Which Brazilian accent has a rolled r?



Intonation in German is just a question of beautiful sound?


Intonation in german - merely a question of euphony?



Hardarik Blühdorn

Linguist at the Institute for German Language (IDS) in Mannheim, adjunct professor for German linguistics at the University of Mannheim and Prof. Livre-Docente (University of São Paulo). Email: [email protected]




This essay introduces the basic concepts of German intonation and discusses their relevance for teaching German as a foreign language, especially in Brazil. For native Portuguese speakers learning German, intonation is likely to be more of a challenge than the phonetics of individual sounds. The system of tones, tone movements and utterance accents as well as their contributions to the meaning of utterance are illustrated using the example of statements and questions. The conclusion is made up of concrete suggestions for intonation exercises in DaF lessons.

Keywords: Phonetics and phonology of German; Volume; Accent; Intonation and utterance meaning; Language comparison German-Portuguese; German as a foreign language.


This article presents basic concepts of German intonation and discusses the importance of intonation for the teaching of German as a foreign language, particularly in Brazil. For native speakers of Portuguese studying German, intonation is probably more challenging than the phonetics of individual sounds. The article describes the German system of tones, tone movements, and accents on the level of utterance, as well as their contributions to the meaning of utterances, illustrated for declarative and interrogative sentences. The concluding chapter provides classroom intonation exercises.

Keywords: German phonetics and phonology; tone; accents; intonation and utterance meaning; German-Portuguese grammar; German as a foreign language.


Este artigo dá uma introdução a conceitos básicos da entonação da língua alemã e discute sua relevância para o ensino do alemão como língua estrangeira, particularmente no Brasil. Para falantes nativos do português que estudam alemão, a entonação constitui um desafio provavelmente maior do que a fonética dos sons individuais. O artigo apresenta o sistema dos tons, dos movimentos tonais e dos acentos no nível do enunciado, inclusive as suas funções semânticas em orações declarativas e interrogativas. No último capítulo serão expostas algumas sugestões para o ensino da entonação em sala de aula.

Palavras-chave: Fonética e fonologia da língua alemã; tom; acento; entonação e semântica do enunciado; gramática comparativa alemão-português; alemão como língua estrangeira.



1 Introduction

intonation1 is a branch of phonology: phonetics and phonology. In German grammar writing, its importance has long been underestimated; It is still neglected in teaching German as a foreign language (DaF) and as a mother tongue. Intonation is the melody with which spoken utterances are realized. Many lay people believe that it is primarily an aesthetic phenomenon that affects the beauty of the sound, for example when reading poems, sermons or festive speeches. It has long been known that intonation fulfills systematic functions as linguistic signs, is regular and therefore belongs to grammar - in intonation languages ​​such as German or Brazilian Portuguese (see CRUTTENDEN 1986: 8ff .; GIBBON 1998; MORAES 1998) no less than in tonal languages like Chinese or Vietnamese (cf. KRATOCHVIL 1998; DO / TRAN / BOULAKIA 1998). Intonation has to be learned as well as form formation and sentence structure. Intonation errors are grammatical errors. They can significantly impair understanding.

Foreign language learners should - there is agreement on this - achieve a sound image that is as natural and easy to understand as possible in their target language speech. This is for example in the "can-do descriptions" of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (GER 2001: 117) formulated. In practice, this goal has so far been pursued primarily through the individual sounds (phonemes), much less through the intonation. Thus, the European Framework of Reference only places substantial intonational skills at levels B2 to C2, i.e. in the middle and upper grades (cf. GER 2001: 37, 65, 117f. Etc.), although it has long been known that Intonation is acquired first of all in the mother tongue (cf. PÉTURSSON / NEPPERT 1996: 150f.).

In GFL lessons, phonetics exercises mostly focus on recognizing and pronouncing phonemes and phoneme combinations. In the well-known phonetics textbook Phonothek (STOCK / HIRSCHFELD 1996) or Phonothek intensive (HIRSCHFELD / REINKE / STOCK 2007) this part takes up about 80% of the total; Intonation exercises make up less than 10%. The quantitative distribution is similar in most elementary level textbooks, insofar as they deal with phonetics, for example in Language bridge (MEBUS et al. 1987/1989; only in the course books) or in Steps internationally (NIEBISCH et al. 2006-2008; only in the workbooks). Numerous, especially older textbooks, for example new subjects (AUFDERSTRAßE et al. 1998), completely omit the intonation in course and work books. Has a pioneering role International levels (VORDERWÜLBECKE / VORDERWÜLBECKE 1995/1997), which provides intonation exercises in volumes 1 and 2 in almost all lessons.

The aim of this essay is to work out that in GFL lessons for Brazilians intonation deserves a significantly greater weight than it currently has. Chapter 2 examines the difficulties native speakers of Brazilian Portuguese have with single German sounds and argues that these may be overrated. Chapter 3 presents a minimal grammar of the German standard intonation, which describes the basics of phrasing, accent, pitch and tone movements as well as their contributions to the meaning of utterances. In Chapter 4 it is shown that the basic functions of intonation in propositional and interrogative sentences are largely constant. Chapter 5 develops suggestions for the didacticization of intonation in DaF teacher training and in DaF lessons.


2 / r / sounds in German and Portuguese

Most native speakers of Brazilian Portuguese have difficulty pronouncing the German sounds / r /, / h /, / x / (des Oh-Lauts) and / ç / (des I- Loud)2, that is, with sounds in word pairs like rose vs. trousers or Cures vs. cake are meaningful.

The / r / sound is realized very differently in German, depending on whether it is in the syllable before or after the vowel (cf. DUDEN 2005a: 51ff.). In syllables like Rust, chest or Linein which the / r / appears in front of the vowel, it is typically used as a uvular fricative in standard German or Vibrant [R] realized (as a rubbing or fluttering sound on the uvula). At the end of the syllable as in Watch, ear or you, also in unstressed final syllables like in Fisherman or brave, it will be against it too vocalized. Within the syllable after the vowel, but before further consonants as in Thirst, word or host, the / r / is sometimes used as a fricative - ,, -, partly as Vibrant - , , - pronounced. In some areas of Germany it is also called uvular in this position Oh- pronounced loud - ,, - or vocalized: , , .

