A set of intonation intervals for a chosen dialect are applied to the intonational contour of a phomene string derived from a single set of stored linguistic units, e.g., phonemes. Sets of intonational intervals are stored to simulate or recognize different dialects or languages from a single set of stored phonemes. The interval rules preferably use a prosodic analysis of the phoneme string or other cues to apply a given interval to the phoneme string. A second set of interval data is provided for semantic information. The speech system is based on the observation that each dialect and language possess its own set of musical relationships or intonation intervals. These musical relationships are used by a human listener to identify the particular dialect or language. The speech system may be either a speech synthesis or speech analysis tool or may be a combined speech synthesis/analysis system.