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Speech Prosody Examples - Words, Sentence Stress, Rhythm and Intonation

Language is one of the vital elements of interaction skills. Besides good Verbal communication skills, one must also have clear and crisp oral communication skills. Oral Communication is Prosody of a Language. It is application of musical skills of your voice. Varying the rhythm, tone, inflection and volume of your voice will give contextual clarity during persuasion.

Difference between Oral, Verbal and Vocal Communication

Oral communication is about how you use your voice and its elements while verbal communication is how you use language skills to convey, convince and consider others' opinions, beliefs and feelings. The only difference between vocal and oral communication is in vocal both the content and voice is emphasized while in vocal communication the emphasis is only on the use of voice.

When the phrase, "It was an interesting speech" with a boring tone of voice can actually mean that the presentation was not interesting. So, during persuasion, using right pitch, tone, volume and rate or speech, which is called the prosody of the language, is as important as using right vocabulary and valid facts. Prosody can bring liveliness, enthusiasm and energy to the presentation.
An Easy-to-recall Acronym to Remember the Elements of speech prosody of the language. This simple acronym, PRIVATE, summaries the basics of verbal persuasion skills:-

1. Pace
2. Pitch
3. Rhythm
4. Inflection
5. Volume
6. Accent
7. Timing
8. Emotion

Pitch

Pitch is the shrillness of the voice. Simply put, the two far end of a piano represents the lowest and the highest pitch. Generally, it is known that ladies have high pitch than men. Variation in the pitch can bring life to any speech. Singing high pitched songs is one the easiest ways to improve the pitch of the voice.

Pace is Rate of Speech

The number of words used per minute by the speaker during persuasion is called the pace

Example, "May I know why did you ask this question?" said in a slow rate of speech can mean, "I am hurt by your question" but the same question with high rate of speech can mean, "I am curious to know the reason behind your question"

Pauses Talk Louder than Verbal Skills

Pauses are the number of breaks taken by the training facilitator during presentation facilitation. Good pauses not only allow the facilitator to take short breaks but also let the audience to reflect on the topic of discussion. It also encourages participation and interaction between the facilitator and the participants. Adding right pauses during a presentation facilitation is one of the vital soft skills.

It is believed that a little higher rate of speech can keep the audience attention during persuasion

Rhythm is the Song behind the Speech

In fact, speakers borrow the rhythm from their mother tongue. The rhythm could be staccato (short breaks during the speech) or legato (long river intonation without breaks. The sentences are long and sustainable). Rhythm can change the meaning of a statement.

For example

"You never know how to interact with a stranger" could be made as a statement or as a question using upward rhythm of speech, "You never know how to interact with a stranger?"

You can identify your rhythm of speech by recording your speech to see how the song can change the meaning of the statement.

Rhythm is the song behind the language. The song is the reflection of mother tongue, slang or dialect. To know the rhythm, one can record his/her own speech to see whether there is mother tongue influence in the language.

Inflection is the High and Low extremes of Vocal Voice

A sudden modulation of vocal voice to an opposite extreme is inflection. Simply put, jumping between the two extreme sides of a piano, abruptly changing from low pitch to high pitch or vice versa. However, inflection doesn't restrict to pitch of sound alone. You can inflect the rate of speech, volume and tone too. In fact, comedians use inflection to bring laughter among the audience.

For example,

A sudden inflection from low volume to a high volume can alert the audience unexpectedly.
An abrupt change of rate of speech can bring humor to the speech.

Inflection is the variation or modulation of the voice. One can inflect the volume, tone, pitch and pace of the voice. Right inflection of voice can grab the interest of the audience to keep their attention even until the end of the presentation.

Volume is the Sound of Voice

During persuasion, speakers choose volume of their speech depending the size of the audience. Ideally, a lower volume is preferred when there is less number of audience; while a higher volume is used for larger audience. Inflection of volume of speech can grab the audiences' attention.

Choosing the right volume makes a big impact during the facilitation. Depending on the size of the audience's crowd, persuaders must appropriately decide whether a loud volume or a low volume is required. One rule of thumb is, the more the audience, the higher the volume.

Accent and Articulation

Accent

Speech accent could be unintentional or intentional. Unintentional accent could reveal mother tongue influence and exposes the geographical origin of a presenter. For example, a Chinese speaker presenting in English language with Chinese accent. Unintentional accent is not prosody. However, some speakers intentionally bring accent in their speech to grab the audience attention or to induce humor in the conversation. Intentional accent in speech is a prosody.

Articulation

Here, articulation hints pronunciation. During persuasion, Every persuader must work to ensure that the words are properly pronounced and articulated correctly. Slurring of words, swallowing sentences or incomplete phrases should be avoided to bring clarity of speech.

Timing is Pauses

Using right pauses is part of good timing. A pause can actually change the meaning of a statement. It is further divided into short and long pauses. During persuasion, a short pause is taken by the persuader so that the other party reflects and thinks about the idea. Short pauses are also used by the speaker so that the thoughts are comprehended and appreciated by the audience.
Additionally, long pauses are taken when there is a change in the topic.

Example:

"I am done with the benefits of the product. --long pause-- Now, let me explain some of the interesting features of this product.

Both short and long pauses can be used to make the audience reflect, comprehend and appreciate the ideas presented by the speaker.

Pauses are the number of breaks taken by the persuader during presentation. Pauses encourages participation and interaction between the persuader and the other party. Adding right pauses during a presentation is one of the vital soft skills.

Emotion is the Tone of Voice

Tone is the emotion behind the voice. Various human emotions include happy, sad, fatherly or rude to name a few. Persuaders should develop their soft skills by maintaining a polite, friendly, courteous and kind tone of voice as it greatly impacts the effectiveness during persuasion.

Example:

"I am happy" with a sad tone actually means, "I NOT happy". So, it is not what you say, but how you say it.

Tone of voice brings emotions and feelings during persuasion

Stress is Vital for Comprehension

Sometimes, stressing the right words, phrases or sentences during communication requires conscious effort. Audiences comprehend better when a speaker uses appropriate stress pattern during the presentation. In fact, the entire meaning could change if the stress is applied to different words. Here is an example:

-I didn't say he STOLE the money
-I didn't say HE stole the money gives two different meanings depending on the word stress.

Verbal persuasion is called the prosody of a language that includes vocal communication, which is a combination of linguistic and musical skills that gives meaning to the language through a blend of paralanguage skills such Inflection, rhythm and tone.

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