The door of the `dining-room was OPEN the gas `turned LOW; | a SPIRIT-urn `hissed on a TEA-tray, and CLOSE to it a cynical- `looking CAT had fallen A SLEEP on the DINING-table. || Old `Jolyon ``shoo`d` her `OFF at once.`` ||
The Comparative Analysis of the Intonation of Basic Positive Emotions in English and Russian Spontaneous Speech
The second part of the 20th century has been marked by special attention to the investigation of intonational variation expressing emotions in speech. Being an indispensable component of oral communication, intonation with other linguistic and extra linguistic means serves to distinguish the communicative types of utterances, to identify the speaker and to convey his attitude to the surrounding reality.
Studies of the prosody of emotions are not numerous, though a growing interest in this area is pointed out. There is still no exhaustive definition of the notion emotion; nevertheless in 80s a great input into the theory of emotions was made by C.Izard.
The material for the investigation was samples of authentic English and Russian emotional spontaneous speech, namely recordings of TV programs, interviews, free talks, situations where people interact in a way that appears spontaneous. We consider it relevant to study the prosody of emotions expressed in eye-to-eye, informal communication, as this is where human attitudes reveal most explicitly.
In the analyzed material 64 spontaneous utterances (32 in English and 32 in Russian) rendering the emotional states of surprise, interest and joy were chosen. The recordings of the three emotions were studied in an intonogram. The focus of the investigation was made on such prosodic parameters, as pitch level, pitch range and intensity level. Intonation was also estimated from the point of view of direction of the F0, whether it is steady, upward or downward.
The results of the contrastive acoustic analysis show, that all the emotions under analysis are characterized by high pitch level both in Russian and English speech.
The differences in English and Russian intonation are traced in the direction of the terminal tone and the type of the scale: while in English utterances expressing interest are pronounced with the descending stepping scale and downward nucleus, Russian utterances are marked by the rising nucleus.
Besides high pitch level utterances expressing surprise are pronounced with two types of terminal tones- the falling or the rising-falling tones; the percentage of using these tones, both in English and in Russian, is comparatively equal. The major difference in the prosody of surprise in English and Russian spontaneous utterances is the amplitude of intensity, which is smaller in English. The pitch range of the basic emotion of surprise in English is predominantly narrow, while in Russian it is either narrow or wide.
The intensity of Russian utterances with the attitude of joy is higher than that of English utterances.
The aim of the final stage of the experiment was to examine the ability of Russian auditors to recognize an emotion expressed in English utterances.
In the course of the auditory analysis 30 Russians, who don’t master English, had to listen to 32 emotionally charged spontaneous phrases (13 utterances with the emotional component of interest, 13- with the emotional component of surprise, and 6- with the charge of joy) and to say which attitude of the three was expressed in each phrase. Thus, Russian listeners had to judge the emotional meaning of utterances pronounced by English native speakers relying on the so-called “pure intonation” when the listeners are not able to percept the lexical meaning of the phrases
The results of the final stage of the experiment show, that on average the adequate recognition of joy by Russian speaking people is 65%, the recognition of surprise- 31,4% and of interest- 51,2%. The overall average recognition of emotional meaning in English spontaneous utterances by Russians is 45,7%, which is rather high percentage, if Russian speaking listeners recognize emotions in Russian phrases with the average level of perception equal to 70%.
The comparative analysis of the intonation of basic positive emotions shows that similar features in the prosody of interest, surprise and joy are present in English and Russian, though the specific variations of intonation characteristic of a language prevail.
What can we conclude about the use of intonation in a language like English? Perhaps the best way to look at the subject is to see intonation as an essential component of the discourse structure of speech. We speak in order to communicate, and we need to interact with our listeners to do this. We must indicate what type of information tye are presenting and how it is structured, and at the same time we must keep our listeners' attention and their participation in the exchange of information.