If you’ve been to a diner in New York City, you may have heard a variation of the following question:
Since this question is spoken with rising pitch, it becomes a yes/no, or open-choice, question, so a response should be “yes” (clarifying whether the person wants either coffee or tea) or “no.” However, if the speaker wants to offer a choice between two things, the first thing will have rising pitch, and the second thing will have falling pitch. Listen to the same question again:
This question could possibly be asked if coffee or tea is included in the meal. Therefore, the listener is expected to choose between coffee or tea, which makes this a closed-choice question.
Listen to and pronounce the following questions. Then, decide if each one is an open-choice or closed-choice question.
Do you think they’ll come today or tomorrow?
Are desktops or laptops needed for our workshop?
Are you vegan or vegetarian?
Do I need to take this class this fall or spring?
Should she buy a new car or save for a house?
Will revenue go up or stay stable?
What do you do now?
First, record your own pronunciation of the questions above, ensuring that your rising and falling pitch is noticeable and accurate. Then, brainstorm other open-choice and closed-choice questions that you might encounter at school, work, or home, and practice pronouncing them.
Second, come see a speech consultant to practice your list of questions. The speech consultant can monitor your intonation, and together, you can make a more comprehensive list of open-choice and closed-choice questions to practice.