Falling intonation \ is one of the three common intonation patterns in English along with /rising and \/fall-rising. Falling patterns are used in many contexts, and tend to have a ‘new information’ or ‘open’ meaning:
In each of the above examples, the context is the giving or asking of new information in the conversation.
Tone and Meaning
English is not a tone language, which means that the intonation used doesn’t semantically change the meaning of an utterance. If you use rising tones on all of the above examples it will give a different feeling:
Rising tones here might sound more familiar, friendly or inquisitive. They might also sound strange outside of the context of a dialogue. But there is no rule for which pattern to use and the usage varies across different accents.
Some English accents such as Brummie and Scouse contain a lot of rising tones. Extensive use of falling tones is typical of many southern English accents and were a distinctive feature of Received Pronunciation (RP).
Stepping or bending?
The pattern itself can appear over a single syllable if it is the last syllable in the tone unit:
I don’t \KNOW.
Or it can appear over several syllables in a series of falling steps, if the main stress (tonic syllable) is not the last syllable in the unit:
It’s going to \RAIN later.
Because I haven’t had a \CHANCE to yet.
Where the pattern appears on one syllable, it will bend down throughout the vowel sound.
The Sound of English
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