Pitch movements influential to listeners in the discourse of Sense and Sensibility


                                                   言語学研究室 宮内信治



 Jane Austenの作品『Sence and Sensibility』のEFL学習者向け読本における一場面で、話し手が意図する含意(implicatures)が音調に反映され、結果として聞き手に影響を与えていると解釈できる直接話法部分について、語用論的解釈の枠組みの一つである「協調の原理:会話の習慣(Grice 1975)」に則って、その音調の含意と影響を検討した。下降音調(Proclaiming tone)と下降上昇音調(Referring tone)が場面背景から期待されるものと反対の選択になった場合、それが聞き手の期待を裏切ることで話し手の言外の含意が発生し、聞き手に驚きや動揺などの影響を与えたと考えられる。GriceのCooperative Principle Maximsを枠組みに用いることで、談話音調によって表現される話者の意図(significance)をより明確に解釈することが可能となることが示唆された。


Miyauchi S. (2014) Pitch movements influential to listeners in the discourse of Sense

and Sensibility. Journal of the English Phonetic Society of Japan, 19: 161-170.


1. Introduction


  People are sometimes surprised when someone fails to understand what they have said. Widdowson (2007: 20) points out that this condition will happen because people make sense of what is said by making a connection between the language and the physical context of utterance. On the other hand, people sometimes try to transmit intended meanings beyond the literal meanings (Brown & Yule, 1983: 33). To achieve this goal, intonation plays an important role. It is argued that the meaning of an utterance changes when its tone is altered (Coulthard, 1985).

  As stated earlier, people are surprised when there is a gap between what is said and what is meant. What then causes this surprise? This paper analyses some examples of direct narratives in a literary work, Jane Austen’s Sence and Sensibility , and clarifies the reasons for gaps between the speaker’s intended meaning and the listener’s perception through discourse intonation analysis using Grice’s cooperative principles with a focus on implicature.


2. Literature review


2.1. Using a literary work for discourse intonation analysis

  Natural, spontaneous speech may be the best sample for conversation analysis. However, such samples are difficult to collect because when people know that their conversation is being recorded, they change their way of speaking consciously or unconsciously, and the speech becomes unnatural. On the other hand, written text from dramatic literature is easy to approach. Although such works are fictional, they can be successfully analysed with the same techniques originally developed to analyse natural spoken conversations (Coulthard, 1985: 182). Kramsch (1993: 131) also argues that literary texts can offer models of particularity and opportunities for the dialogue negotiation of meaning. Coulthard (1985) points out that dramatic literature was invented for artistic purposes and that some of the rules for language and convention for culture are different from those in the real world. However, dramatic literature should reflect what and how people feel and act within society, and thus, the present author agrees that dramatic literature can be used to model and analyse natural dialogues.


2.2. Discourse intonation

  Discourse intonation theory, proposed by Brazil (1994), is based on the idea that the speaker’s choice of pitch is decided moment-by-moment depending on whether the information and/or meaning of their utterances are “given/shared” or “new”. According to this distinction, Brazil suggests that speakers choose pitch movements in tone units, that is, fall-rise tones for “given/shared” information and falling tones for “new” information. In other words, people communicate by making use not only of language, but also of voice tones as paralanguage (Widdowson, 2007: 8). In this respect, pitch choice in spoken language contributes to communicating more than what is actually said.   Brown and Yule (1983: 189) also admit that the status of information is determined not by the structure of discourse, but by the speaker. They also point out that there are no “rules” for specifying “new” or “given” information by the speaker, but “regularities”.

  The present author follows Brazil’s theory and use it as criteria to determine, by pitch choice, what the speaker’s intention should be. In addition, it is necessary to introduce other criteria to examine the quality, status and significance of verbal interaction, which create smooth communication or gaps in understanding.


2.3. Gricean cooperative principle and maxims

  Grice (1975) introduced the cooperation principle as follows: make your conversation such as required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged. Gricean principle is classified into four categories such as quality, quantity, relation, and manner, including nine conversational conventions or “maxims” (see Appendix A). Brown and Yule (1983: 32) point out that by flouting the maxims (see Appendix B), speakers can convey additional meaning of their utterance in the form of conversation implicature.


