s gìrlfriend.”¦
iii) If we have a clause in the middle of a sentence, we mark it separately:
¦“And this is whý,¦as a result of the argument with his bóss,¦he quit his job in the ènd.”¦
iv) A vocative (when you call somebody) has its own tone unit:
¦“Ădam,¦ what are you dóing?”¦
v) The same applies to a linking adverb (however, altogether, in contrast)
¦“The teàcher ¦ howéver,¦wasn’t convinced that all the students understood the màtter.”¦
vi) When you have a clause or a long noun phrase acting as a subject, you also need to give it a separate tone unit:
¦“What he wǎnted ¦was a bit of èmpathy.”¦
vii) When two or more clauses are linked by coordination, each has a separate tone unit:
¦“The wizard took his wand out of his pockét ¦and cast a spell onto ùs.” ¦
Well, this is pretty much how this matter works. Once you understand it, I recommend you should build your own sentences following the examples here – make at least 5-10, to get the feel of the intonation in your sentences. After that, you’ll understand punctuation much better.
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