Brazilian Portuguese (see CRISTÓFARO SILVA 1999: 37ff .; CAGLIARI 1999: 49f .; for comparison with German: CAMARGO 1972; MAYER 1972) distinguishes between two phonemes, both of which are represented in writing by the letter 〈r〉. The phoneme / x /, which corresponds to the German velaren Oh-Sound resembles, is written as a double 〈r wie, as in carro. The relevant tongue tip // is written as a simple 〈r〉 as in caro. The pronunciation variants of / x / are [x], [h] and the multiple tongue tip [r]. The position within the word between two vowels as in carro and caro however, is the only one in which the two phonemes contrast with each other. In the position between a consonant and a vowel as in brasa, trilha, cream etc. always stands //, as well as at the beginning of the word as in reto, rico or roda and at the end of a word or syllable as in motor, pedir or pomar. The phonetic realization is usually the relevant one between the consonant and the vowel . Step at the beginning of a word , [r], [x] and [h] as regional and / or stylistic pronunciation variants at the end of the word , [r], [x] and the retroflexe .

As none of the r variants in terms of articulation and syllable position between German and Portuguese3 agrees, the expectation is obvious that the AusspDa could not think of any of the r variants in terms of articulation and syllable position between dem, mainly aesthetically relevant. When it comes to understanding the content, he can only cause minor damage.


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To understand this, let's look again at the distribution of the r variants in both languages:

(1) Realization of the r-sounds: - uvular fricative, [χ] - uvular Oh- Loud, [R] - uvular vibrant, [x] - velar Oh- Loud, [h] - breath, - vocalized / r /, - relevant tongue tip sound, [r] - multiple tongue tip sound, - retroflex tongue tip sound.

A native speaker of German who uses Portuguese words like pink or brasa with uvular or pronounces [R], can hardly cause misunderstandings, because these sounds have no special function in Portuguese. They are simply referred to as variants of // or / x /, which are typical for speakers with a German accent.

Misunderstandings can result if a German speaker does not distinguish between vowels inside Portuguese words between // and / x / goes through and both of them or [R] replaced. In German word pairs become like tug vs. consume Not distinguished by the r-sound, but by the quality and length of the preceding vowel: A vowel before a written double 〈r〉 is short and relaxed, a vowel before a written simple 〈r〉 - especially with an expansion symbol (here: 〈h〉) - is pronounced long and tense (cf. RAMERS / VATER 1992: 116ff.). In Portuguese, the vowel length has no phoneme-distinguishing function. Words like carro and caro have the same vowels but different r-sounds. Misunderstandings can also be triggered at the end of a syllable if a German speaker uses // in words like lar vocalized. Then there will be confusion with or possible. Overall, however, such dangers only exist with a small number of words.

A native speaker of Portuguese, who in German for / r / consistently uses the tip of the tongue or - [r] used cannot cause any damage to the understanding of the content, because these sounds are only known in German as regional variants of [R].

Content misunderstandings can result from confusing / r / and / h / at the beginning of the word and / r / and / x / in the middle or at the end of the word. The [h] sound comes in Portuguese only as a pronunciation variant of // or / x / at the beginning of the word or syllable. In German it has phoneme status. If a Brazilian speaks the beginning of the word huge not with uvular [R] or with the tip of the tongue [r], but with [h], a German listener can use the word local understand. A Brazilian speaks the German word trip in the end not with or [r], but with the variant [x] possible in Portuguese, a German listener can use the word cloth understand. However, word pairs in which such mix-ups are possible are rare, and a native Portuguese speaker can avoid all such misunderstandings by using the tip of the tongue [r] throughout when speaking German.

It would of course be wrong to derive the thesis from this example that the phonetics of the individual sounds could be dispensed with in GFL lessons for Brazilians. Undoubtedly, the recognition and articulation of sounds and their assignments to the letters of writing must be practiced. But I hope to make it clear that intonation is at least as important an area of ​​phonetics.


3 intonation in German

Traditional German grammar writing has dealt little with questions of intonation, mainly because it lacked the tools to do so. It was not until the last third of the 19th century that technical devices for sound recording were invented. Previously, there was little opportunity to observe the exact properties of spoken language, and so the theories of intonation and the conceptual and technical means for analyzing it were slow to develop.

After all, the most widespread grammar in contemporary German, the DUDEN grammar, contained an approximately 30-page chapter with the title from its first post-war edition (1959: 599-627) The sound form of the sentence, which was kept unchanged until the fourth edition (1984). In this chapter the term Inflection typical sentence melodies - intonation contours, as one would say today - described by statements, prompts and questions and illustrated graphically with the help of drawn arcs, lines and dots. The sentence and utterance accents associated with the tone movements were presented and their function in highlighting important information components was explained. From today's point of view, it seems surprising how much of what we now know about intonation was already known back then. However, the means of representation were even less mature and the systematisation and theoretical penetration of the matter less advanced.

In the fifth and sixth edition of the DUDEN-Grammar (1995; 1998) the chapter on intonation was deleted without replacement. Apparently the editors at the time were of the opinion that the representation from 1959 no longer corresponded to the state of research, but that a new representation suitable for a folk grammar was not yet available. Only in the seventh edition (2005b: 95-128) was a chapter of about 30 pages, now with the title intonation inserted, which tries to prepare the current state of knowledge in an understandable form. There is also a rather extensive chapter on spoken language (2005b: 1175-1256), which also deals with intonation in several places.

