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Melodies and intonations

Mapraputa Is
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Joined: Aug 26, 2000
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English has a number of intonation patterns which add conventionalized meanings to the utterance: question, statement, surprise, disbelief, sarcasm, teasing.

Conversational intonations and musical melodies are two very orthogonal devices. Yet both are designed to express well, "question, statement, surprise, disbelief, sarcasm, teasing". I suppose in songs, in most cases melody simply takes over and does the job, so there is not much variations in intonations. Yet in some cases both are present and this match between "the rise and fall of pitch" that makes intonation and the rise and fall of pitch in melody is what I am interested in. My current hypothesis is that a melody provides a general contour, and the intonations alter it to the certain degree. A question to the musically educated drivellers: when there is a rise or fall of pitch because of intonations, does it stay within musical melody or does it break it? Another possible related question: we can unambiguously convey the melody in notes, what about intonations?
To give you an example of what I am talking about, maybe this will help:
Willie Nelson. "I Never Cared for You", amazon's clip.


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Marilyn de Queiroz
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Joined: Jul 22, 2000
Posts: 9052
    
  12
melody, key (minor keys are generally sad), velocity, volume and more are involved in musical manipulation of the listener's emotions. I have to go to a rehearsal now. Hopefully I'll have time to post more later.


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Mapraputa Is
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Marilyn still needs to post in this thread.
Marilyn de Queiroz
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Joined: Jul 22, 2000
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  12
I understand that Vietnamese is composed entirely of one syllable words, the only difference between many of them being intonation patterns. It seems to me that most people talk within a certain range of pitches whereas music has a much broader range of pitch. I notice that when people get excited, their voice pitch rises. Also, when they talk to babies, everyone (or almost everyone) speaks in a higher pitched voice. However, whichever general pitch they are speaking at, the inflections are within the ranges of that pitch.

Music used lots of methods to evoke emotions. I don't claim to know even half of those. One that I just learned of this past year is that certain keys are used to evoke certain emotions as examplified in Handel's Messiah. Faster music is more excited similar to faster speech. Minor keys usually make you feel sad.

In my opinion, the intonations stay within the musical melody of speech.
Mapraputa Is
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I understand that Vietnamese is composed entirely of one syllable words, the only difference between many of them being intonation patterns.
It's called a tonal language. You can listen to the examples in Cantonese where "ma" can mean "mother", "horse" and whatever else, depending on the intonation contour. Scroll to the last table on the page.
Dirk Schreckmann
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Joined: Dec 10, 2001
Posts: 7023
I understand that Vietnamese is composed entirely of one syllable words, the only difference between many of them being intonation patterns.
I've been learning Vietnamese for perhaps a year and a half, now.
The language is indeed composed of entirely monosyllables, but it's not exactly correct to consider every word a single syllable - many of these monosyllables don't have any meaning out of context or separated from some partner monosyllable(s). Some words are composed of more than one monosyllable.
There are six tones in Vietnamese, refelecting different ways to pronounce a vowel sound:
  • a rising tone (much like the rising tone used to mark the end of a question english)
  • a falling/trailing tone
  • a short falling tone with a glottal stop
  • depending on the dialiect spoken, either one or two different two-tone inflections
  • and the "normal" or "without" or "flat" tone

  • There are about 170 different vowel sounds (including diphthongs).
    Fortunately, some vowel sounds (or vowel consonant combinations) don't have all six tones applied to them, but it's still a lot to learn.
    The grammar is wonderfully simple, with no verb conjugation, and a very surreal or transcendental (mostly) nonuse of (past|present|future) tense.
    Pronouns and figuring out what you call a person can be unwieldy - there are a lot of pronouns used in a lot of different situations.
    I think it's the only tonal language that's been "translated" or "encoded" with the latin character set, and have had this encoding officially adopted for the written language. That means one doesn't have to learn an entirely new alphabet and/or system of characters, if you're already familiar with a western (latin-based) alphabet.
    So, that's my Vietnamese report. Perhaps it's a bit tangential to Map's topic, but this is the Meaningless Drivel forum.
    [ May 01, 2004: Message edited by: Dirk Schreckmann ]

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    Mapraputa Is
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    Joined: Aug 26, 2000
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    Regarding lyrics, tonal languages have to overcome difficulties that don't exists for other languages. In Marjorie K.M. Chan's classical paper the following questions are asked (and answered)
    1. When the pitches of the tones and the melody do not match, which of the two is compromised?
    2. If the tones are compromised, will there be problems understanding the lyrics?

