The Recognition of the most basic

 English tones and their meanings

1. The individual and combinational tones of English have relatively clear significations which are not at all precise. Their characters are chiefly definable in terms of the two features perceptible in every one of them of animation and emotiveness. Animation correlates with the position of the tone along the range of pitches produced by a speaker, the highest being the most animated. Additional animation is conveyed by pitch sustension or movement. Degree of pitch movement correlates with intensity of emotion felt by the speaker. Common metaphors may describe a person's mental state eg as 'moved', 'perturbed' or 'agitated' etc. The very word emotion embodies the same metaphor.
In a minor way, any degree of pitch movement arriving at the lowest pitch in a speaker's vocal range obviously carries a suggestion of finality, conclusiveness or completeness etc. Correspondingly, tones not of such a character automaticly suggest some at least slight degree of continuity.
2. One shd not be discouraged if, listening to people talk and trying to identify the tones they use, one finds it baffling. Ordinary speech is naturally constantly far from precisely articulated so it should be no surprise that its tones often perfectly appropriately reflect imprecise attitudes and emotions etc.

3. A tone may be defined as a pitch feature of a syllable which stands out.  Its most usual function is to accent (stress) a word. It’s inconvenient to be always using phrasal definitions (eg "a fall from a high to a low pitch") so we give each tone a brief name. Syllables which dont stand out are described as 'toneless'. For example in The 'cat 'sat on the `mat the word on and both occurrences of the word the do not stand out so they they may be described as 'toneless'; the other three words do relatively stand out, as regards their pitches, so they may be described as 'tonal' or  'tone-bearing'.

4. The Alt, sign / 'm /, ( /m/ standing for any syllable), is a high level tone, the only basic one which has no movement either up or down. A speaker who starts speaking with (especially a sustained) Alt could perfectly possibly be beginning to sing. Much, especially older, European singing proceeds largely in the form of sustained Alts. Any isolated word spoken on an Alt in conversational (ie non-remote) speech usually suggests the incompleteness of a speaker breaking off though wishing to continue. Alts only very occasionally end complete sentences of conversational speech or of reading aloud as opposed to calling out (remote speech) or singing. This word is pronounced /alt/. 

5. Alts often occur in sequences of chiefly twos or threes with the ones after the first regularly proceeding in downward steps. An isolated pair of Alts may well remind you of the warning sound from an ambulance or fire engine. Pairs of high Alts, with the first one higher and the second one slightly lower, are used as calls for attention such as Yoo-Hoo and the Australian Coo-ee. A sequence of three downstepping Alts is fairly unusual. It'll be what you hear if someone begins to sing Three Blind Mice.

6. The Climb / ´m / begins in the middle of the voice range and moves up towards the top of a speaker’s vocal range. On an isolated word it has an unmistakable interrogative ie questioning effect; within sentences it usually combines marked liveliness with a suggestion of incompleteness. A speaker of probably any language may request repetition by using a Climb on a sound that isn’t a true word eg [´m]. The Climb is probably the least used tone.

7. The Fall / `m / is the most frequent tone. It goes from the upper voice range down to the bottom range. It may sometimes move so quickly that you can only realise afterwards that you "heard" it by noticing that the next word is low. It conveys finality with liveliness.

8. The Rise /ˏm / is the only basic tone that begins low. It moves up to the middle of the speaker’s vocal range. It’s neutral in terms of liveliness but usually positively suggests continuation whether of its sentence or of the conversation. English-speakers may use successive Rises for fairly slow careful counting: eg ˏone, ˏtwo, ˏthree and so on.

 9. The Slump / ˎm / shares with the Fall its bottom-pitch-range ending and its semantic character of finality but without the greater liveliness of the Fall. It begins in the middle of the speaker’s voice range. It tends to be too lifeless-sounding to be the only tone of most sentences. It often occurs after Alts. Their high pitch prevents any uninterested, dull or gloomy effect.

10. Combinations of two or three tones may occur on single words (something unusual in other languages). The only one of these it’s really worth EFL users trying to adopt is the Fall-Rise / `ˏm /. Other “complex” tones include the Slump-Rise /ˎˏm/, the Climb-Fall / ˊˋm / and the Climb-Fall-Rise / ˊˋˏm/. These are much favoured by some English-speakers but by others not very much used. The EFL speaker needn’t bother to adopt them.

11. To recognise a tone, it’s valuable to consider what semantic effect (broken off, suggesting continuation or final) it has when heard (on its word) uttered in complete isolation.

12. When adding tone marks to text, from time to time the tone units (aka 'intonation phrases') may not be adequately conveyed by ordinary punctuation. If so, it's convenient to signal unit boundaries by inserting after each of them a vertical bar ie "|".