2.4. Implicature, illocutionary force and perlocutionary effect

  Yule (1996) suggests that implicatures are primary examples of more being communicated than is said. Widdowson (2007) also points out that there is some underlying significance, which may lack to some effect intended beyond what is actually said. In order to understand the significance of an utterance, listeners or those who analyse the utterance have to pay close attention to psychological concepts, that is, what the speakers or writers have in mind (Yule, 1996: 84).

  Implicatures work as an illocutionary force, identified in word order, stress and intonation (Yule, 1986: 50). The force results in a perlocutionary effect when the listener recognises the hidden significance of the utterance. The present author supposes that implicatures represented in discourse intonation in the narrative of literary works induce illocutionary force, which flouts the Gricean maxims, leading to perlocutionary effects. These effects should appear as surprise or shock when there are gaps between what is said and what is meant.


3. Methods


3.1. Materials

  The author chose the 2005 version of Sence and Sensibility by Jane Austen published in a series of Macmillan Readers by Macmillan Publishers Ltd. This material was categorised as intermediate level reading by the publisher, uses 1,600 basic words, and has a total of approximately 32,000 words. A narrative CD was included to the novel.


3.2. Procedure

  The author focused on a scene in which Elinor Dashwood, the main character, was surprised or shocked with the utterances of another character, Lucy Steele. Using the written text and the accompanying CD, the scene was divided into four dialogues (A-D) and the pitch of each utterance was judged at the end of each tone unit.


4. Results and discussion


4.1. Description and context of the designated scene

  Elinor has an elder half-brother, John Dashwood, who is married to Fanny Ferrars. Fanny has an older brother, Edward. Elinor secretly falls in love with Edward as soon as she meets him at her family’s former home located in Norland Park.

  Elinor becomes acquainted with Lucy Steele. In fact, Lucy has been secretly engaged to Edward since before he met Elinor. When Lucy notices that Edward is fond of Elinor, she approaches Elinor and confesses that Edward is her fiancé. Lucy tries to make Elinor abandon her feelings for Edward (see Appendix C & D for the complete dialogues and their transcription).


4.2. Dialogue A

  In utterance A2, Lucy suddenly asks Elinor, “Do you know Mrs. Ferrars?” in a falling tone. Lucy then explains who Mrs. Ferrars is and with a sly smile, admits that the question must be strange to Elinor. Elinor’s surprise is expressed in her reply of “Yes” in a high key. The proclaiming tone in utterance A2 seems to flout the fifth maxim in relation and seventh maxim in manner because it is not “relevant” and does not “avoid obscurity”, respectively.

  Before starting the conversation, Elinor was tired of Lucy’s uninteresting gossip. All of a sudden, Lucy begins talking about Elinor’s relatives. There was no expectation that Lucy knows anything about Elinor’s family, so utterance A2 sounds abrupt and irrelevant to Elinor. In addition, the question is posed in a proclaiming tone as if it were new information to Elinor, which is incompatible with Elinor’s relation to Mrs. Ferrars.

  On the other hand, the question seems to mean that Lucy is not sure if Elinor knows Mrs. Ferrars personally, which may be extended to the expectation that Lucy supposes that Elinor does not personally know Mrs. Ferrars.

  Utterance A3 is redundant to Elinor because she already knows this information. Lucy utters this in a proclaiming tone, implying that the information is new to Elinor. Therefore, the utterance sounds odd to Elinor. In this respect, utterance A3 is flouting Grice’s second maxim of “do not make your contribution more informative than required” by being too informative.

  Lucy admits that utterance A2 is a strange question and utters A4 with awareness, saying, “I am sure” with a sly smile. This strangeness seems equivalent to falseness, which violates Grice’s third maxim, “do not be false”. Moreover, Lucy claims that Elinor is sure to think that the question is strange. Lucy actually never knows what Elinor thinks or feels. However, Lucy never confirms what Elinor thinks and assured herself of it in an affirmative falling tone. This utterance lacks evidence concerning Elinor’s thoughts, which is against Grice’s fourth maxim of “give adequate evidence”.

  The utterances from A2 to A4 seem to work as illocutionary forces (Yule, 1996), resulting in Elinor’s high-key reply as a perlocutionary effect. The significance of Elinor’s reply in utterance A5 is interpreted by the author as follows:


“Well, yes, I do think that that is a very strange question, and you know that, don’t you? Why, then, do you dare to ask me such a strange question?”