    The answers to the first two questions are rather clear. When there is a mismatch between the pitches of tones and the melody, the melody always wins and the tones are obliterated as a result. Then of course there will be a problem understanding the lyrics. That is why we find it harder to understand words when they are sung rather than spoken.

    I suppose usually you can guess from context whether the main topic of a song is "mother" or "horse" but sometimes there are ambiguous cases. Even clearly written text presents problems for a translator. From translator's questions to the author:
    Gas oven: do you mean the gas chamber of the Nazis or the kitchen stove which is used for suicide?
    Altar: do you mean marriage or sacrifice?

    Ellen Zhao
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    Joined: Sep 17, 2002
    Posts: 581
    My boyfriend went to work in Vietnam to learn Vietnamese. Oh man, he's really diligent. He stayed at home all day long reading "Harry Porte" in Vietnamese when weekends; He read fairy tales in Vietnamese on planes; I prepared some interesting books in his mother language for him when he visited me, but he took out his Vietnamese fairy tale book. I was told by Chinese books that Vietnamese is originally a branch of dialects in Southwest China, I thought it shouldn't be too difficult for me to understand Vietnamese. But , Vietnamese sounds like melody in my ear. My mother tongue is standard Mandarin which has only four tones, Vietnamese not only has two more tones but the order of the tones is completely different. In Mandarin the first tone is flat; second rasing; third firstly falling then raising; fourth falling. Mandarin has the whole set of latin encoding. Since early 1980's, the first lessons of Chinese in primary schools don't teach characters, rather "abcdefg...", to help children master the pronounciation and tonality . In China there are plenty of books for Children in which you can only find the latin encoding of Mandarin but no Chinese characters at all. I remember in the early 1990's there were some people suggesting we give up the complicate characters at all in order to improve the communication to other world. This was tried in primary schools but it turned out the new script is too confusing. There are usually more than 20 or 30 characters which have exactly the same pronounciation and tone, plus the Chinese grammar is extremely simple and flexible, under many circumstances Mandarin sentences written in latin encoding make no sense at all. The characters have to stay. Of course Mandarin sounds like melody too. In the classic example mentioned by Map above, here are the original sentences:
    1. ma1 ma1 ma4 ma3
    2. ma3 ma4 ma1 ma1
    The first sentence means "mother scolds horse"( or "mother is scolding horse", "mother scolded the horse", "mother is going to scold horse"...the exact meaning is decided by context. There is no tense in Chinese. ). The scond sentence means "horse scolds mother". Exactly the same spelling, slighly varies in "melody" leads to the opposite meaning. Cantonese is another story. It has 9 tones and it sounds like foreign language to me, though Cantonese and Mandarin share the same script. Cantonese is in fact the real ancient Chinese, pretty pure. The real musical beauty of ancient Chinese poems or essays can only be shown when it's read in Cantonese. My boyfriend is pretty good at Vietnamese now and whenever he learnt any Mandarin pronounciation from me, he learnt it amazingly swiftly.
    I was crazy for poems when teenager. I adored a Chinese poet who adores Sonets of Shakespear. He is also an English professor in Universities in Taiwan. He said in his essay " the difference between the giant Shakespear and other "good" poets is: Shakespear's Sonets sounds like melody from heaven, very musically inspiring when you read it while many other poets' works are mute when you read it. If you try to write poem, read the poem you write first. If it doesn't sound good, it may well be a bad poem." I don't think I'll be able to write poem in English but I do hope to hear English majored people read Shakespear's Sonets, just for curiosity. Pity never got any chance yet. I wonder, any mp3/wma/rm... files downloadable?
    Greg Charles
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    Joined: Oct 01, 2001
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      11

    Hey Dirk, you're learning Vietnamese? Tai sao? Anh co vo Viet Nam hay sao? I've been studying Vietnamese for about five years, and I've lived in Saigon since last June. Although I'm not quite as studious as Ellen says, I'm holding my own. It's an interesting language ... very hard to pronounce, but fairly simple grammar.
    BTW, I believe there are a couple of other tonal languages written in Latin characters. For example, Hmong which is spoken in some of the border areas between Vietnam and Cambodia, or possible Laos?
     
    Don't get me started about those stupid light bulbs.
     
    subject: Melodies and intonations