Prosody is a term used in linguistics
that refers to all of the acoustic
properties of spoken language
, including pause
, and emphasis
. Prosody is used to convey everything that the straight semantics
of an utterance do not. For instance, if one wishes to make the phrase "Wow, what a great day!" a sarcastic
comment, one might stretch out the "wow", and overemphasize the intonation
of the rest of the sentence. To people who are fluent
speakers of English, these prosodic markers convey sarcasm
Other than emotion, Prosody can be used to signify other things such as:
There are also things such as paragraph-level and sentence-level prosody, which help structure the course of a conversation or narrative. Similar to this is list prosody, an example of which would be the typical lowering of tone at the end of a list to signify its end.
We can see how important prosody is through studying patients who have deficits in this area. Many patients who suffer from Frontotemporal Dementia (Pick's Disease), or Parkinson's or Alzheimer's Disease cannot distinguish or produce affective (emotional) prosody. This is very problematic for them, and especially for their caregivers, who get frustrated with their apparent lack of sensitivity. In the literature, one woman divorced her Parkinsonian husband because he seemed to be no longer sensitive or caring to her emotional state. The trouble was that he was unable to pick up the various affective aspects of her voice, so if she didn't directly state it, he didn't know when she was tired, stressed, or unhappy. In a similar fashion, a schoolteacher with Parkinson's had to quit her job because she could no longer summon the correct tone of voice to reprimand her students.