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Suprasegmental Features in Phonology

Vowels and consonants can be thought of as the segments of which


speech is composed. Together they form the syllables, which go to make
up utterances. Related to the syllables, there are other features known
as suprasegmentals. In other words, suprasegmental features are the
aspects of speech that involve more than single consonants or vowels.
These features are independent of the categories required for
describing segmental features (vowels and consonants), which involve, for
examples, air stream mechanism, states of the glottis, and so on.
The components of suprasegmental features consist of: stress, pitch,
intonation, tone, tempo, and cluster.
1. Stress
Stress is the rhythm of a language. In pronunciation, stress can
refers to words, part of words, or even one word in a group of words that
receives the most emphasis.
Stress is one of the suprasegmental features of utterances. It
applies not to individual vowels and consonants but to whole syllables. In
the level of word, a stressed syllable is pronounced with a greater amount
of energy than an unstressed syllable.
2. Pitch
Based on the aspect of articulator, pitch is influenced by the tension
of the vocal cords. If the vocal cords are stretched, the pitch of the sound
will go up.
Pitch refers to the normal melodic height of an individuals speech. It
is like a degree of highness or lowness of ones speech.
We make use of pitch as a part of our signaling system. Although we
employ many degrees of pitch in speaking, we use only four levels of
relative pitch as phonemes. They are:
4 >> extra-high

3 >> high
2 >> normal
1 >> low
This is to say, the normal pitch of speaking voice, whatever its actual
height, is called level 2; and from this, we make various upward and
downward. These variations of pitch we make in speaking will affect the
intonation of our speech.
3. Intonation
Intonation shows how the music of a language rises and falls over
a speech. In other words, it can be also described as a fluctuation of ones
voice, which is characterized as a downward or upward movement of a
voice or sound in an utterance as a result of the pitch variations. Thus,
the intonation of a sentence is the pattern of pitch changes that occurs.
4. Tone
Pitch

variations

that

affect

the

meaning

of a

word

are

called tone. The meaning of the word depends on its tone.


Tone is shown or heard in how something is being said. It is more
like an attitude rather than being a voice pattern. Emotion has also a
great deal of influence to ones tone. By using different tones, the words in
a sentence can have different meanings.

5. Tempo
Tempo of speech is the relative speed or slowness of utterance
which is measured by the rate of syllable succession/movement, the
number, and duration of pauses in a sentence.
In English, speakers try to make the amount of time to say
something the same between the stressed syllables. If there are three or

four unstressed syllable between the stressed syllables, for example, the
unstressed syllables will be spoken faster, so that the speaker can keep
the rhythm. For this reason, English is a said as a stressed time
language.
6. Cluster
A cluster is when two consonants of different places of articulation
are produced together in the same syllable.
Note: clusters are determined based on the sounds, not the letters of the
words.
Cluster can appear in the initial, medial, or final positions of
words:
Initial clusters are usually formed by combining various consonants with
the /s/, /r/, or /l/ phonemes.
Examples:
sleep ['sli:p], green ['gri:n], blue ['blu:]
Medial clusters usually appear at the beginning of a second or third
syllable in a multisyllabic word.
Examples:
regret [r'gret], apply ['pla], approve ['pru:v]
Final clusters are usually composed of a variety of phonemes including
/sk/, /mp/, /ns/, /st/, and /k/.
Examples:
desk ['desk], camp ['kmp], mince ['mns], fast ['f:st], bank ['bk].