Chapter 12, Prosody, emphasizes on-time in spoken discourse for the most part. Variations in the on-time variables of loudness, articulation rate, and intonation, and in the off-time variable of pauses are precisely the elements absent in written texts. Such deletion in the written relative to the spoken makes the written barren in itself and lacking in potential for expressiveness; only the prosodic skill of an expressive reader can bring a written text to life by reading it aloud. The continuous variability of prosody defies transcription into discrete units, even though its variability in spoken discourse constitutes an important determinant of meaning. Researchers are gradually coming to terms with the necessity of considering all these factors of prosodic variability as simultaneously operative, if indeed they are to adequately assess the contribution of prosody to meaning in spontaneous spoken discourse.
Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary...