in touch with real speech
In touch with real speech


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The notation of DI began (in the 1970s) as a type-writer friendly notation using UPPER CASE letters for prominent syllables, lower-case letters for non-prominent syllables, underlining for the tonic syllable, and lines up or down for high and low key and termination. Symbols for the tones were given in letter form, with ‘p’ for proclaiming (falling) tones, and ‘r’ for referring (rising) tones. After the advent of the word-processor, more use was made of arrows. The example below (from Chapter 7 of the British/Irish version of Streaming Speech) shows an example of early 21st century practice:

The words 'that' 'way' and 'well' are in upper-case letters, showing that they are prominent, the other words are non-prominent. There is a falling (proclaiming) tone which starts on 'well' and continues over the last three words 'on the course'. The double-slash symbols denote a tone-unit boundary. Key and termination choices are mid; if they were low or high, the prominent syllables would be preceded by up or down arrows.

American English

DI is useful for transcription of all accents of English - an example of American English is given below.


Transcribers are trained through a process of standardisation with recordings and with other transcribers. There is a simple notation to learn: but the main task of is learning to relate the categories of DI to the particular characteristics of the recordings being transcribed. Some of these issues are mentioned in the first five chapters of Phonology for Listening. If you are interested in learning to become a transcriber, contact Richard Cauldwell.