3.1 Intonatory units

In principle, the basic terms of German intonation are not difficult to understand, at least not more difficult than those of the German syntax, which every student of German studies must of course learn. A first core idea is that a spoken utterance is broken down into units. On the one hand, such units are of a syntactic nature. The basic unit of syntax is the sentence. On the other hand, utterances consist of intonation units. The basic unit of the intonational structure is the so-called intonation phrase: a section of speech that is marked as belonging together in terms of intonation. An intonation phrase can contain exactly one sentence, but also less or more than one sentence. It is crucial that it corresponds to a unit of content and action, a message from the speaker to the addressee, which stands alone or can be classified in a sequence of communication steps (cf. BLÜHDORN 2012: 151ff.).

To illustrate this, let us consider an example from an interview with a German writer (from STEGER et al. 1971/1974). I have not yet drawn in the pitch movements that make up the intonation, but only put the content and action units, which were identified by the speaker intonationally, in one line:

(2) [...] that's so that's this conversation //

entertain the reader but at the same time keep him active //

that he does not allow himself to be carried away by prose and and and //

eats the pages as a promotional material //

but stay awake //

or get tired //

then have to pause //

and have to make a fresh start [...]

The first unit is - if we disregard the word repetitions - syntactically a complete and independent sentence. The second consists of two infinite verb groups starting with but are coordinated. The third is a subordinate clause. The fourth is in the form of a finite verb group without a subject, as are the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth. Most of these units are syntactically less than one sentence. Nevertheless, they can have the function of independent communication steps in the speech. Strictly speaking, when sentence intonation is used on various occasions in literature - for example in GFL textbooks - this is, strictly speaking, a simplistic and imprecise way of speaking that can possibly be explained by a script-centered language awareness.

3.2 Treble and bass

Intonation phrases show a melody course that follows schematic patterns, the so-called intonation contour. The intonation phrase begins where such a contour begins; where it ends, the intonation phrase ends.The most important melodic scheme in standard German - as in most languages ​​of the world (cf. PÉTURSSON / NEPPERT 1996: 152ff.) - is characterized by the fact that the pitch first rises and then falls again. Example (3) comes from the current DUDEN grammar (2009: 117). For the sake of simplicity, it was chosen so that the intonation phrase includes exactly one sentence. We have already seen that word strings that have to be characterized syntactically differently can also be used as intonation units:



Example (3) shows how the voice rises right at the beginning, lingers on a high note, then falls again and, at the end, lingers on a low note.

The structure of such intonation contours is to be understood in terms of the syllables. In the scheme there is a point for each syllable. The syllable is the seat of the intonational properties. These include, above all, the sound. In fact, when speaking, the voice can move over a number of different pitches. For German grammar, however, most authors today assume, following PIERREHUMBERT (1980), that only one single tone distinction is relevant, namely that between high and low frequencies (cf. DUDEN 2009: 96). The scheme shows this by showing no nuances. Intermediate tones appear phonetically, but are grammatically irrelevant.

The rise at the beginning of the intonation contour is a transition from the low tone to the high tone. Alternatively, the voice can start directly on the treble. The drop at the end of the contour is a transition from high to low. A considerable part of the intonation of standard German can be reduced to this simple pattern.

Of course, each speaker's voice has a different range, and each speaker realizes high and low frequencies in a different range. Even the same speaker speaks differently high or low on different occasions. Furthermore, the distance between the high and low frequencies can be different each time. Even while speaking, the tones change their position (cf. DUDEN 2009: 93ff.). However, all of this is meaningless for the grammar of intonation. The only decisive factor for grammar is the contrast between high and low tones, which can be observed at every point in the speech by comparing neighboring syllables: High is a tone that is significantly higher than other tones in its vicinity; deep is a tone that is significantly deeper than other tones in its vicinity.

The pitch rise and fall can be in different places in the intonation phrase. In (4), for example, the rise is one syllable later and the fall one syllable earlier than in (3). The result remains an intonation contour that includes exactly one sentence:



Between rise and fall, the voice can linger on a high note as in (3) and (4). But it can also fluctuate in pitch, so that there is a repeated rise and fall as in (5):



3.3 accent

A contour as in (5) still has to be interpreted as a unit, although it contains two ascending and two descending tone movements. The fact that we are not dealing with a sequence of two intonation phrases cannot be seen from the tone movements alone. A second property of the syllables involved is relevant to intonation: the accent.

Syllables are pronounced either "stressed" (i.e., accented) or "unstressed" (i.e., unaccented). The accent of a syllable in German is mainly realized through increased vocal pressure (intensity). Unaccented syllables are pronounced with weaker pressure, accented syllables with more pressure. As with tone, there is no absolute measure for pressure, but the relative measure compared to the surrounding syllables. Some speakers articulate with relatively high pressure, others with less pressure. Even with the same speaker, the voice pressure varies from case to case. Syllables are generally perceived as accented if they receive significantly more pressure compared to their neighboring syllables; Syllables are perceived as unaccented if they receive significantly less pressure compared to their neighboring syllables.

Whether a syllable is accented or not is decided on the one hand at the word level and on the other hand at the level of the intonation phrase. In polysyllabic words or word forms, one syllable is usually defined as the carrier of the word accent (cf. the overview in ENGELS 2011: 62ff.). The position of the word accent is a fixed phonological property of every word form. So lies in Maria the word accent on the second syllable (-ri-), in a on the first (egg-), in Heidelbergerin also on the first (hey-). Some words have a first and a second accented syllable. So lies in Heidelbergerin a second, weaker word accent on the syllable -ber-. We leave this out of consideration in the following.

