Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog

Intonation and Meaning

I took phonetics with the late Kenneth Pike at the University of Michigan. Prior to Chomsky, he was the leading linguist in the US because he had the only complete theory of linguistics, which he called “tagmemics”.

I recall in the first session on intonation, he attempted to convince us of the importance of intonation by proving that, when intonation and semantics conflict, we always go with intonation. His example was, “I love you,” which he said with normal intonation to a freshman woman on the front row. Having seen the correct impression on her red face, he then said, “I? Love you?” which we all interpreted with just the opposite meaning. I was convinced.

2 Responses to “Intonation and Meaning”

  1. Brian Johnson Says:

    Sign in a men’s restroom someplace: “We aim to please; you aim too, please”

  2. Robert Beard Says:

    If a man can hit a deer at 200 yards, why can’t he hit the toilet at 2 feet?

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