  Elinor smartly replies to Lucy’s ambiguous question, saying that she knows Mrs. Ferrars in name, but knows nothing of her in person. However, the obscurity results in Elinor’s surprise and confusion, which is likely to raise the key of her reply.


4.3. Dialogue B

  Lucy’s cry, “Oh, dear, I’m sorry” does not sound honest because it seems irrelevant from Elinor’s point of view, that is, flouting Grice’s fifth maxim. In her reply in utterance B3, Lucy uses a fall-rise tone, which shows that it is information shared between the two characters; however, both “one day” and “soon” are ambiguous and uncertain. In other words, these words are not informative, lack evidence, and are false because Elinor does not actually know what Lucy is referring to. Lucy also uses a fall-rise tone in utterance B4 where she refers to Lucy’s future, which should be uncertain and not shared with Elinor. In this respect, the meaning of the utterance lacks evidence and is false.

  Finally, Lucy confesses what she wants Elinor to know in utterance B7, which sounds confusing because there is no connection between the assumption that Lucy is important to Mrs. Ferrars and the expectation that Lucy is to become a member of Mrs. Ferrars’ family. These are not things that Elinor is concerned with. Therefore, to Elinor, what Lucy says is irrelevant.

  Elinor’s confusion and great surprise is represented in her high-key reply in utterance B8. Elinor tries to clarify who Lucy is talking about, using falling tones in utterances B9 and B10, which show that what Elinor asks is new information to Elinor herself. This also seems to show that Elinor never thinks that the man Lucy is referring to is Edward. However, Elinor seems to feel uncomfortable and know that Lucy is hiding something serious and damaging to Elinor. Elinor uses a level tone in utterance B11, which seems to express her hesitation to make sure what Lucy is trying to show. Elinor does not finish her utterance, either, which shows that Elinor seems to fear Lucy’s answer.


4.4. Dialogue C

  The fall-rise tone in utterance C3 indicates that the name Robert Ferrars is shared information and has already been mentioned. At this moment, Lucy again smiles slyly, which implies that she is satisfied with how the situation is playing out. She then mentions the attributes of the man she intended to talk about with a falling tone in utterance C4, suggesting that this is the first reference to the existence of this man between herself and Elinor. In this respect, the use of a falling tone is understandable. After this, Lucy gives the full name of the man, Mr. Edward Ferrars, in a fall-rise tone, as if Elinor and Lucy both already knew who the man was and his relationship to Lucy, despite the fact that they never talked about Edward before. Finally, Lucy gives Elinor the fatal fact that she is engaged to Edward. Utterance C6 is given in a falling tone, sounding new and assertive, using the words “engaged to”, which Elinor seems hesitant to use. Lucy also uses her fiancé’s full name again in the last utterance of Dialogue C.

  As a perlocutionary effect, Elinor is shocked, disturbed, uneasy, and cannot find the words to respond to Lucy. This shock seems to be caused by the tones in utterances C4 and C5 especially. To Elinor, the contents of these utterances are familiar in private but not in public. Lucy’s tone usage is complex and incompatible with Elinor’s viewpoint. The contents are too informative for Elinor, which flouts Grice’s second maxim, and are abrupt and lacking the necessary evidence for Elinor to accept the information, flouting Grice’s fourth maxim. This is why Elinor’s level of surprise seems to increase.


4.5. Dialogue D

  In Dialogue D, Lucy reveals information that is completely new to Elinor. Lucy seems to realize that the information is new because all tone units in utterances D3 to D8 have falling tones. From Elinor’s point of view, however, what Lucy says in utterances D3 to D8 may sound selfish because they lack evidence. If the author were in Elinor’s place, he would respond as follows:


    D3 : p // no one KNOWS about our enGAGEment. // 

    D3’: Why do you confess to me in particular?


    D4 : p // i KNOW that you will KEEP this secret. // 

    D4’: Why can you know that I will?


    D5 : p // i TRUST you, //

    D5’: Why can you trust me?


    D6 : p // and mr FERrars trusts you TOO. // 

    D6’: Who knows Edward also trusts me?


    D7 : p // he THINKS of you as a SISter. //

    D7’: Why are you sure of Edward’s thoughts?


    D8 : p // he has OFten TOLD me so. //

    D8’: Who heard his saying so except you?