If a chain of several words is uttered as an intonation unit, not all word accents have to be pronounced equally clearly. As a rule, one restricts oneself to pronouncing those words with an accent (utterance accent; cf. ENGELS 2011: 66ff.) That are particularly important for the intended message. In the unit of intonation, accents indicate emphasis. In the sentence Maria is from Heidelberg for example, it may be useful to use the name Maria and the predicate noun Heidelbergerin to highlight. The word accent syllables of these words are then pronounced with increased vocal pressure. On the other hand, the voice pressure is on the word accent syllable of the indefinite article a not (or hardly) increased. In example (6), which in turn stands for an intonation unit, accented syllables are written in capital letters, unaccented syllables in lower case:

(6) maRIa is a HEIdelbergerin

For the utterance accent there are exactly two values ​​in German, as in the tone. A distinction is made between the presence and absence of an accent. There are no strong, weak or medium utterance accents. This means that, from the point of view of intonation, a distinction must be made between four classes of syllables: accented syllables with a high tone, accented syllables with a low tone, unaccented syllables with a high tone and unaccented syllables with a low tone:



If we now superimpose the tone movement from example (3) and the accent sequence from example (6), we get example (8):



Here are RI and HEI marked as accented syllables with treble; a, is, ei and no are unaccented syllables with high tones; ma, del, ber, ge and rin are unaccented syllables with a low tone.

In German, utterance accents are usually associated with tone movements, specifically with those tone movements that define the intonation contour. The pitch change can take place before or after the accented syllable, i.e. there are also four types of accents. In (i) and (ii) a high tone follows a low tone, i.e. the tone movement is rising; in (iii) and (iv) a low tone follows a high tone, i.e. the tone movement is falling:

(i) unaccented low tone + accented high tone = increasing accent 1

(ii) accentuated low tone + unaccented high tone = rising accent 2

(iii) accented high tone + unaccented low tone = falling accent 1

(iv) unaccented high tone + accented low tone = falling accent 2

(9) to (12) clarify the four types of accents with variants of the example sentence. The rising and falling tone movements associated with the accent are highlighted in bold:





In (9) and (10) lies on the accented syllable RI in Maria a treble. A low tone precedes, i.e. we are dealing with rising accents of type 1. On the word Heidelbergerin there are falling accents in both examples. In (9) lies on the accented syllable HEI a treble; a low tone follows (falling accent type 1). In (10) lies on HEI a low tone; a treble precedes (falling accent type 2).





Also in (11) and (12) are on Maria rising accents. But here lies on the accented syllable RI a low tone, followed by a high tone (rising accent type 2). On Heidelbergerin there are falling accents. In (11) lies on HEI a treble; a low tone follows (falling accent type 1). In (12) lies on HEI a low tone; a treble precedes (falling accent type 2).

(13) gives an overview of the types of accents. Treble accent means that the accented syllable has a high tone; Bass accent means that it carries a bass:


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The intonational core of a prototypical intonation phrase in German is a falling accent. Each intonation phrase should contain exactly one accent with a falling tone movement, the so-called nuclear accent. This is also her last accent. Accents with increasing tone movement can precede the nuclear accent. They can be present, but they can also be absent. The next accent following the nuclear accent belongs to the next intonation phrase (cf. BÜRING 1997: 28ff .; BLÜHDORN 2012: 155f.).

Let's look at example (5) again, now with registered accents:



The last falling sound movement is on the word part HEIdel-. It is also associated with an accent. This is followed by unaccented syllables that belong to the same intonation phrase. One after HEIdel- the following next accent would be in the next intonation phrase. On Maria is a rising tone movement, which is also associated with an accent. In contrast, the falling sound movement is between Maria and is not associated with an accent. It only affects unaccented syllables and therefore does not indicate the end of an intonation phrase. Therefore in (5) we are only dealing with one, not two intonation phrases.

3.4 Comparison with Portuguese

While accents in German are realized phonetically by changing voice pressure and pitch, in Brazilian Portuguese they are mainly indicated by the length of the syllable. Unlike German, Portuguese does not differentiate between short and long vowels in its phoneme system (cf. CRISTÓFARO SILVA 1999: 78ff.). Instead, an elongation of the syllable-bearing vowel is the main phonetic means for realizing an accent (quantity accent; see: MASSINI-CAGLIARI / CAGLIARI 2000: 113). With this difference, Brazilians learning German are associated with three major difficulties that can relatively easily impair communication.

The first difficulty concerns recognizing and pronouncing accented short vowels in German. Word pairs like Hair vs. wait, bid vs. ask or steal vs. put differ by the vowels of the accented syllables, in addition to differences in the vowel quality (tense vs. relaxed; cf. RAMERS / VATER 1992: 116ff.) above all by the vowel length: Hair, offer and steal have a long wait, ask and put a short accented vowel. Portuguese speakers find it difficult to hear this difference in German words and to realize it themselves. You always have a tendency to pronounce the accented vowels long, so wait More like Hair sounds, ask how Offer and put how steal.

The second difficulty concerns voice pressure. In Brazilian Portuguese it is generally used less for grammatically relevant distinctions than in German. In particular, accented syllables are provided with relatively less voice pressure. Brazilians typically transfer this tendency to German. This hardly has any effect on the word accent, since its position is fixed for each word form anyway. It can usually be reconstructed by the listener without any problems, even with weak articulation. However, far-reaching consequences can result from the utterance accents, the location of which indicates the focus of information. If they are not recognized, communication can easily break down.

The third difficulty concerns the pitch, which is also only marginally used in Portuguese to mark accented syllables. Intonation contours take on more functions in Portuguese than in German in signaling pragmatic additional information, e.g. B. in relation to the certainty with which the speaker makes an assertion, or in relation to the knowledge and intentions to act that he assumes his interlocutor, furthermore (disagreement), criticism, irony and others. In the last few years, in-depth studies have been carried out on this, which are about to shed light on a traditionally neglected area of ​​Portuguese grammar (cf., for example, ANTUNES 2007; PEREIRA 2009; CELESTE 2010; OLIVEIRA 2011). In German, such information is mainly coded using lexical means, especially sentence adverbs and tinting or modal particles.

If Brazilian German learners now transfer the intonation contours they know from Portuguese to German, the information they believe they are expressing will remain incomprehensible to a German listener. On the other hand, the information that would have to be displayed in German by the intonation remains unexpressed. In the next section I will try to show at least a hint of what kind of information is involved, so that it becomes clearer why communication can be so severely impaired by intonation errors.

