Gilbert (2008)



NOTE:  Scroll about 1/3 of the way down to read the summary of the interventions.


SOURCE: Gilbert, J. (2008).  Teaching pronunciation using the prosody pyramid. New York: Cambridge University Press


Reviewer(s):  pmh


Date:  1.29.14


Overall Assigned Grade:  F  (Highest grade based on type of evidence is F.)


Level of Evidence:  F = Expert Opinion


Take Away:  This booklet highlights the Prosody Pyramid and its associated treatment procedures which are presented in Gilbert’s book Clear Speech (2005). Prosody Pyramid procedures were designed for second language learners; nevertheless, they have potential to guide SLPs in treating adolescents and adults with prosodic problems and, perhaps, those with intelligibility issues. Data were not provided to support the procedures.


1.  Was there review of the literature supporting components of the intervention?  No


2.  Were the specific procedures/components of the intervention tied to the reviewed literature?  Yes, in several instances.


3.  Was the intervention based on clinically sound clinical procedures?  Yes


4.  Did the author(s) provide a rationale for components of the intervention?  Yes

5.  Description of outcome measures:


•  Outcome #1:  To use prosodic markers (pausing, falling terminal contour, phrasing, and syllable lengthening) to mark thought boundaries


•  Outcome #2:  To produce focus words (stress-sentence/phrase) within thought groups by manipulating rhythm, intonation,  and duration.


•  Outcome #3:  To stress the most appropriate syllable in multisyllable words.



6.  Was generalization addressed?  Yes. Outcomes, for the most part,  are concerned with achieving the targets in conversation.


7.  Was maintenance addressed?  No





NOTE:  The Prosody Pyramid is the basis for the interventions described in this section. The Prosody Pyramid approach focuses on rhythm/stress and intonation (or as the author labels it, melody) to improve pronunciation rather than focusing on individual speech sounds. Gilbert considers the thought group, which can range from a few words to a full sentence, to be the base of the Prosody Pyramid. Within each thought group, there is a single focus word that receives the most prominent stress. If the focus word contains more than one syllable, only one syllable can carry this primary stress. To insure intelligibility, this syllable must be clearly marked and produced.

     Gilbert is not a speech language pathologist and the booklet does not address clinical targets. I (pmh) have derived the interventions from the booklet, all errors are mine.



Description of Intervention #1—Marking thought boundaries.


TARGET:  To use prosodic markers (pausing, falling terminal contour, phrasing, and syllable lengthening) to mark thought boundaries.


TECHNIQUES:  listening, metalinguistics, reading aloud, drill/repetition, writing to dictation, imitation, gestural cues, choral speaking


STIMULI:  auditory, visual cues (read texts with and without visual cues such as pitch direction, lengthening cues), gestural cues


DOSAGE:  group work





•  Using phone numbers and math problems, C orally (i.e., no visual cues) presents different groupings of numbers using pitch changes and pauses to mark the group boundaries.  (Gilbert provides examples.)

–  At first, Ps only listen to different patterns.

–  Then Ps imitate the pauses and pitch changes

–  In pairs, one P reads the numbers and the other writes them down using the targeted groupings.


•  The above exercise should be repeated with short sentences.


•  Ps in groups should listen to short lectures with scripts and mark thought groups.


•  Ps in groups listen to recorded speech and in small groups mark the thought groups. They should develop a rationale for why they selected their groupings.


•  Ps in groups should mark dialogues for thought groups and read them to the class.


•  Ps should record themselves in a conversation with someone outside the class. Later they should transcribe the conversation and analyze the marking of thought groups.


•  P reads sentences aloud being careful to link words within the though group together  (e.g., “The bussis late” for “the bus is late.”)


•  Gilbert recommends using gestures to facilitate the production of unstressed/deemphasized words such as contraction.  For example, she recommends that C assumes the role of a musical conductor in a class exercise in which half of the class as a chorus says “cannot” (two beats) and the other half says ‘can’t” (one beat) numerous times. This can be repeated several times with different contractions.


•  Gilbert recommends using writing dictation to practice any target. The C should give Ps only two chances to transcribe and then transcriptions should be compared to the target.


•  Gilbert provides thought group rules in the appendix.






Description of Intervention #2— Focus words


TARGET:  To produce focus words (stress-sentence/phrase) within thought groups by manipulating rhythm, intonation, and duration.


