Social Proof

What are prosodic units?

Speechify is the #1 audio reader in the world. Get through books, docs, articles, PDFs, emails - anything you read - faster.
Gwyneth Paltrow
English Female Voice
Snoop Dogg
English Male Voice
English Male Voice
Mr. Beast
English Male Voice
Try for free

Featured In

Wall Street JournalForbesOCBSTimeThe New York Times
Listen to this article with Speechify!

What are prosodic units? Learn about prosodic units in language and how they play a crucial role in communication and speech synthesis.

Linguistics is a complex science examining language and its use to communicate. One of the important aspects of linguistics is word stress and prosody, which is the study of the rhythm, intonation, and stress in spoken language. Understanding prosodic units is crucial to making modern text to speech technology sound natural.

By learning about the different levels of prosodic hierarchy and prosody's role in speech, you can better understand how language is produced and interpreted in online communication.

Prosodic units explained

Prosodic units, or prosodic words, are a crucial part of linguistics, dealing with the patterns of intonation, stress, and rhythm in spoken language. Prosodic units are typically composed of groups of syllables but can also be grammatical units such as intonational phrases, intonation units, and phonological phrases.

While they don't always match up with grammar, they're important for understanding how the brain processes speech. Prosodic phonology is particularly interesting for those interested in speech production and articulation in conversation but not as much for those who focus on the formal structure of language.

Prosodic units are identified by their phonetic cues, such as pitch contour and breathing patterns.

A larger unit called a declination unit can have several shorter contours with a gradual decline in pitch and tempo. The last contour has final prosody, while the others have continuing prosody, and pitch and tempo reset at the boundaries between declination units.

During conversations, we usually don't include much information in each prosodic unit. Instead, we typically include only one activation word, such as a noun.

In some cases, we may use filler words like "um" or "well" instead of actual words. This is because the human brain has limitations on how much information it can process at a time. Linguists believe that speech is structured into prosodic units to help others comprehend what we're saying.

Why prosody matters?

Prosody, or the suprasegmental aspects of speech, encompasses the melody, rhythm, and intonation of language. It plays a crucial role in conveying meaning and communicating emotions and therefore is essential for authentic human speech and sharing information.

Prosody helps organize speech into meaningful units. These units, such as intonational phrases or intonation units, are defined by prosodic boundaries and carry important information about the syntactic and semantic structure of a sentence.

Prosodic units often do not correspond to grammatical units, such as phrases or clauses, highlighting the importance of prosody for understanding speech beyond just the words themselves.

Another reason prosody matters is that it helps convey emotions and attitudes and distinguish between different types of speech acts, such as questions, statements, and commands.

Prosody also plays a crucial role in distinguishing between words and phrases that are otherwise identical in their phonemes and articulation, such as distinguishing between "record" as a verb or a noun based on the stress of the second syllable.

Prosody is studied within the field of prosodic phonology, which investigates the hierarchical structure of prosodic units. The study also encompasses various prosodic features that can occur within them, such as pitch accents, tonal patterns, and stress patterns.

Understanding these prosodic features can aid in the transcription and labeling of speech and the analysis of speech production and perception.

Prosodic units in speech synthesis

In speech synthesis, prosodic units play a critical role in making the resulting speech sound natural and intelligible. Text to speech synthesis involves the use of analyzing the input text's syntax to deduce proper pronunciation and prosody from the input text.

During this analysis, prosodic units that involve sentences, clauses, and phrases are identified.

The front end of a TTS system is responsible for this analysis, which also includes text processing and phonetic analysis. In contrast, the back end of the TTS system transforms the symbolic representation of language into audible sounds. It uses techniques such as articulatory synthesis, HMM-based synthesis, formant synthesis, and concatenative synthesis.

The front end of a TTS system is also accountable for assigning phonetic transcriptions to each word, converting raw text into written-out words, and marking the text into prosodic constituents, including the prosodic contour. Amplitude, speaking rate, and proper intonation for every phoneme represented in the transcription are determined by prosodic analysis.

Hear the most advanced text to speech prosody with Speechify

Introducing Speechify - the most advanced text to speech service that reads any text aloud while sounding just like a real person. With Speechify, you can listen to your favorite articles, webpages, and even emails, all without straining your eyes or getting tired.

Here's how Speechify works:

It uses advanced technology to analyze the syntactic, semantic, and lexical aspects of the text and correlates them with the appropriate prosodic structure.

In simpler terms, Speechify understands the grammar and meaning of the text and uses that understanding to create natural-sounding speech.

Speechify's online platform breaks down the text into smaller units, such as intonational phrases, intonation units, phonological phrases, and prosodic boundaries, which allows it to produce lifelike speech.

The platform ensures that you'll hear every comma, pitch reset, and stressed syllable, whether you're listening to a document or an email in English or any of the other 15 available languages. This allows you to grasp the intended meaning of the text thoroughly.

Ready to give it a try?Visit the Speechify website, paste any text, and let the technology do the rest. You'll be amazed at how easy and natural-sounding it is. Say goodbye to reading fatigue and hello to the pleasure of listening to your favorite texts with Speechify!


What are prosodic syllables?

Prosodic syllables are spoken language units determined by the rhythm and intonation patterns of speech.

What are prosodic parts of speech?

Prosodic features are not specific parts of speech but rather properties of spoken language that can be applied to any part of speech. Prosody refers to the patterns of stress, intonation, and rhythm in speech, which are used to convey meaning and convey emotions.

What is the difference between accent and intonation?

In speaking, intonation refers to the upward and downward movement of the voice. In contrast, accent pertains to a unique style of pronunciation linked to a specific region, social group, or other factors.

What is the difference between a syllable and a syllabic?

Most syllables contain a vowel sound, but certain consonants can function as syllabic sounds. They can form a syllable or beat within a word independently without requiring a vowel sound.

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.