3.5 On the meaning of the types of accents

The distinctions between accentuated and unaccented parts of the utterance, between rising and falling accents, between high and low accent tones fulfill important tasks in German for the organization of the flow of information between the communication partners and thus for the integration of utterances in the communication and interaction context.

First of all, the meaning of pure accentuation: utterance accents indicate emphasis. Information components to which alternatives were available in the given context are highlighted, so that the speaker had to make a decision (cf. ROOTH 1985: 10ff .; 1996: 275ff. For English). On the other hand, non-accentuated utterance components stand for information without alternative, which is assumed to be known and / or undisputed.

Let us assume that a family is talking about which trades the three adolescent children are learning:

14) {A - What do the young people want to be?}5

B - RUdi becomes socioLOge

In the utterance of speaker B, the verb is becomes unaccented. It stands for the undisputed and in this sense without alternative topic of conversation of career choice. Two expressions are accentuated: the name Rudi and the job title sociologist. The personal name stands for one of the three young people. By highlighting, the speaker makes it clear that he is only referring to this person with the current utterance and not to the other two. By highlighting the job title, he makes it clear that this one was selected from the total number of conceivable occupations in the context (cf. JACOBS 1988: 91ff .; BÜRING 1997: 28ff .; BLÜHDORN 2012: 143ff., 159ff.).

Now to the meaning of the sound movement: it further differentiates accentuation. A rising accent has its function in connection with the opening of a message. To identify it, I add a rising slash in front of the accented syllable in (15) to simplify matters. Increasing accents indicate selection decisions with which the speaker narrows the information expectation of the addressee for the current message. Statements with such accents are called topics (cf. BÜRING 1997: 53ff .; BLÜHDORN 2012: 170ff.). Several topics can follow one another in an intonation phrase:

(15) {A - What do the young people want to be?}

B - / RUdi wanted to become socioLo \ ge at / BEGINNING

The rising accent on Rudi narrows the recipient's expectation of a message about one of several possible persons. Messages about other people are thus excluded from the expectation for the moment. The second rising accent, on Beginning, further narrows the expectation to a message over a certain time interval. It appears that the person discussed had different career plans at different points in time. At the moment we will only talk about the time interval that is called Beginning referred to as. Falling accents - indicated in (15) by a falling slash after the accented syllable - announce the completion of the information unit and thus the fulfillment of the information expectation still remaining for the current message. A section of utterance marked in this way is called a focus (cf. BLÜHDORN 2012: 151ff.). In the specific example, with the focus of the selected person, a certain career desire is assigned for the selected time interval.

Finally, on the meaning of the accent tone, i.e. the distinction between low and high tone accents. This is currently still being discussed in the specialist literature (see e.g. KOHLER 1995: 198f .; NIEBUHR 2007). More and more, however, the view is gaining ground that with this distinction the information contribution of the highlighted expression is related to the presumed knowledge of the speaker and the addressee (cf. NIEBUHR 2007: 12ff.).In a somewhat simplistic way, the functionality can be summarized as follows: A low tone accent emphasizes information that is shared in common knowledge (common ground; see STALNAKER 2002; DEPPERMANN / BLÜHDORN 2013: 7ff.) Of the speaker and the addressee already exists. A treble accent highlights information that should be added to the shared knowledge (cf. also DUDEN 2009: 105f.). This shows in particular that intonation is one of the linguistic means that integrate individual utterances into the context of interaction.

The differences in meanings between the accent types can be illustrated using examples (9a) to (12a) (see examples (9) to (12) in Section 3.3).

In (11a) Maria is given with the question from speaker A as the topic of conversation. In the answer from Speaker B, will Maria characterized by the low-frequency accent as "old topic": information that is already present in the shared knowledge of the conversation partners and is now intended to narrow the information expectations of the addressee Heidelbergerin marked as "new focus" by the treble accent: information that is to be added to the shared knowledge and completes the current message:



Also in (12a) is Maria "Old Topic". But here is also Heidelbergerin characterized by the low-frequency accent as information that is already part of the common knowledge of the interlocutors, i.e. as the "old focus". The answer here merely confirms information that is already given by the question and the external context:



In (10a) is Heidelbergerin also "old focus". Due to the external context and the question from speaker A, the location is already part of the common knowledge Maria indicates that the person in question is not yet in the conversation. Only the group from which it is selected is given. Maria is thus a "new topic":



Finally, in (9a), both the topic and the focus contribute information that is to be added to the shared knowledge. Both are marked with a treble accent:



The examples show that the same word chain with only slightly different intonation can be used in very different contexts and, in particular, can be used as an answer to very different questions. The semantic functions of the intonational characteristics discussed can be summarized as follows:


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These distinctions only address a small, albeit central, part of German intonation grammar. A more detailed presentation would also have to deal with tones at the beginning and end of intonation phrases (so-called border tones; they are briefly mentioned in the next chapter), on complete and incomplete contours, on the function and design of pauses, on the interaction between intonation and syntax and much more . That cannot be done in this essay. However, the few examples presented should already have made it clear that information is coded in the intonation in a systematic and regular manner, which is essential for successful communication. In addition, there are indications that intonation rules are by their nature teachable and learnable. Before I come back to this in Chapter 5, I will address the question of what role intonation plays in different types of sentences.


4 types of sentences and linguistic actions

The task of intonation is often assigned to distinguish between types of sentences, especially between statements and questions (cf. DUDEN 2009: 106ff., 113ff.). It is worthwhile to discuss this assumption, which has led to the formation of terms such as "statement intonation" and "question intonation", in a little more detail.

First and foremost, statement and question sentences are syntactically differentiated in German, namely through the occupation of the apron, i.e. the position before a preceding finite verb in the linear sentence structure (cf. BLÜHDORN / LOHNSTEIN 2012: 204ff .; BLÜHDORN 2013: 150ff.) . In decision-making sentences like (17), the lead-up area is unoccupied: The finite verb is at the beginning of the sentence. In replacement questions like (18), the apron contains an interrogative phrase (here: how); in statements like (19) it contains a non-interrogative phrase (here: you):

(17) Ø Is her name Müller?

