— Well, how's your set going?
— Oh, not too badly, though I've had some difficulty lately in getting good reception from the more distant stations.
— Yes, I've noticed quite a lot of interference on my own set too. I suppose it's the weather. Of course, mine's rather an old-fashioned model compared to yours. By the way, did you hear "Carmen" the other night?
— Yes, I did. Personally, I'm not very keen on opera, but my wife is, and "Carmen" happens to be one of her favourites, so I didn't like to suggest switching to another station. Fortunately for me, it was a translated version. I'm not good at languages, you know.
— What kind of programme do you like best then?
— Oh, I like a straight play... I find some of the talks very interesting too, and I never miss the sporting events. I got most excited over the international rugger match last Saturday... You listen to the English stations a good deal, don't you?
— Yes, I like their programmes very much and I understand nearly everything. With all the practice in ear-training I've had, English pronunciation and intonation hold no terrors for me now, and if a speaker uses a word I'm not familiar with, the context usually gives' the clue to the meaning.
— You're lucky, you know English. I wish I had your gift for languages.
— Well, I don't think I should call it a gift. Anyone who's prepared to take a little trouble can do the same. Where there's a will there's a way, you know!
A.: How do you think we ought to start?
В.: My idea is this. Suppose we just say a few ordinary sentences. After that we'll go back again and notice how we've said them, and what sort of tunes we've used, and then we'll try to make some clear and general rule about them.
A.: Yes, that's a good idea. Now the first thing I said was this: How do you think we ought to start? I wonder if the listeners can hear the tune? How do you think we ought to start?
В.: You see, listeners, that sentence starts on a fairly high note and it continues on that same note until it reaches the word 'ought'. Just listen.
How — How do you think we — How do you think we ought to start? Like that, you see. The word 'ought’ is said on a slightly lower note, and the sentence continues on that lower note until it gets to the very last syllable.
A.: 'How do you think we ought to start?' 'How do you think we ought to start?'
В.: Again, you see, the word 'start' is on a slightly lower note and not only that, it falls as you say it: 'start — start'.
A.: Yes, it does. It falls right down to the bottom of my voice, listen: 'How do you think we ought to start? How do you think we ought to start?'
В.: So the sentence is really in three parts, corresponding to the number of stressed syllables: 'how' followed by four weak syllables; then 'ought' followed by one weak syllable, and lastly 'start', followed by nothing at all.
A: How do you think we — ought to — start?
В.: We can make a good rule out of that. In sentences like this, the first stressed syllable and any weak, or unstressed syllables following it, are said on a fairly high note; the second stressed syllable, and any more weak syllables after that, are said on a slightly lower note, and the same with the third, and the fourth, and so on, until you come to the last stressed syllable of all, which not only begins on a lower note than the previous one, but also falls right down until it can scarcely be heard at all. Well, now we must go back to the beginning, and see if our rule works for some of our other sentences.
(From "A Course of English Intonation by J. D. O'Connor)