  In addition, utterances D3 to D8 use a falling tone, which implies that the information is new to the listener. In other words, these utterances are not shared information between the speaker and the listener and show that Lucy is completely ignoring Elinor. In this respect, what Lucy says is irrelevant to Elinor. As a result of these floutings of Grice’s maxims, Elinor’s emotions are disturbed to their peak and she is unable to control her feelings.


5. Conclusion

  This paper analysed some examples of direct narratives in a literary work, and clarified the reasons for the gaps between the speaker’s intention and the listener’s perception through discourse intonation analysis using Grice’s cooperative principle and maxims with a focus on implicature. It seems that the intended significance of the characters’ utterances in this literary work were represented through intonation. It is also suggested that being familiar with the discourse intonation theory might help listeners, both in the real and fictional world, understand hidden meanings more precisely in conversations.



Note: This paper is based on a presentation given at the 14th Kansai Chugoku Branch Annual Conference of the English Phonetic Society of Japan, held at Kwansei Gakuin University in Hyogo, Japan, on 19 May, 2012.




Austen, J. (2005) Sence and Sensibility, Macmillan Readers Level 5, retold by Elizabeth Walker. Oxford: Macmillan.

Brazil, D. (1994) Pronunciation for Advanced Learners of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Brown, G and G. Yule (1983) Discourse Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Coulthard, M. (1985) An Introduction to Discourse Analysis, 2nd edn. London: Longman.

Grice, H. P. (1975) “Logic and conversation”, in Jaworski, A. and N. Coupland (eds.)

The Discourse Reader: Second edition. Oxon: Routledge.

Jaworski, A. and N. Coupland (2006) The Discourse Reader: Second edition. Oxon:


Kramsch, C. (1993) Context and Culture in Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Widdowson, H. G. (2007) Discourse Analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Yule, G. (1996) Pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.



Appendix A: The conversational conventions or “Maxims”


Quality:   1. Make your contribution as informative as is required

(for the purposes of exchange).

               2. Do not make your contribution more informative than is required.

Quantity: 3. Do not say what you believe to be false.

               4. Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.

Relation:  5. Be relevant.

Manner:   6. Be perspicuous (clear and understandable).

               7. Avoid obscurity of expression.

               8. Be brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity, i.e. redundancy).

               9. Be orderly.



Appendix B: Flouting Maxims



            1. informative    ➡      less informative

            2. not more informative  ➡    too informative


            3. not to be false   ➡     false

            4. adequate evidence   ➡     lack of evidence


            5. Be relevant    ➡    irrelevant


           6. Be perspicuous    ➡     not clear

             7. Avoid obscurity    ➡     obscure

             8. Be brief    ➡     redundant

             9. Be orderly    ➡     not orderly



Appendix C: The selected scene


Chapter 6  Lucy’s Secret 

  One day, they were walking in the park together.

  ‘Miss Dashwood, do you know Mrs Ferrars?’ Lucy asked.

  ‘She is the mother-in-law of your brother, John.’

  Then she added with a sly smile, ‘I am sure that you think that is a strange question.’

  ‘Well, yes, I do,’ Elinor replied.

  ‘I have never met Mrs Ferrars and I know nothing about her.’

  ‘Oh dear, I am sorry!’ Lucy cried.

  ‘But one day soon, Mrs Ferrars will be very important to me. In fact, Miss Dashwood, I shall soon be part of her family!’

  ‘What do you mean?’ Elinor said in great surprise.

  ‘Do you know her son, Robert Ferrars? Are you telling me that you are --- ?’

  ‘No. I am not talking about Mr Robert Ferrars,’ Lucy replied, with another sly smile.

  ‘I am talking about his elder brother, Mr Edward Ferrars. I am engaged to Edward Ferrars.’

  Elinor was shocked. She did not know what to say.

  ‘I have surprised you, Miss Dashwood,’ Lucy went on.

  ‘No one knows about our engagement. I know that you will keep this secret. I trust you, and Mr Ferrars trusts you too. He thinks of you as a sister. He has often told me so.’

  Elinor tried to hide her feelings, but it was very difficult.


(from p.50, Macmillan Readers Level 5, Oxford: Macmillan.)



Appendix D: The transcribed version of the selected scene




(from Macmillan Readers Level 5, Oxford: Macmillan; CD#2, Track#2.

Transcription by the present author.)