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Intonation, connected speech & phrasing | Simon Sinek Speech Analysis

When I first saw Simon Sinek’s answer to ‘the Millennial Question’,
I was intrigued.
Not only that the things he said were profound and insightful,
But also the WAY he spoke was engaging, easy to understand and powerful.

I thought that the best way for me to illustrate all the things I always talk about
like intonation, rhythm, connected speech, and phrasing
is to take great speakers that touch me deeply
and show how all of those things come together when they speak.


Hey guys, it’s Hadar, and this is the Accent’s Way. And welcome to another Intonation and Speech analysis.

The purpose of this video is to help you understand the melody patterns, the rhythm, the phrasing… connected speech and intonation in general, of American English.

And to do that I have chosen an interview of Simon Sinek who discusses “The Millenial Question”. This is a really interesting interview and it’s a 15 minute long video, so I’m not gonna analyze the entire interview or the entire answer. But I highly recommend you to watch it because it’s very interesting and insightful, so I’ll post a link to it in the description below.

Let’s begin at the beginning.
I have yet to give a speech or have a meeting where somebody doesn’t ask me “The Millenial Question”.
So he starts slow. ‘I have yet to give a speech or have a meeting…’ Three parts.
“I have yet”. Everything’s connected here, ‘I-have-yet’.

And next chunk is “to give a speech” “to give a speech”. It sounds like it’s one word, everything’s connected – ‘t’giva-speech’, ‘speech’ is a little higher than the rest.
“or have a meeting” “or have a meeting”. And then it goes really really fast, although ‘meeting’ is a little longer than everything else, because stressed words are longer: ‘or have a meeting’, ‘to give a speech or have a meeting’.
So the words that stick out are the stressed words, in this case ‘speech’, ‘meeting’.

“Where somebody doesn’t ask me…”
‘Where somebody doesn’t ask me’ ‘Where somebody doesn’t ask me’. A lot of sounds in a very short period of time. ‘Where somebody doesn’t ask me’. It’s even hard for me. ‘Where somebody doesn’t ask me’.
The secret here… Actually, there are two secrets. One: reductions. So you need to reduce some of the sounds, you cannot pronounce all vowels.
And the second secret is to go very soft on your consonants. To pronounce those consonants very softly. So you’ll be able to transition from one sound to another rather quickly.
‘where-s’mbdy-doesn-ask-me’ ‘where-s’mbdy-doesn-ask-me’. Almost like you’re mumbling it, like you don’t want someone to understand you. ‘where-s’mbdy-doesn-ask-me’ ‘where-s’mbdy-doesn-ask-me’.
“I have yet to give a speech or have a meeting where somebody doesn’t ask me”, ‘where somebody doesn’t ask me’. And again, this is a chunk, everything’s connected within the chunk.

“Ask me The Millennial Question”.
‘The Millennial Question’. ‘ta-Da!’, right?
So now it creates expectation. Ooh, what is the Millennial Question? Most of the people don’t know, because he has the answer. So he sets it up in a way that makes it more interesting for us to listen to.

“Apparently, Millennials…”
‘Apparently, Millennials’ ‘Apparently, Millennials’ ‘Apparently, Millennials’. And remember that in English every syllable has a different note. ‘Apparently, Millennials’, right. It’s very musical when you break it down.

“Apparently Millennials as a generation, which is a group of people…”
‘Apparently Millennials as a generation, which is a group of people’. ‘aza geneRAtion, whi-chi-za-group’uh’people’. ‘group’uh-people’, so a lot of reductions here.
‘generation’, ‘group of people’. We hear the words that stick out. ‘generation’, ‘group of people’

“…which is a group of people who were born approximately 1984 and after…”
So look how he breaks it down. Right, this helps us understand connected speech a bit more and phrasing, because not every word is separate. So he connects words together but not everything is connected together.
First of all, that’s the way he thinks right, in chunks. Although he must have answered this question a gazillion times already, which makes me think that these phrasings are a tactic to show as if he’s just coming up with the answer right now.
Okay, that’s a way to make it sound more natural when you take pauses because that’s how people actually think. Which is a nice… reminder… that pauses and… moments to hesitate and to come up with the right… word… are okay and super natural. It doesn’t make you bad in English. Okay, just remember that. Anyway, let’s go back.

“(uhmm… uhh) are tough to manage…”
‘are tough to manage’. ‘uhmm… uhh’, thinking of the word, okay. Again, filler words are something that makes a speech a little more natural and people always use it when they speak. And he’s a renowned speaker so him using ‘uhh…uhmm’ just proves to us that it’s a natural way of speaking, especially in an interview.

