Table of ContentsSpectrograms: Frequency, etc.


The term suprasegmental refers to properties of an utterance that apply to groups of segments, rather than to individual segments. For example, stress is generally assigned to a syllable rather than to an individual sound. The three main suprasegmental features are stress, intonation, and tone.

Stress - Emphasis, conveyed through differences in pitch, loudness, or duration, that distinguishes a stress-bearing untion (often a syllable) from neighboring units. In some languages (not English), stress is contrastive (i.e. stress alone can distinguish between two otherwise identical words). An English word with initial stress is escapade. An English word with final stress is understand.

Intonation - THe pattern of rising and falling pitch over an utterance. In English, rising pitch is often used to indicate a question ("Mary likes John?"), while falling pitch is usually characteristic of a declarative sentence ("Mary likes John.").

Tone - The use of pitch on a sequence of sounds to convey lexical information. In English, tone is not contrastive, but it many languages it is. For example, in Mandarin Chinese, the same syllable ma has four different meanings, depending on which tone is used.