in touch with real speech
In touch with real speech

Key and Termination

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Speakers have the choice of placing prominent syllables low, mid, or high in relation to the previous prominence. These choices, on the onset prominence, comprise the system of key; on the tonic prominence, the system of termination. Low key adds an increment of meaning ‘This tone unit has an equative relationship with what has gone before’; high key adds ‘This tone unit has a denial of expectation relationship to what has preceeded’, or ‘This is discourse-initial’. Low termination adds an increment of meaning ‘This is discourse-final’; high termination adds ‘This is something I want you to give judgement on’. The example below (from Chapter 7 of Streaming Speech) shows high, mid, and low key on the word ‘NO’: