An Exploration of Teaching Intonation Using a Ted Talk

  • Alison McGregor (University of Texas)
  • Beth Zielinski (Macquarie University)
  • Colleen Meyers (University of Minnesota)
  • Marnie Reed (Boston University)


With the intent of researching the phenomenon of American English intonation to inform classroom practices, this study investigated the intonation of a TED Talk in a multi-layered approach – interpretatively, perceptually and acoustically (Vaissière, 2005). To identify the features produced in the monologic speech sample of a speaker of North American English, the analysis included 1) interpretative judgments of the speaker’s syntactic and information structure and attitude; 2) perceptual judgments of thought groups, key, prominence, salience and tone choice and 3) acoustic analysis of pauses and features identified in the perceptual analysis. PRAAT was used for the acoustic analysis of pauses, pitch range, and prominence (Levis & Pickering, 2004). Triangulated results show an integrated view of language and intonation highlighting relationships between component aspects of intonation and among the interpretative, perceptual, and acoustic layers. Findings support the contextualized teaching of intonation as well as pedagogical use of rich TED Talk speech samples. Findings also indicate a pedagogical shift from teaching functions of intonation in isolation toward an integrative approach, which embraces the overlapping layers that create meaning-making.

How to Cite:

McGregor, A., Zielinski, B., Meyers, C. & Reed, M., (2015) “An Exploration of Teaching Intonation Using a Ted Talk”, Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching Proceedings 7(1).

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Published on
31 Dec 2015