Definition of intonation in English:


Line breaks: in¦ton|ation
Pronunciation: /ɪntəˈneɪʃ(ə)n


[mass noun]
  • 2Accuracy of pitch in playing or singing, or on a stringed instrument such as a guitar: poor woodwind intonation at the opening
    More example sentences
    • Her voice is annoyingly reedy, with a fast vibrato and intonation slightly under pitch.
    • Such features as pitch or intonation, rhythm and tone are the first elements to be distinguishable.
    • Textural clarity requires rhythmic precision, knowing the important line at any point in the score, dead-on intonation, and the ability to sing lightly and incisively at the same time.
  • 3The opening phrase of a plainsong melody.



More example sentences
  • Because of this we weren't unduly concerned, but we did begin to notice that he intonates in the wrong places and some people have trouble understanding him.
  • Lyrical banalities such as ‘falling apart at the seams,’ ‘it's amazing,’ and ‘life's so hard’ clutter Smith's timeless themes, yet she is able to intonate even the most prosaic lines with a melodic hook that has me singing along.
  • ‘You don't wonder in the least bit,’ he said, intonating words in the phrase to make it more alluring and memorable, ‘if they're discussing Father?’


More example sentences
  • Prosody is ‘the rhythmic and intonational aspect of language’ and it can be a useful feature in language recognition and absolutely critical when the language is tonal like Chinese.
  • Many African and Asian languages depend on an intonational system much richer than those with Indo-European roots; for that reason, it is notoriously difficult for a European to learn, say, a modern Chinese dialect.
  • The president then switches to a few phrases ending with the intonational falls that are more normal in his speeches (audio clip).


early 17th century (in sense 3): from medieval Latin intonatio(n-), from intonare (see intone).

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