“And they’re accused of being entitled…”
‘And they’re accused of being entitled’. See how he punches those words: ‘accused of being entitled’. Those words that stick out are longer, higher in pitch, but the consonants are longer, the consonants are stronger, whereas everything else is kind of reduced. ‘they’re-accused’v-being-entitled’.
Someone who is entitled is someone that thinks that they deserve things. They deserve many things, that they don’t have to work hard for them.

“And narcissistic and self-interested…”
‘and narcissistic and self-interested’. Right. So again, every word is sort of separate, but every word has a different note as well. ‘narcissistic and self-interested’.

“…unfocused, lazy….”
‘unfocused, lazy’. Right. Again, it’s not ‘narcissistic’-‘entitled’-‘unfocused’-‘lazy’. Every word has a different note it creates ‘interest’, ‘engagement’, ‘suspense’ – like I’m doing right now.

“But entitled is the big one…”
‘but entitled is the big one’ ‘but entitled is the big one’. Right, so he’s kind of closing this part, ‘but entitled is the big one’.
‘I told you I can’t do that’. ‘I don’t know what you mean’. ‘I think I’m gonna go’. Right. This pattern is a pattern of closure. Right, that I have just ended what I was saying or what we were discussing. ‘but entitled is the big one’. Let’s get forward a bit.

“So you have an entire generation growing up with lower self-esteem than previous generations…”
‘so you have an entire generation’, ‘so you have’ ‘so you have’ ‘so you have’. So you reduce this part.
‘entire generation’. You slow down here ‘generation’ is the stress word.
‘so you have an entire generation growing up with lower self-esteem’. ‘growing up with lower self-esteem’. ‘growing-up-with-lower-self-esteem’, everything’s connected here. And if it’s hard say it slowly a few times – ‘growing up with lower self-esteem’. He speaks really fast those parts. Those parts are a little less important. ‘growing up with lower self-esteem’.

“…lower self-esteem than previous generations, right…”
‘than previous generations’ ‘than previous generations’. So he’s closing this part and then he says ‘right?’. He’s not really asking for permission or acceptance, but this is a way of speech. This is just to show that he is engaging with the other person, right?

“…through no fault of their own, trough no fault of their own…”
‘through no fault of their own’ ‘through no fault of their own’. ‘fault’. ‘fault’ is the word that sticks out. It’s longer and higher in pitch: ‘through no fault’, ‘no’ is also high in pitch. ‘through no fault of their own’, ‘of their own’.
And then he drops down. He repeats it twice for emphasis. ‘through no fault of their own’ ‘through no fault of their own’.

“Right? They were dealt a bad hand…”
‘Right? They were dealt a bad hand’, ‘a bad hand’. He slows down. He separates the words to emphasize it. ‘They were dealt a bad hand’. Right?
And again that ‘right’, it’s a filler word. It’s a filler word as if he’s asking for permission, but he’s not really, right. Right?

“Now let’s add in technology”
‘let’s add in technology’ ‘let’s add in technology’. ‘let’s add in‘, right, ‘a’ as in cat. ‘let’s add in’, and we connect the words together, so it’s not ‘add in’ but ‘add-in technology’.
So he slows down, again, on the stressed words, ‘technology’. Notice that every syllable has a different note. ‘let’s add in technology’.

“We know that engagement with social media”
‘we know’ – a new idea starts higher in pitch at the beginning of the sentence, especially if the words are stressed. ‘we know that engagement with social media’. ‘that engagement with social media’.
Again, make your consonants very soft so you’ll be able to say these words a little faster than you’re used to. ‘we know that engagement with social media’.

“…and our cell phones…”
‘and our cell phones’. And again, slowing down for the sake of emphasis, ‘and our cell phones’.
‘and our cell phones’ ‘and our cell phones’. ‘an-dar-cell-phones’. ‘cell phone’ is a set phrase whose ‘cell’ is higher in pitch.

“…releases a chemical called dopamine…”
‘releases a chemical called dopamine’. Now again, let’s look at how he phrases this thing.
‘We know that engagement with social media’ – one chunk. ‘and our cell phones’ – another chunk. ‘releases a chemical called dopamine’.
Right, so within each chunk, everything’s connected, within each chunk there is one word that sticks out the most but not all the chunks are connected. He takes small pauses in between which helps him deliver his message. And also that’s the way he thinks, right, in chunks. ‘releases a chemical called dopamine’.

“…that’s why when you get a text, it feels good…”
‘that’s why when you get a text’ – setting it up – ‘it feels good’, the punchline. ‘it feels good’. And every word is stressed.

