Intonational Meaning in Ghanaian English Discourse

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


Literature and Languages

Date of Award

Spring 2015


This study examines the role of intonation in Ghanaian English discourse. Audiotaped data of naturally occurring conversations were collected from 200 speakers of Ghanaian English. The data were subjected to auditory and acoustic analyses. Patterns of intonation and stress were interpreted using Brazil's (1985, 1997) model of discourse intonation. Results of the analysis of tone unit and prominence selection, tone choice, key and termination in monologues and dialogues show that speakers of Ghanaian English use intonation cues similarly to what might be expected in inner circle Englishes (i.e. British, American or Canadian). Areas of similarity include the use of tone choice to project new and old information and key and termination choices to structure larger units of discourse to create pitch sequences, and also to manage turns and topics in dialogues. Some intonational differences were detected, however, particularly in the area of falling tone choices and pitch matching between interlocutors. Specifically, speakers used falling tones to indicate emphasis or reiterate important information, which are not functions highlighted in Brazil's framework. Also, speakers used pitch matching in two different ways. In some instances, they consistently used pitch matching to cue agreement and pitch mismatch to cue disagreement, similar to the systems proposed in the model. In other cases, the role of pitch (mis)matching was less clear. While most of the intonational patterns look similar to other outer circle English varieties, this study concludes that Ghanaians exhibit a prosodic composition which can be considered unique to Ghanaian English.


Lucy Pickering

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature | Language Interpretation and Translation