English Teaching & Learning

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 125–146 | Cite as

Using Pitch and Length Information to Assess Speech Prosody: a Parallel Approach

  • Hang ChanEmail author
Original Paper


Recent studies on pronunciation instruction underscore the effectiveness of using pitch variation contours to enhance language learners’ awareness of English intonation. Little is known of the situation in language production: Do learners adjust their pitch levels or lengthen or shorten a sound in order to vary their prosody? The current study posits that both pitch and length variations are involved in encoding speech prosody; it purports to quantify their relative importance by using Hincks’s (2005) Pitch Variation Quotient (PVQ) and a self-created length variation quotient (LVQ). The methods section introduces four quantitative methods, using data from the participants’ verbal speech as well as the training material (a song) to compare pitch and length behaviours. Results from three of the four methods support that the learners, after undergoing a period of training (a singing class), improved their length variation but not their pitch variation over a reading task. The fourth method (a mixed between-within ANOVA) also confirms the learners’ general prosodic improvement, but the test raises curious points about the complex relationship between pitch and length that are worth further consideration by pronunciation assessors. Overall, this study provides initial evidence of the importance of length variation for assessing prosodic change.


Pitch Length Variation quotients Prosodic assessment 



發音教學的最新研究表明, 運用聲調變化輪廓 (Pitch Variation Contours) 能有效增加語言學習 者對英語語調 (intonation) 的意識。然而, 我們對聲調變化在發音上的狀況卻不太了解 : 語言 學習者究竟是否透過聲調高低, 或聲音的長短來改變其說話的韻律 (prosody)? 本項研究指出, 聲調高低和聲音長短兩者同時釐定出說話的韻律, 並試圖運用 Hincks (2005) 的聲調變化商數 (Pitch Variation Quotient (PVQ)), 以及一個自身制作的音長變化商數 (Length Variation Quotient (LVQ)), 來比較兩者的重要性。就此, 本文的方法欄目裏測試了四項計量方法; 它們透過運用 學習者的說話, 以及培訓材料 (一首歌), 來比較聲調和音長行為。當中三項計量方法表明, 在被培訓一段時間後 (一個歌唱課), 學習者於一個閱讀任務中, 能改善其音長變化, 卻不能 改善聲調變化。至於第四項方法, 以一種混合中間/裡面的變異數分析 (a between-within ANOVA), 雖然證實了學習者在韻律上的整體改善, 卻就其中引發對聲調和音長之間的種種複 雜關係, 仍待日後發音專家的繼續探索。大體而言, 本研究就音長變化對說話韻律的重要性, 提供了初步的證據。


聲調 音長 變化商數 韻律評估 



The author wishes to thank the anonmyous reviewers for their feedback, which has greatly improved the clarify of the paper. He also wishes to thank Mr. Roger Lo and other student helpers at HKBU for their assistance in the implementation of the treatment.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

42321_2018_17_MOESM1_ESM.docx (24 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 24 kb)


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Copyright information

© National Taiwan Normal University 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Education StudiesHong Kong Baptist UniversityKowloon TongHong Kong

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