Today I had a lesson in school about steps and glides and I didn't understand it.

My first question what is about steps and glides. My second question is how do I know if the sentence ends with steps or glide? Here are some examples:

She is friendly and outgoing.

The sentence ends with outgoing; is it steps or glide and how do I know if it is steps or glides?

The second example:

He is quiet and shy.

The word ends with shy is it steps or glide and how do I know if it steps or glides?

  • Welcome to ELL :-). I have a hard time understanding your question - I take it it's about pronunciation (pitch) and not grammar? If so, please edit your question to remove grammar tags. Also, since this is a website about the language, try to put as much effort as you can in correct writing (capital "I" and first letter of the sentence e.g.). Thanks! – Lucky Jul 1 '15 at 21:45
  • Welcome to ELL! I had not encountered this terminology before, so I am grateful to you for teaching me. I suggest that now that you know about this phenomenon and know what to listen for, you will get more out of listening to recordings and trying to imitate them than you will out of trying to predict the pronunciation from close analysis of written texts. Pronunciation is mostly about training your muscles, not your mind! – StoneyB on hiatus Jul 1 '15 at 22:52
  • I would be interested to know how "steps and glide", whatever it is, can be a school matter, in which school subject does step and glide play a role? I have never heard of such a thing. – rogermue Jul 2 '15 at 6:33

The usual pattern at the end of declarative and imperative sentences (but not questions) is that

  1. the vowel of the last syllable with primary stress has a somewhat raised pitch, and
  2. the pitch must fall away from that point to a low pitch.

If the last stressed syllable is also the last syllable of the sentence, then the fall in pitch is achieved by a "glide"—the pitch falls continuously while the vowel is being pronounced.

But if the last stressed syllable is followed by one or more unstressed or less-stressed syllables, then the vowel of the last stressed syllable is spoken with a high pitch throughout, and the pitch drops—"steps down"—on the following syllables.

In most cases, therefore, you need only look at the last stressed word. If it has only one syllable, or its primary stress is on its last syllable, you speak the final syllable with a glide. If its primary stress is not on its last syllable, you speak the last syllable with a high pitch and step the pitch down for the syllables which follow it.

In the examples below the stressed syllable is written in CAPS; the pronunciation is indicated with for a glide and ↴_ for a step.

John's giving a TALK↘.

John's giving a LEC↴_ture.

John's giving an IN↴_terview. Note that the primary stress in the word interview falls on the first syllable. In this case there will actually be a small rise in pitch and glide down on -view, *but this is far less marked; the 'information' about the sentence coming to an end falls on the IN–ter- stepdown.

She is friendly and outGO↴_ing.

He is quiet and SHY↘.

Sometimes, however, the last word does not bear the final primary stress; the stress may move to an earlier word to signify a contrast. In this case, you step down from the stressed syllable. For instance.

I don't hate him, I hate YOU↘ has the ordinary stress, but
I don't love you, I HATE↴_you has the stress moved back.

And some words have different stresses with different meanings. Outgoing, for instance, has a primary stress on -GO- when it means "extroverted", but on OUT- when it means departing:

Marcia is the incoming president and John the OUT↴_going. Again, this will have a secondary glide on -ing, just like -view in my third example.

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