Merry Chrismas!

OK, welcome back ‘seasonal bloggers’ to ETC’s final blog of 2018. Let’s leave the tinsel and crackers for the moment and get back to the eye-brow flash. There are rumours that the Royal Family, pupils at expensive schools, politicians and statesmen were, I believe, taught not to move their eyebrows as it gave too much away.  Newscasters, when reading the news, were also taught not to do it, for risk of showing too much personal opinion on the story they were reading. However, since becoming more ‘celebrities’ than ‘mouth-pieces’, it’s not so obvious, although there are those who still don’t move their eye-brows. (Maybe this is just the botox!). So, have a restful holiday period and a stunning New Year! Hope you get what you want! (Raised eyebrows!) Homework for over the holiday period is to watch that box, the Queen’s Speech might be a good starting point! Keep your eyes on the eye-brows and have a flashing good time. It’s been an eventful 2018, which seems to have flown by! All being well, we’ll see you in 2019 with more blogging! J


Big Eyes

Last week we considered the eye-brow flash and its implications on communication. Well, the theory goes something like this. Between English native speakers, the eye-brow flash is believed to be an indication of the trustworthiness of the speaker. It’s a subliminal message that, if not received, could make the non-recipient feel uncomfortable. Obviously, you can disbelieve this, but the theory goes that, when a baby is born, it can’t focus very well and when passed to its mother, she makes ‘big eyes’ at it. (I was at the birth of all five of my children and can confirm this). The baby automatically recognises this as a sign of trust and friendship and the raised eyebrows idea is born. The theory goes on to say that if the baby doesn’t get this, then it can have serious communication repercussions in later life. Hmmmm.


I’ll give you the chance to think about this over the next seven days, while you’re doing your seasonal shopping, or visiting the exhibition of paintings at the BIC. J

The Eyebrow Flash

I bet you’ve been thinking about last week’s blog and the question tags, innit. Well, one of the most interesting features to accompany the body movements reinforcing the intonation patterns is known, very unscientifically, as ‘the eyebrow flash’. This is the automatic movement of the eyebrows used subconsciously to reinforce the main stress and the intonation; not just with tags! You can check it out by saying ‘good morning’ to someone and feel what happens to your eyebrows. They’ll probably rise automatically on the MOR of morning. If they don’t, well you’ll have to ask yourself why. J


Next week we’ll look at this intriguing idea a little more closely! Until then, byee. Oh, and if you’re reading this in Bournemouth, why not pop down to the BIC, (Bournemouth International Centre) where there is currently an exhibition of paintings by someone you might have heard of.


I trust you’ve been moving your body to reflect your intonation patterns over the last week, I know I have! Anyway, back to question tags. In recent years, with the growth of ‘Global English’, question tags have proved quite challenging, to the extent that many of them have been replaced by the ubiquitous ‘innit’.


Originally a short form of ‘isn’t it’, as in “It’s a nice day, innit.” It has become popular for everything. You know what I mean, innit. I come from Bournemouth, innit. So, will question tags as we know them disappear altogether? If so, will the intonation patterns remain the same? It’s an interesting thought, innit. Only this weekend a young native speaker in his early twenties said to me: “Oh, you work at ETC, innit”. I said yes, after all, a native speaker of the language can’t be ‘wrong’, innit? J Until next week, byeee.


I hope you’ve been practising your intonation patterns since last week’s blog. So, this week I’d like to return to the subject of question tags. Depending on which intonation pattern the speaker chooses, we can read a lot into what has been said. “You work at ETC, don’t you?” (Rising intonation, possibly a ‘real question’, implies you’re not really sure.) “You work at ETC, don’t you.” (Falling intonation; implies you know this really, and are just confirming it to yourself, or trying to make small-talk.) It’s not a ‘real question’ so I don’t use a question mark. “You work at ETC, do you.” (Rising intonation, implies there’s more to this than meets the eye!) And it’s not only the sound: if you watch native speakers, they’ll reinforce the intonation with the movement of some part of their body; head, arms, hands. Watch out for it this week. J


For the last couple of blogs we’ve been considering question tags and intonation. After last week’s blog one or two people asked about where to begin the rise and the fall, as not all languages have the same conventions.  Well, I have a pretty neat trick to help with this, so here’s what you do. With your mouth shut, produce the lowest nasal /m/ sound you can. You’ll probably find your chin touching your neck when you do this. J Then, produce the highest nasal /m/ sound you can: you’ll probably find your eyebrows raised and your eye-balls looking up to the sky!  What you’ve now done is established your ‘pitch range’.


Now, if you just relax and say /m/, that will be your mid-point. Every person in the world has a different voice, apparently, so everyone has a different mid-point. Once you’ve established your mid-point, the rising intonation starts just below it, passes through it and finishes above it. If you start on the mid-point and not below it, it sound a bit strange!


Falling intonation, on the other hand, begins above the mid-point, passes through it and finishes below. The rise-fall starts below, moves up and through then comes down again, finishing either at or slightly below the mid-point. Finally, the fall-rise starts above the mid-point, falls down through it and then rises again. Phew! I hope you’ll have time to practise this before next week! From everyone at ETC Bournemouth, until then, byee!


Happy Bonfire Night! Lots of fireworks around Charminster this weekend and one or two spent rockets in the back garden this morning! Now, talking of rockets, intonation; wheeeee! There are five intonation ‘tones’ in English, namely, ‘level’, ‘rising’, ‘falling’, ‘rising-falling’ and ‘falling-rising’. To find them, try this trick. Start by saying the nasal sound /m/. (To do this, you’ll have to keep your mouth shut, of course!) First, say it with a level tone, you’ll probably sound bored, or like you’re on the phone just letting the person at the other end know you’re still there! Then say /m/ with a rising tone, you’ll probably sound surprised. Next, say it with a falling tone, you’ll probably sound to be in agreement. Then with a rising-falling tone, you’ll probably sound impressed. Then, finally with a falling-rising tone; here you’ll probably sound like my kids used to sound when I told them it was bedtime or when I said there were no more fireworks left! From everyone at ETC, Bournemouth, hope your bonfire night goes with a bang…and a whizz… and a whoosh… and a crackle…and a sparkle…Until next week, /m/ J