“…it’s as if they’re standing at the foot of a mountain…”
‘it’s as if they’re standing at the foot of a mountain’. ‘i-tsa-zif’ ‘i-tsa-zif’ ‘i-tsa-zif’, reduced, ‘i-tsa-zif’.
‘i-tsa-zif-ther-standing’. ‘standing’ is stressed, higher in pitch.
‘at-th-foot’ ‘at-th-foot’ ‘at-th-foot’. Again, two reductions here: ‘at-th’ ‘at-th’.
‘foot’ is not reduced. ‘foot’ ‘foot’ – ‘cook’ ‘look’ ‘book’.
‘of a mountain’. ‘ava’ ‘ava’ ‘ava’, ‘ava-mountain’. ‘mountain’, right. It’s like a nasal ‘t’ or just a glottal stop – ‘mountain’.
‘i-tsa-zif-ther-standing at-th-foot-ava-mountain’.

“…and they have this abstract concept called impact that they want to have in the world…”
‘That they want to have in the world’ ‘That they want to have in the world’. ‘Th’t-they’ ‘Th’t-they’ ‘Th’t-they’ – reduced. ‘wanna’ ‘wanna’ ‘wanna’ – reduced.
‘Th’t-they-wanna’, ‘Th’t-they-wanna-HAVE’- slower, higher in pitch.
‘Th’t-they-wanna-HAVE in the world’. ‘in-th’world’ is lower in pitch, but slower because these are content words. ‘Th’t-they-wanna-HAVE in-th’world’.

“…which is the summit…”
‘which is the summit’. ‘whi-chiz-th’ ‘whi-chiz-th’ ‘whi-chiz-th’. ‘whi-chiz-th’SUMMIT’. ‘SUMMIT’ – higher in pitch, stressed word.

“…what they don’t see is the mountain…”
‘what they don’t see is the mountain’. ‘what they don’t see’, ‘Wh’t-they’ ‘Wh’t-they’‘Wh’t-they’ – again, reduced, fast, effortless. ‘don’t see’ – slower, full of purpose. ‘don’t-see’. ‘iz-th’ ‘iz-th’ ‘iz-th’ – reduced.
‘Wh’t-they-don’t-see iz-th’mountain’. So technically what you’re hearing is ‘don’t see mountain’. And still you understand what my message is just by listening to those words.
Everything else makes sense, create all the tenses, the connections between the words, but they’re not as important. So invest less energy in them. Say them softer, soften the consonants, reduce the vowels there.
‘Wh’t-they-don’t-see iz-th’mountain’.

“…I don’t care if you go up the mountain quickly or slowly, but there’s still a mountain…”
‘I don’t care if you go up the mountain quickly or slowly, but there’s still a mountain’. Notice those breaks, you take a mini pause and then you enter, with the next sentence, with the idea. Right, that’s the rhythm.

So, to conclude, what we’ve learned here or what we saw again. The difference between the important and the less important, the high and the low, the long and the short. The effortful and the effortless. Okay.
The words that you want to go for it, to punch and the words that you kind of want to reduce, but you have to have them, so you’re gonna say them, but you’re not gonna push them, or you’re not gonna emphasize them. Okay.
Repetition helps with emphasizing your point, slowing down helps with emphasizing your point. Taking breaks is essential because that’s how we think, that’s what makes it sound natural. ‘hums’ and ‘uhhm and ‘well’ are also important, not too many of them. But they’re part of speech and that’s okay to have them.
So, you know me, I always bring you back to English because that’s what I’m here for. And a lot of people tell me, you know, “I want to be a fluent speaker”. “I want to have a perfect American accent”. “I can’t believe I’m still making mistakes”. “I get stuck in English”.
Great! You want to be up there – on the summit. But, what about the journey? What about climbing up the mountain? You have to do it. You can’t just expect to be up there without going through the journey.
Without climbing up and suffering through it, and feeling the difficulty and the struggle, but also the accomplishment and the empowerment. And feeling that every time you’re a little higher on your way to the top.
It can be fun. It can be fulfilling. It’s all about how you approach it, and understanding that there is a journey to take, and that it takes time. It can be long or short, but it takes time, there’s still a mountain.

Okay, that’s it. Let me know in the comments below, what do you think about the Millennial Question. And if anything that he said in the video resonated with you.
And of course, what other elements of speech do you struggle with? Let me know.

Thank you so much for watching! Please share this video with your friends if you liked it.
And have a wonderful week and I’ll see you next week, in the next video. Bye.

If you want to learn more about public speaking, Intonation and pronunciation, I invite you to check out my transformational online program New Sound.

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