(18) How is she called?

(19) you is called Schmidt.

Several authors have pointed out that the types of sentences are clearly differentiated and that an additional distinction through the intonation is neither required nor actually takes place (e.g. KOHLER 1995: 196). Nevertheless, it is correct that decision-making questions (Yes NoQuestions) at the end often rising and statements are usually intoned falling at the end:





Replacement questions (w-Questions) are typically intoned falling:



However, other intonations of these word strings are also possible. They go hand in hand with the same difference in meanings that were described in Chapter 3 for statements.

4.1 Intonation of substitution questions

The intonation of a replacement question with a falling treble accent as in (22) is used when the speaker raises a new topic with the question that was not discussed before. In addition to the treble accent, the particle actually can be used to indicate the novelty of the topic even more clearly (cf. ICKLER 1994: 384):



In (23), too, the treble accent leads to dwell Novelty of the topic displayed. The sound movement is increasing here. After the accent, the pitch remains on the treble until the end of the question. This contour, in which there is no drop in tone at the end, signals that the speaker's action as an interaction section is incomplete (cf. DUDEN 2009: 116f.). With this, the questioner can indicate the expectation of an answer and / or indicate that he wants to ask further questions:


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In such a sequence, each treble accent indicates a new theme. The repeated repetition of the intonation contour can create a bored, disinterested impression, as sometimes made by officials in authorities who are busy all day asking for personal details.

In (24) lies on dwell a bass accent. It indicates that the subject of apartment is not new to the current conversation. It can, for example, have already been mentioned before or result from what has been said in an associative way. This is how a police officer could intone the question, who takes the testimony of a local resident about an accident and wants to find out his personal details:



The missing drop in tone at the end signals the incompleteness of the interaction section. This can be interpreted, for example, in such a way that the answer to the question is required in order to be able to continue the interaction as planned.

In (25) the bass accent is on dwell associated with a falling sound movement:



The subject of the apartment is not marked as new here either. The falling sound movement presents the question as a completed action. It can make it appear more emphatic and impersonal. The policeman can intone to keep his distance from the addressee, but also if he would like to know the address after the witness questioning has already been completed. Through the particles exactly with this intonation he can also indicate that it is clear to him that the witness lives nearby. By because he can clarify the connection with the previous conversation (cf. ICKLER 1994: 381ff.):



4.2 Intonation of decision questions

Completely analogous intonation options also exist for decision-making questions. A prototypical variant is certainly (26):



The treble accent indicates that a topic is being asked that is new in the current context of the conversation. After the falling tone movement, the voice returns to the treble. The last note of an intonation contour is called the final boundary note (cf. DUDEN 2009: 96ff.). Border tones, like accent tones, characterize intonation contours with different functions and make important contributions to the meaning of expression. For reasons of space, they can only be dealt with in passing in this article. A high final tone signals the incompleteness of the interaction section. In decision-making questions, this is interpreted in such a way that the questioner has no preconceived expectation of a positive or negative answer, but rather considers both to be equally possible. A commitment to one of the two alternatives is required before the interaction can continue as planned.

In (27), the same intonation, without the final re-pitching, indicates that the speaker is expecting an affirmative answer - here, because the context provides appropriate clues. At the same time, the high accent tone signals that the information in question belongs to the common knowledge (common ground) is added:



The treble accent also shows new information in (28). Here, however, the voice does not return to the bass:



The treble at the end of the contour again indicates that the questioner considers a positive or negative answer to be equally possible. A decision is needed in order to continue the interaction as planned. The final treble can also indicate that the speaker wants to ask further questions, for example in a guessing game:


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This is how the queen asks in the fairy tale:



If the speaker uses a low tone accent in the same contour as in (30), he signals that the accented expression gives known information:



Heidelberg has already been mentioned in the context of the question. Speaker B reacts to this by recognizing the place name with the low tone as a carrier of information that has already been sent to the common ground belongs. It is interesting to look back at example (27) for comparison. There, too, the place name had already been used in the context. In his query, however, speaker B marked it as new information that the common ground still has to be added, which therefore still needs mutual recognition. In (27) the question ends on the bass. This indicates the expectation of an affirmative answer. In (30) it ends on the treble, although speaker A has already given indications that lead to the expectation that the answer will be affirmative. This allows the questioner to indicate that he believes it possible to have drawn a wrong conclusion.

The pair of examples shows how different intonation devices fulfill different functions for the organization of the flow of information in the same contexts. In (27) becomes Heidelberg treated as a carrier of new information, the confirmation of which is expected, in (30) as a carrier of already known information that may be retrieved from the common ground must be removed.

Also in (31) is on Heidelberg a bass accent. The sound movement is falling overall:



Such an intonation is appropriate for questions that are only intended to confirm known and commonly recognized information, e.g. to prepare a conclusion. The speaker and addressee have already agreed that the person asked comes from Heidelberg. Accordingly, a positive answer to the question can be expected. Once this has been done, the questioner can continue, for example: Then you need to know the big barrel too.

4.3 Intonation and type of sentence

The examples show that the intonatory means of expression in German make contributions to the meaning of the sentence that remain constant across the types of sentence. In statements, substitution questions and decision-making sets, low-frequency accents indicate old information, high-frequency accents indicate new information. Rising tone movements narrow the expectations of the addressee, falling tone movements signal the fulfillment of expectations. Final high tones indicate the incompleteness of a section of the interaction.

