An ELT Glossary : Prosody / Prosodic Features

Prosody is an area of phonetics/phonology which deals with suprasegmental features - ie those above the level of the individual sound. Prosody includes such features as stress, tone, rhythm and juncture.

For example, in the utterance There's some peppermint ice-cream in the fridge, I think,  prosodic analysis would look at features such as :

  • how many tone groups there were.  Here possibly two : //There's some peppermint ice-cream in the fridge  // I think //
  • how many stressed syllables there were and whether they had  primary or secondary stress. Again, possibly There's some ˈpepperˌmint ˈice-cream in the ˈfridge, I ˈthink
  • where the tonic syllable was and what type of tone was used - here possibly falling tone on fridge and think ://There's some peppermint ice-cream in the ↘fridge  // I ↘think //
  • how the listener interprets the phonemic sequence /aɪskrɪm/ as ice-cream rather than I scream (juncture)

Notice the use of "possibly" in the analysis above. Prosodic features  convey meaning - and are thus chosen by the speaker  to convey the meaning that s/he intends. For a discussion of how all of these features might change depending on the context of the utterance, click on the links above.