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Lesson Transcript

Beatriz: Bienvenidos a Spanishpod101.com. Buenos días, me llamo Beatriz.
Joseph: Joseph here. Spanish Phonetic Series, Lesson 10 – “Intonation.”
Beatriz: Hola amigos. I am Beatriz and I’m here with Joseph. Hola Joseph. Buenos días.
Joseph: Muy buenos días, Beatriz. Hello and welcome to the tenth lesson of the Spanish Phonetic Series of Spanishpod101.com.
Beatriz: This is the place to learn how the Spanish language is correctly pronounced.
Joseph: We’ll walk you through the basics of Spanish pronunciation…
Beatriz: Pronunciación.
Joseph: Intonation…
Beatriz: La entonación.
Joseph: Accentuation…
Beatriz: La acentuación.
Joseph: And spelling...
Beatriz: Y la ortografía.
Joseph: So that you start the learning process off with solid foot in. Learning the way that the Spanish language sounds will make the rest of the learning process so much easier.
Beatriz: So, join us for this lesson of Spanishpod101.com.
Joseph: In Phonetics Lessons 8 and 9 we learned about some different ways to string words together in Spanish, in order to pronounce phrases and sentences with greater fluidity. Today, we’re going to hone in on the basics of intonation.
Beatriz: La entonación.
Joseph: That’s right. After that, we’ll talk a bit about some common difficulties in distinguishing different types of intonation. And then, we’ll move on and do some practice, in order to really make this sink in. Be sure to stop by the Learning Center and check out the line by line audio transcript section. In this lesson, we’ll be focusing on intonation.
Beatriz: That’s right. This is a really important topic.
Joseph: Why is that, Bea?
Beatriz: Because it talks so much about how the speaker feels.
Joseph: Now, that’s pretty interesting.
Beatriz: Pero Joseph, “¿Qué es la entonación?”– “What is intonation?”
Joseph: “Buena pregunta” – “Good question”, Beatriz. We can say that intonation is the way in which we modulate or change the sounds of speech, in order to reflect differences in meaning, intention and emotion.
Beatriz: That sounds a little bit tricky, no?
Joseph: Well, let’s think about it this way. If I say “It’s sunny outside”, what does it seem like I’m expressing?
Beatriz: It assumes like a fact.
Joseph: Right. This is a kind of statement, “It’s sunny outside.” But, if I say “It’s sunny outside?”, now what comes across?
Beatriz: Now it sounds like a question. Parece que estás expresando una duda.
Joseph: Right. I’m expressing disbelief or some kind of doubt. And then, if I said “It’s sunny outside!”, now what does this mean?
Beatriz: Now, it sounds like you’re really happy about this.
Joseph: Right. We call this an exclamation.
Beatriz: Pues me parece que lo que quieres decir es que los diferentes tipos de oraciones tienen sus propias melodías.
Joseph: Yes, that’s it. What I’m getting at here is that different kinds of sentences have their own melodies.
Beatriz: So, Joseph, what are these different types of sentences?
Joseph: Well, to begin, there’s the kind that simply affirms something or denies it. We can just call this “a statement”.
Beatriz: Claro, en español se llama “una declaración”.
Joseph: Right. So, if I say “voy a la casa de mi tía” or “I’m going to my aunt’s house”, I’m just affirming the fact that I’m going to her house. I mean, there’s nothing more to it.
Beatriz: Así es. Por otro lado, podrías decir “no voy a la casa de mi tía” y todavía sería una declaración.
Joseph: That’s a good point. So, I could also say “No voy a la casa de mi tía” or “I’m not going to my aunt’s house”, and it would still be a statement. I’m just denying it in this case.
Beatriz: So, Joseph, what is another kind of sentence?
Joseph: Next we have the question.
Beatriz: La interrogación.
Joseph: Right. So, when we ask a question, we’re soliciting some kind of response. In this I way, I can say “I’m going to my aunt’s house?” or “¿Voy a la casa de mi tía?”.
Beatriz: Pero también me parece que la interrogación puede expresar indirectamente una afirmación.
Joseph: Interesting point, Beatriz. I think you’re probably right. A question can be used to indirectly express an affirmation. Like a rhetorical question, for example.
Beatriz: Así es. Entonces, ¿cuál es el tercer tipo de oración?
Joseph: Well, with the third kind of sentence, we express our emotions. I mean, our emotional state.
Beatriz: You must be talking about “¡la exclamación!”.
Joseph: That’s the one. We call this “la exclamación” or “the exclamation”. For example, if I say “¡voy a la casa de mi tía!”, what comes across?
Beatriz: Bueno, parece que estás muy emocionado de ir, como si no la hubieras visto en mucho tiempo.
Joseph: Right. In this case, I sound excited as if I hadn’t seen her in a long time and I’m really excited to go.
Beatriz: Muy bien.
Joseph: So, Beatriz, let’s talk a bit about some difficulties that are common to these kinds of sentences.
Beatriz: “Me parece muy buena idea”. – “Sounds like a good idea.”
Joseph: So, when you hear new students to the language create these kinds of sentences, I mean statements, questions and exclamations, what do you think gives them the most trouble?