The equality of function of the intonation means in the sentence types suggests that intonation contours in German do not have the task of distinguishing sentence types. This is a clear difference to Portuguese, where, for example, decision-making questions and statements usually have the same syntactic form. The sequence subject - verb - object is prototypical, e.g. o João faz sociologia ('João does sociology'). Only the intonation is used to distinguish between the propositional sentence and the decision-making sentence. (32) shows the word chain as a statement, (33) shows it as a decision question:





The action function as a statement or decision-making question is closely related to the other information that is typically encoded in Portuguese by intonation contours (see section 3.4 above). In German, intonation usually has other tasks - with a few exceptions, for example when you have questions. These have the secondary position of the finite verb, as do statements from which they cannot be distinguished due to their syntactic form (cf. BLÜHDORN / LOHNSTEIN 2012: 217). Queries are indicated by an intonation contour that increases towards the end:





In example (11), the falling contour at the end indicates that the word chain should be understood as a closed message (also in variants (9), (10) and (12); see section 3.3 above). In (34) mark the bass accents Maria and Heidelbergerin as a carrier of known information. The increase in pitch towards the end signals the incompleteness of the interaction section. An affirmative or negative answer is expected to complete it. With questions like this one reacts to messages whose truth one cannot believe, e.g. to make sure that one has not misheard.


5 Intonation in DaF lessons

Most speakers - both German and Portuguese - use intonation in their native language completely unconsciously. They have no explicit knowledge of how intonation works and what tasks it performs. In the mother tongue, such ignorance need not lead to communication problems. In the foreign language, on the other hand, communication problems are an almost inevitable consequence when the intonation system and phonetic realization are so different, as shown in this essay for German and Brazilian Portuguese.

Above all, the three difficulties described in Section 3.4 play a key role. They lead to the fact that Brazilians often show accent and tone realizations in their German-language utterances, which cannot be decoded for a German addressee. In teaching contexts, Brazilians often intone completely flat, without changes in intensity or tone. A German listener cannot infer any indications of the intended information structure from such statements, i.e. their integration into the interaction context is defective. In addition, deviating syllable lengths can lead to word mix-ups.

In real communication situations, Brazilian German speakers often want to use intonation contours to express pragmatic information such as (in) security, (non) agreement or irony, as in Portuguese. A German interpreter will try to interpret the intonation heard completely differently. As an indicator of pragmatic information, he will expect sentence adverbs and / or modal particles. The absence of these can lead to further communication problems.

The conclusion that has to be drawn from this is clear: intonation must be addressed and practiced in GFL lessons from the beginning, like the textbook, for example International levels (VORDERWÜLBECKE / VORDERWÜLBECKE 1995/1997) provides. Like form and sentence theory, it must be introduced as a grammatical system of rules; the practical intonation skills of the learners must be developed and developed across all levels.

In order for this to happen, two prerequisites must be met: firstly, teaching materials must be available in which the rules of intonation are prepared in an understandable manner and with suitable exercises; Second, there must be teachers who are competent in the area of ​​intonation and who feel confident. There is still a certain lack of suitable teaching materials, but the offer is better than is often believed. The situation in the area of ​​teachers is much more difficult.

In language studies and teacher training, phonetics in general and intonation in particular are considered inconvenient. Many students try to avoid them when possible. As a result, graduates of studies and teacher training often know too little about these areas and, accordingly, are unable to pass on enough to their learners. Breaking this vicious circle is an important future task for the subject of German as a foreign language.

Intonation must be given significantly more weight in German studies - not only at Brazilian universities in the training of DaF teachers and university lecturers, but also in German-speaking countries in the training of teachers of German as their mother tongue (and here and there also in the training of Portuguese teachers).At the end of this essay I will therefore present - by way of example and without claim to novelty - some didactic techniques and forms of exercise for (university) GFL lessons and teacher training that I have used myself and that can help, practical intonational skills as well as the explicit To improve the learner's knowledge of German intonation.

5.1 word accent

Many elementary level textbooks contain exercises in which the position of the word accent is to be marked. Such exercises must be taken seriously in GFL lessons and carried out regularly. Word accents form the basis for defining utterance accents. First and foremost, it is word accent syllables that come into question for emphasis on the utterance level. Anyone who does not know where the word accents are, must fail from the outset when attempting to intone word strings correctly.

In DaF lessons, the position of the word accent and the length of the vowel in the accent syllable should therefore be indicated from the beginning of every polysyllabic vocabulary that is newly introduced, e.g. by a line below for length or period for shortness, as in Langenscheidt Large dictionary (GÖTZ / HAENSCH / WELLMANN 1993) and in Pons Basic dictionary German as a foreign language (HECHT / SCHMOLLINGER 1999). Teachers and learners can quickly get used to such a practice, just as it has become common practice to indicate the gender of every newly introduced noun. This lays a first, indispensable foundation for the development of intonation.

5. 2 utterance accent

A tried and tested form of exercise on utterance accents is to let a single high-tone accent "wander" through the links of an otherwise unaccented sentence. The unaccented syllables are spoken with a low tone, the only accented syllable with a high tone. In (35) I note rising and falling tone movements for the sake of simplicity only through slashes:

(35) the writer would like to hold the reader with his book under / HAL \

the writer wants to entertain the reader with his / BOOK \

the writer wants to entertain the reader with / SEI \ n a book

the writer wants to entertain the / LE \ ser with his book

the writer / WANTS to entertain the reader with his book

the / SCHRIFT \ writer wants to entertain the reader with his book

The exercise should initially be performed as a pure articulation or listening exercise, without thinking about the differences in meaning between the intonation variants. To practice articulation, the teacher or one of the learners writes a string of words with intonation on the blackboard. Because of its clarity, the "pearl necklace" notation shown in Chapters 3 and 4 is preferable. Most learners can understand it well; some enjoy experimenting with it. The more abstract slash notation can be used in It is important to ensure that the given utterance accent is always correctly placed on a word accent syllable. Several learners should now read out what has been written. They are allowed to make several attempts. Discuss which attempt was made The accent and treble were most clearly audible.

