Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Passion or anger? (pitch-accent vs stress-accent)

Clip art: Clker
Clip art: Clker
Watched a fascinating video today where the speaker (a native speaker of English) who was attempting a motivational presentation had an extremely limited pitch range in his voice and appeared, for the most part, to be using primarily volume for stress accent, rather than "pitch accent," the combination of pitch and volume, common in most dialects of English. Combined with his rapid rate of delivery it was, at times, difficult, even for me, to tell when he was transitioning between thoughts or quoted and unquoted speech. I can only imagine the problem for a nonnative speaker in the audience.

At the end of the video, there was a fascinating interchange between two attendees: one sensed that the speaker was "passionate:" the other, that he seemed "angry." The former was familiar with the general content of the lecture: the latter, was not, adding that the overall effect was a very "pushy," demanding presentation. The scene reminded me of working with some Korean businessmen who, initially, would come off the same way.

But most intriguing was the body motion of the speaker who, rather than moving forward and back with upper torso motion or gesture, moved rhythmically--almost hypnotically--back and forth, from side to side, behind the podium. Often the stressed word would occur at the end of the "sway," either left or right, paralinguistically conveying something of the same message of flat tonality. (We can fix that haptically, of course.) For most in the room, the "pitch" fell decidedly flat as well! 

No comments:

Post a Comment