Plenary session by Jane Setter

This plenary talk looks at intonation in English language teaching.

About the session

Where angels fear to tread: intonation in English language teaching

Intonation is one of the earliest acquired aspects of speech; the cry melodies of infants are influenced by the intonation of their mothers, and very small toddlers are able to use intonation to indicate turn-taking patterns in play conversations before they can form words. It plays a vital role in successful communication in English, as it does in other languages. If this is true, why is intonation neglected in English language pronunciation teaching, and how can it be taught effectively? This presentation takes the audience into the seldom-navigated region of intonation in English language teaching, focusing on the role of three main elements: tonality, tonicity and tone. Drawing on material from a number of different sources, we explore the role of intonation in English, and look at which elements are teachable, which are learnable, what resources are available to the teacher and the learner, and how intonation might be approached in the English language classroom and as a self-access learning activity. Expect a multimedia, audience participation experience.

About the speaker

Jane Setter is Professor of Phonetics at the University of Reading, UK, Secretary of the British Association of Academic Phoneticians, and a Senior Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy, which is a mark of teaching excellence. She has taught in Japan, Hong Kong and Germany as well as the UK, and has published on English pronunciation, aspects of Hong Kong and Singapore English phonology, and intonation among children with speech and language deficits. She is probably best known as co-editor of Daniel Jones's Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary (CUP: 18th edition, 2011), which is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2017. She is also a regular contributor to University College London's annual Summer Course in English Phonetics, and – in her spare time – a rock singer. You can find her on YouTube, follow her on Twitter (@JaneSetter), or read her blog (

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