This glossary of academic and technical terms relates to oral presentations, speech, and phonology.


Body Language

The conscious and unconscious use of the body to communicate messages to others. Body language is a type of non-verbal communication and differs from speech in that the message is holistic. During a presentation, the eyes, hands & arms, face and body posture are typically used to convey body language.


The study of how humans use time to convey messages. For example, during a presentation, a speaker may pause at certain points in order to convey a change in topic to the audience.

Fundamental Frequency (F0)

This is the lowest frequency of vibration of a speech sound. A speech sound will have many frequencies at different levels but the fundamental frequency is the one which chiefly determines the pitch. Typically the fundamental frequency for males is around 100Hz and for females 200 Hz but can vary significantly as we speak. The fundamental frequency is an acoustic property so can be measured objectively by a computer.


The use of the hands and arms (or sometimes the head) to signal an idea or convey a message to the audience.


Intonation is the rise and fall of the pitch of the voice over a stretch of speech.


The study of body language.


A stretch of speech by one person which is largely uninterrupted by those listening. There is no definition of the minimum length of a monologue but typically any speech over 2 minutes in length can be considered a monologue. Below this would be classified as an ‘extended turn’.


The perceptual correlate of frequency. Pitch is how humans perceive the frequency of speech and how it increases or decreases. It is a subjective measure.

The Steeple Gesture

A gesture using the hands and arms where the hands are held in front on the body with fingers touching pointing towards the audience.


Tone is similar to pitch and many commentators mix the two terms. You can think of tone as taking on a functional characteristic. For example, we might talk of a fall-rise tone on the end of an utterance to express surprise. Or we might say that he spoke in a ‘sarcastic tone’.

The Tone Unit (Intonation Unit)

A stretch of speech uttered under a single coherent intonation contour. It tends to be marked by cues such as a pause and a shift upward in overall pitch level at its beginning, and a lengthening of its final syllable.

DuBois et al (1992:17)


Du Bois, J. W., Cumming, S., Schuetze-Coburn, S. & Paolino, D. (1992), Discourse Transcription, Santa Barbara Papers in Linguistics, 4, Department of Linguistics, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA.