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Intonation is the variation of tone used when speaking. Intonation and Vocal stress are the two elements of (linguistic) prosody.

Many languages use pitch syntactically, for instance to convey surprise and irony or to change a sentence from a statement to a question. Such languages are called intonation languages. English is a well-known example. Some languages use intonation to convey meaning. Languages in which the syllables are contrasted by pitch are known as tonal languages. Thai is an example. An intermediate position is occupied by languages with a melodic accent, for instance Swedish.

Rising intonation means the of the voice goes up; falling intonation means that the pitch goes down. For example, northeastern American English has a rising intonation for questions, and a falling intonation for statements; the sound of an approaching car has a rising intonation, and a departing car has a falling intonation (see: Doppler effect).

The word intonation is also a synonym for musical tuning. If a musician has bad intonation, it means they play out of tune.

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