Unit 32. We Stuck a Picture of an Elephant.
Breaking speech into units
|As we speak, we group words into units depending on meaning and
emphasis. Listen and notice how this speaker divides up what he is
// I can rememher as children// we were rather naughty//
once// we stuck a picture// of an elephant// on the back
of Dad's coat// before he went out// of course he
couldn't see it// so he didn't know why everyone was
laughing at him// until he got to work// and took it off//
We call these speech units and mark them with //.
|Although there are no rules about how we divide speech into units,
some words are more likely to go together than others in order to help
make sense of the message. For example:
// we stuck a picture// of an elephant// is more likely than:
// we stuck a// picture of an elephant// or: // we stuck a picture of// an elephant//
// until he got to work// and took it off// is more likely than:
// until he got to// work and took it off// or: // until he got to work and took// it off//
|Sometimes the division of speech into units can make a diference in meaning:
(i) // we were rather naughty// once// we stuck a picture// of an elephant// ...
(ii) // we were rather naughty once// we stuck a picture// of an elephant// ...
In (i), 'once' goes with 'we stuck a picture of an elephant' and shows that the speaker is giving an example of the many times they were naughty. In (ii), 'once' goes with 'we were naughty' and suggests that we were naughty only one time.
(iii) // before he went out// of course he couldn't see it//
(iv) // before he went out of course// he couldn't see it//
In (iii), 'of course' goes with 'he couldn't see it' and means that it is obvious that he couldn't see it. In (iv), 'of course' goes with 'before he went out' and means that it is obvious that we stuck it on his coat before he went out.
|When we want to emphasise words in order to draw particular attention to them, we can put them into very short speech units:
// we were rather naughty// or for emphasis: // we were rather// naughty//
// on the back of Dad's coat// or for emphasis: // on the back// of Dad's// coat//
|Listen to the recording as many times as you need, and mark the boundaries between speech units with // in these extracts. The first one has been done for you.
Key.1 that's the main thing// and then// if you've got any questions afterwards// hopefully// we'll still have time// to go through a few of them// is that okay
2 she'd left// when she had a baby// and then// decided not to go back// although the job had been kept open for her
3 Tom dear// where's the advert// for this calculator// because I don't know the address// and I don't know// who I've got to make the cheque payable to
|Each of these extracts consists of three speech units. Put // in two
of the four spaces to show where you expect the speech unit boundaries
1 when I woke up // I didn't even realise // what time it was
2 of course // it's written in a language // that hardly anyone can understand
3 I was working late // because they want it done // as quickly as possible
4 because he was ill // I didn't expect him // to come to work
5 if I get some time // I'll be over on the weekend // to see you both
6 luckily // we haven't had any rain // since the day we arrived
7 it should never have been built // in my opinion // this new office building
Now listen and check your answers. Then read the extracts aloud. Put short breaks between speech units and link the words within speech units smoothly together without pauses.
|Give special emphasis to the words in bold by putting each one in a
short speech unit. Read the extracts aloud and then compare your
pronunciation with the recording.
1 I've never seen such an incredibly exciting football match.
2 She has always helped me and has never refused any request I've made.
3 After the day of climbing I was completely exhausted.
4 She looked much older - grey and lined - and she used a walking stick.
||Unit 31 Unit 32 Unit 33||