TECHNIQUES:  metalinguistics; drill/repetition using carrier phrases, poetry, and chants; imitation; writing to dictation; choral speaking/singing; musical instruments; listening; reading aloud


STIMULI:  auditory, visual;


DOSAGE:  group work





•  P introduces the concepts of emphasis (for the focus word in the thought group) and de-emphasis (for other words in the thought group).


•  Cs practice producing emphasizing focus words and reducing non-focus words (particularly structure words).

–  C first repeats carrier phrase/template sentence at normal speaking rate several times.

–  C can vary loudness, visual cues (obscuring C’s face/mouth), voice quality (e.g., using a squeaky voice) to increase interest.

–  C directs Ps to imitate the carrier phrase/template sentence chorally several times.

–  C writes out carrier phrase/template sentence.

–  Ps break into small groups and continue the listening and producing exercises.

–  Initially, the carrier phrase/template sentence is short.  C gradually increases length and complexity to include more than a sentence.


•  C explains that sometimes structure words are emphasized. Ps listen to sentences with stressed structure words and discuss possible reasons for the stressing.


•  C works with Ps to analyze the carrier phrases/sentences and changes the models to emphasize and deemphasize words.


•  Hints for encouraging deemphasizing include:

– use of carrier phrase or template sentence (Where j’ah put the …..?)

– production of poetry or chants that contain reductions


•  Ps listen to C producing short sentences using pitch changes/intonation pattern to mark focus.  After listening to several repetitions of the same sentence and intonation pattern, Ps attempt to replicate the intonation using a kazoo.


•  In pairs, Ps read question-answer sentences to one another which have designated focus words marked by italics. One P reads the question the other reads the answer marking the appropriate focus word.


•  Gilbert recommends using writing dictation to practice any target. The C should give Ps only two chances to transcribe and then transcriptions should be compared to the target.


•  Gilbert provides focus rules in the appendix.





Description of Intervention #3— Stress-lexical  (Gilbert notes this also is important for sentence/phrase stress.)


TARGETS:  To stress the most appropriate syllable in multisyllable words.


TECHNIQUES: metalinguistics, listening, reading, drill/repetition, writing to dictation,


STIMULI:  auditory,  motor/kinesthetic cues, visual cues,


DOSAGE:  group





•  C explains the importance of the dictionary stress pattern of multisyllable words—that the stressed syllable will be the most important syllable when the word is the focus of the sentence/phrase. Clear production of that syllable should aid intelligibility.


•  C explains that loudness increases, increased vowel duration and clarity, as well as changes in pitch level and direction can be used to signal stress/emphasis.

•  C presents information about each of the above features (i.e., loudness, vowel duration and clarity, pitch level and direction) independently.

•  C explains the following about vowel duration:

–  it is the most important feature for detecting stress/emphasis in English


•  Ps practice listening for vowel duration contrasts (increased duration of stress syllables and decreased duration of unstressed syllables) in multisyllable words.


•  C provides Ps with strong, heavy rubber bands and word lists of multisyllable words in which the vowel of the stressed syllable is highlighted.  Ps place the rubber bands on their hands and stretch their hands apart as they produce the stressed syllable of the multisyllable word.


•  C repeats the above activity but uses different motor movements (e.g., raising hands or eyebrows, standing taller, etc.) In addition, C solicits vocabulary items from Ps.


•  C explains the following about vowel clarity:

–  speakers should focus on clearly articulating stressed syllables

–  Figure 4 differentiates stressed, unstressed, and schwa vowels.

–  the standard for the production of unstressed syllables can be relaxed since in conversation they tend to be less fully articulated. Specifically, speakers should focus on when they can use schwa in place of the fully articulated vowel in unstressed contexts.


•  To facilitate vowel reductions, C produces words and Ps mark vowels that the C reduces to a schwa.


•  C teaches vowel sound production by

–  the differentiating “alphabet” vowels (i.e., long vowels),  “relative” vowels (i.e., short vowels), and schwa. Gilbert provides hints and illustrations for teaching the different vowels

–  Gilbert presents exercises for teaching vowel sounds

–  Gilbert presents rules for decoding vowels from English writing

•  C explains the following about changes in pitch level and direction:

– speakers have their own pitch patterns; deviations from that pattern can signal stress/emphasis.

– pitch changes signal new/important information

– if P has learned to identify the lengthened syllable, noting pitch changes should be easier.


•  Gilbert recommends using writing dictation to practice any target. The C should give Ps only two chances to transcribe and then transcriptions should be compared to the target.






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