Beatriz: ¡Ahh, fácil! La melodía.
Joseph: Really? You think it’s the melody?
Beatriz: Realmente, sí, sin duda.
Joseph: Without a doubt. So, let’s get into this a little bit. Can you show me, step by step, how the melody works for a giving statement?
Beatriz: Sure. For example, “Mañana es el cumpleaños de María”.
Joseph: Ok. “Mañana es el cumpleaños de María”. – “Tomorrow is Maria’s birthday.”
Beatriz: Ahora fíjate que hay tres partes melódicas de esta oración.
Joseph: So, there are three parts to the melody of this sentence.
Beatriz: Right. Can you tell what they are?
Joseph: Well, “Mañana es el cumpleaños de María”. It seems like the tone goes up just a bit at the beginning, and then holds off almost to the end until it gets back down. “Mañana es el cumpleaños de María”.
Beatriz: Así es.
Joseph: That doesn’t seem too hard. Now, can we turn this into a question?
Beatriz: Sure. “¿Mañana es el cumpleaños de María?”
Joseph: “¿Mañana es el cumpleaños de María?” – “Tomorrow is Maria’s birthday?”. Now, it sounds like you forgot that her birthday is tomorrow.
Beatriz: So, Joseph, how does that melody change here?
Joseph: Well, let’s see. “¿Mañana es el cumpleaños de María?”. It seems to start off in a mid range and then shoot up only the drop back down and then up again. Do you hear how “mañana” and “María” are both pronounced with a pretty high tone?
Beatriz: Yes. “¿Mañana es el cumpleaños de María?”
Joseph: Right. So, that’s how we’ll pronounce questions. Finally, Beatriz, what about the exclamations?
Beatriz: These are easy. We can change this example to an exclamation, too.
Joseph: Really? Escuchémoslo. Let’s hear it.
Beatriz: “¡Mañana es el cumpleaños de María!”
Joseph: “¡Mañana es el cumpleaños de María!” Now, it sounds like she’s having a big party and you excited to go.
Beatriz: So, can’t you hear the melody in this one?
Joseph: Well, I hear that the tone is the highest of the three. And it seems to pick out in the words “mañana”, “cumpleaños”, “María”.
Beatriz: Claro, la exclamación admite diversas líneas de entonación, según el lugar donde se encuentren las palabras de más relieve emocional.
Joseph: That’s interesting. So, in exclamations, this peak in the melody is found in the words that express the most emotion. So, if I want to emphasize that the party tomorrow is Maria’s party, I could say “¡Mañana es el cumpleaños de María!”.
Beatriz: O si quisieras enfatizar que es mañana el cumpleaños de ella, puedes decir “¡Mañana! Es el cumpleaños de María”.
Joseph: Good, good point. So, we could also emphasize that her birthday is tomorrow, and say “¡Mañana! Es el cumpleaños de María”. All right. Let’s do some practice.
Beatriz: La práctica.
Joseph: Today we’re going to look at how a given sentence sounds different when it’s pronounced as a statement…
Beatriz: Una declaración.
Joseph: A question…
Beatriz: Una interrogación.
Joseph: And an exclamation...
Beatriz: Una exclamación.
Joseph: Beatriz, why don’t you start off by giving us an example of a statement? I’ll translate it and point out the melody of the intonation. After that, we’ll both repeat it again in Spanish, and then we could move on in this way and show how it sounds as a question, and then as an exclamation. Sound good?
Beatriz: Sí, suena muy bien.
Joseph: Ok. So why don’t you start this off?
Beatriz: All right. “Te llamó David”.
Joseph: “David called for you.” So, here, as a statement, we notice that there is a slight arising tone at the beginning and a slight fall at the end. But, for the most part, it’s pretty neutral. Can we hear it again?
Beatriz: “Te llamó David”.
Joseph: “Te llamó David”. Now, let’s hear what that would sound like as a question.
Beatriz: “¿Te llamó David?”
Joseph: “Did David call you?”. Here, there’s an initial jump in the tone, then a fall, and then in the end it rises up again. With this melody, it seems to show curiosity or anticipation. Beatriz, let’s hear it one more time.
Beatriz: “¿Te llamó David?”
Joseph: “¿Te llamó David?” Great. Now, let’s hear it as an exclamation.
Beatriz: “¡Te llamó David!”
Joseph: “David called for you!”. Now, this time, we hear that the highest tone is on the name David, because that’s what we want to emphasize most. This sentence expresses the speakers happiness that it was David who called. So, let’s hear it one more time.
Beatriz: “¡Te llamó David!”
Joseph: “¡Te llamó David!” All right. So, those different kinds of sentences are so important to the pronunciation of Spanish.
Beatriz: Así es, expresan el sentimiento que realmente la persona quiere expresar.
Joseph: That’s exactly it. It’s the feeling in, and I think that’s what’s behind all of this. Is that the intonation in Spanish really transmits the feeling of the speaker. All right. This will conclude today’s lesson. Be sure to check out the core curriculum in the Newbie and Beginner Series where you’ll learn the fundamentals of grammar and usage. Also, if you have any questions, feel free to use our form and comment on today’s lesson. See you again tomorrow!
Beatriz: ¡Ya nos vemos mañana!


