Welcome to the Portuguese ToBI | about ToBI
About the Model

What is the ToBI?

Language is much more than words. There is a level of linguistic representation in which the acoustic-phonetic properties of the utterances we produce or understand varies independently of the words. This level comprises a variety of phenomena, in particular intonation (or the melody of speech), prosodic phrasing (or the chunking of speech into units of different sizes), and prominence (or the highlighting of relevant information). These phenomena are part of the prosody of language, and they can be used to convey meaning.

Intonation has been defined as the structured variation in phonetic features, primarily pitch, to express phrase-level meanings (Gussenhoven 2007, Ladd 2008). The roles played by intonation in language have long been described in terms of three main functions, which match the description above (e.g. Halliday 1967): demarcation, that is the chunking or phrasing of the speech stream; highlighting, that is the placement of prominence within an utterance; and the distinction between utterance types, such as statements and questions. Grammaticalizations of all or some of these functions may be found in different languages, with different realizations, and define the language-specific phonology of intonation (see Frota & Moraes in press).

A ToBI system is a system for the transcription of the intonational and prosodic grammar of a given language. Many such systems have been developed for different languages, adopting a similar set of general conventions for the transcription of prosody (see section on conventions). Importantly, the transcription of intonation in a given language reflects “the understanding of the intonational and prosodic grammar of the language” (Beckman, Hirschberg & Shattuck-Hufnagel 2005: 12). In other words, a transcription is an analysis of the intonation system of the language under study (as explained in Frota 2015). One of the primary goals of such an analysis “should be to discover what the significant categories are for the variety or language in question” (Jun & Fletcher 2014: 506).

P-ToBI is thus a system for the transcription of the intonational and prosodic grammar of Portuguese. The system was developed within the autosegmental-metrical model of intonational phonology (see section on Course). Since it used a large empirical database comprising several European and Brazilian varieties (and also a few data on African varieties), it covers language-specific and variety-specific patterns that are part of the phonology of the language/variety. The present P-ToBI represents the current state of our knowledge of the intonational and prosodic grammar of Portuguese. As in most if not all scientific fields, such knowledge waits revision and will evolve with future contributions as more varieties are being analyzed and as the intonational structure of the language is further understood under the challenges of new data.

Sources for P-ToBI and References:

Beckman, M. E., J. Hirschberg & S. Shattuck-Hufnagel. 2005. The original ToBI system and the evolution of the ToBI framework. In Sun-Ah Jun (ed.) Prosodic Typology - The Phonology of Intonation and Phrasing. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Frota, S. 2015 (submitted). Surface and Structure: Transcribing intonation within and across languages. Laboratory Phonology.
Frota, S. & J. Moraes. in press. Intonation of European and Brazilian Portuguese. In W. L. Wetzels, S. Menuzzi & J. Costa (eds.). The Handbook of Portuguese Linguistics. Malden: Willey-Blackwell.
Frota, S. 2014. The intonational phonology of European Portuguese. In Sun-Ah Jun (ed.) Prosodic Typology II. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 6-42.
Frota, S., M. Cruz, F. Fernandes-Svartman, G. Collischonn, A. Fonseca, C. Serra, P. Oliveira & M. Vigário. 2015. Intonational variation in Portuguese: European and Brazilian varieties. In S. Frota & P. Prieto (eds). Intonation in Romance. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 235-283. ISBN: 978-0-19-968533-2.
Gussenhoven, C. 2007. Intonation. In P. de Lacy (ed.) The Cambridge Handbook of Phonology. Cambridge University Press. 253- 280.
Jun, S. & J. Fletcher. 2014. Methodology of studying intonation: from data collection to data analysis. In S. Jun (ed.) Prosodic Typology II: The Phonology of Intonation and Phrasing. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Ladd, R. 1996[2008]. Intonational Phonology (2nd edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 370 pp. ISBN: 9780521678360.
Halliday, M. 1967. Intonation and Grammar in British English. The Hague: Mouton.