As a listening exercise, the teacher or a learner speaks the sentence in such a way that exactly one syllable is emphasized by an accent and tweeter. Again, it must be noted that only one word accent syllable may be highlighted. Now have several people write what has been said on the board with intonation. It should be discussed whether the accentuation that the auditor wanted to implement was recognizable to the listener, whether it was recognized correctly and notated correctly.

My experience with this form of exercise has shown that hardly any learner has difficulty writing in the pearl necklace notation. Almost all learners - native speakers as well as non-native speakers - initially have difficulties reading out the intonations given in writing correctly and clearly. Likewise, almost all learners initially have difficulty saying a string of words with emphasis on a certain syllable in such a way that another person can correctly recognize and write down the intended emphasis.

Exercises like the "intonation dictation" described here are therefore of high didactic value. Listeners who write down intonation dictations learn to pay attention to the accent and tone. The auditors acquire a feeling for how clearly they have to articulate in order to be sure of the intended intonation They usually have to intone much more clearly than they expected.

Attention when listening and clear articulation when speaking are indispensable prerequisites for ensuring that intonational language resources can be used in a controlled and functional manner. The teacher must ensure that the learners use the intonation from the dictation exercise in their normal speech. In the case of Brazilian learners, care must also be taken to ensure that phonetic accentuation is not realized by elongation, as would correspond to Portuguese, but by voice pressure and pitch movement. This speaking technique, which is difficult for Brazilian speakers, has to be practiced patiently and repeatedly.

5.3 phrasing

In a next step the question can be asked about sentences like in (35) what is semantically expressed by the respective emphasis. Highlighting indicates that the speaker has chosen between alternatives. A useful exercise is to make explicit any other expressions that might take the place of the highlighted expression:

(35a) the writer would like to linger the reader with his book under / HAL \ ten - / LONG \, / QUÄ \ len ...

the writer wants to entertain the reader with his / BOOK \ - his / AN \ train, his power / WAT \ te ... -

the writer wants to entertain the reader with / BEI \ nem - any / EI \ nem, / KEI \ nem ... - book

the writer wants to entertain the / LE \ ser - the / NACH \ barn, the poli / ZEI \ ... - with his book

the writer / MAY \ te - / MAY \, / MUST \ ... - entertain the reader with his book

the / SCHRIFT \ steller - the journa / LIST \, the po / LI \ tiker ... - would like to entertain the reader with his book

Existing choices between alternatives have a strong influence on how a longer utterance can be structured (phrased). Each intonation unit must contain at least one accent, i.e. it must reproduce at least one selection from a set of alternatives. Phrasing can be practiced on any text. The learners should break down the text into meaningful message units. This task is quite similar in Portuguese and German, as in many other languages, so that most learners intuitively get along well with it. However, it is important to practice them consciously.

The message units should initially be so short that exactly one high-tone accent is implemented in each unit; all other syllables should be spoken unaccentuated and with a low tone. To illustrate this, I use example (2) from Section 3.1:

(2a) this is this under / HAL \ ten //

the reader under / HAL \ ten //

but at the same time keep him ak / TIV \ //

that he won't let himself be carried by the prosa / WEG \ //

and the / SEI \ ten eats //

as action-promoting / STOFF \ //

but / WAKE \ stays with it //

or he / it gets tired //

then / IN \ nmust hold //

and have to take a new / AN \ run //


Phrasing as in (2a) sounds a bit monotonous and boring when reading aloud, but it complies with the rules and makes sense for some communication conditions. The first thing to do here is to practice the simplest intonation contour.

When they have prepared the phrasing in writing, have the learners read their exercise texts aloud. It should be checked whether you actually use the prepared phrasing or a different phrasing when reading aloud, e.g. by placing the prepared text on the projector. Even when phrasing as elementary as in (2a), there are often several options. These can be shown in the class discussion and compared with one another. Furthermore, the function of the accents should be made explicit by looking for alternatives for the highlighted expressions.

5.4 Tone movements and accent tones

The functions that rising and falling tone movements as well as high and low accent tones exercise in the organization of the flow of information are quite abstract and cannot be handled independently by many learners, especially in the elementary level. Nevertheless, they can and must be practiced in class. As a form of exercise, the intonation dictation described in Section 5.2, with its various variants, is a good choice. The teacher prepares written material - sentences or short texts - with correct and meaningful intonation drawn in. The material is used for articulation and listening exercises. Several learners should be involved in all exercises, several articulation and listening attempts should be allowed. The experiments should be discussed in the group in order to practice a conscious use of the intonatory linguistic means. The prepared material has a model function. It serves as a model for correctly voiced German utterances that learners can imitate in their own speech.

Advanced learners who have practiced consciously realizing accents, tones and tone movements in pronunciation and recognizing them while listening can be instructed in further steps to plan and use complex intonation contours with several topics and / or with distinctions between old and new information to be used consciously for communication purposes. With the few resources presented in Chapters 3 and 4 of this essay, an enormous variety of communicative strategies can be implemented. Corresponding exercises should be interspersed in the lessons again and again in order to consolidate and develop the intonation skills of the learner.


6 conclusion

There is much more to the intonation of German than could be shown in this essay. It wasn't about completeness, but about introducing intonation based on a selection of rules as a systematic part of grammar that can be taught and learned, and also about emphasizing its importance for communication and for its increased treatment in GFL lessons and to advertise in language teacher training.

Recent grammar research has indicated that intonation does not only play a key role in spoken language, but also in understanding written texts. This is not surprising when you consider that writing was developed for the preservation of originally spoken language characters. When reading, written texts must be broken down into message units, and these must be assigned so-called "quiet intonations" (FÉRY 2006), which also determine how the text is interpreted. Different intonations can dramatically change the meaning of otherwise identical word strings, such as this one This essay has shown with several examples: Without intonation, no linguistic expression, not even a written one, can be assigned a definitive meaning.

In my opinion, language didactics urgently needs to respond to such insights and give intonation an appropriate weight in the classroom. Intonation is much more than just a question of beautiful sound. According to WUNDERLICH (1988): Even in language, sound makes up a significant part of music!



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