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Saturday at 6:30 pm
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Now, in this lesson we talked about "statements", "questions" and "exclamations", however there are some other kinds of utterances that are used, which also receive specific kinds of intonation. Can anyone think of any?

Tuesday at 1:08 am
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Thanks for pointing this out. The Lesson PDF should be working correctly now. Let me know if you continue to experience problems.

Thanks again,


Monday at 8:46 am
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I suppose I must be the only one getting an error message when I try to go for the pdf for this lesson....?

Monday at 12:39 am
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I've noticed when people wonder aloud about something, their voice takes an intonation that isn't quite like a statement or a question.

There is a type of intonation that's becoming prevalent in the States that I don't like at all. I've heard linguists call it "uptalking". It's when you're talking? and you end just about every phrase? with an upward intonation in your voice? and so it sounds like you're asking endless questions? even when you're stating facts? Very annoying.

It started about 10 or 15 years ago, and now it's spread like a disease especially among school children. It's a real battle for me to stop my daughter from doing it unconsciously - she simply does it because the majority of her classmates do it. I think it makes a person appear less intelligent, and it's also very grating to listen to, so an otherwise interesting person turns into someone you wish to avoid.

On the positive side, I love to listen to the intonations of non-native English speakers when they are speaking English. They often sound nice, and they tell you something about the nature of the speaker's native language.