Phoneticians transcribe connected speech by marking how words and syllables go together and by following how the melody of language changes. Many phoneticians indicate pauses with special markings (such as [ǀ] for a short break, and [ǁ] for a longer break). You can show changes in with a drawn line called a pitch plot or by more sophisticated schemes, such as the tones and break indices (ToBI) system. Here are some important terms to know when considering speech melody:

  • Compounding: When two words come together to form a new meaning (such as "light" and "house" becoming "lighthouse." In such a case, more stress is given to the first than the second part.

  • Focus: Also known as emphatic stress. When stress is used to highlight part of a phrase or sentence.

  • Juncture: How words and syllables are connected in language.

  • Intonational phrase: Also known as a tonic unit, tonic phrase, or tone group. Pattern of pitch changes that matches up in a meaningful way with a part of a sentence.

  • Lexical stress: When stress plays a word-specific role in language, such as in English where you can't put stress on the wrong "syllable."

  • Sentence-level intonation: The use of spoken pitch to change the meaning of a sentence or phrase. For example, an English statement usually has falling pitch (high to low), while a yes/no question has a rising pitch (low to high).

  • Stress: Relative emphasis given to certain syllables. In English, a stressed syllable is louder, longer, and higher in sound.

  • Syllable: Unit of spoken language consisting of a single uninterrupted sound formed by a vowel, diphthong, or syllabic consonant, with optional sounds before or after it.

  • Tonic syllable: An important concept for many theories of prosody, the syllable that carries the most pitch changes in an intonational phrase.

  • ToBi: Tone and break indices. A set of conventions used for working with speech prosody. Although originally designed for English, ToBI is now adapted to work with a few other languages.