Phonology 2
Stress is a term used to refer to the prominent syllable of a word or sentence. A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds, which is (usually) longer than a sound but shorter than a word. For example, the word water is composed of two syllables: ‘wa’ and ‘ter’. NB: This is compared to a Morpheme - The smallest semantically meaningful unit in a language. For example the word unbreakable contains 3 morphemes (but 4 syllables) un- (a bound morpheme), break, and able (both free morphemes). Morphemes are not identical to words, since they may or may not stand alone, whereas a word, by definition is a free standing unit. A Bound Morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit in a language which cannot stand on its own. Bound Morphemes can change the word class, and include prefixes such as un- and de-, and suffixes such as –ly and –ity. A syllable is typically made up of a syllable nucleus (most often a vowel) with optional initial and final margins (typically, consonants). Every word of more than one syllable has a ‘more strongly’ stressed syllable. The position of the stress is an important feature of an utterance, even in a single word it can be a defining feature; a mis-stressed word is not only wrong, but may be unrecognisable to the listener or interpreted as something else (for example graffiti stressed on the first syllable becomes gravity). What is stress exactly? Stress is when one syllable is made louder and longer, as a result there is a greater expulsion of air. Word Stress How can a learner know where the stress falls when they see the word on the page for the first time? There are a number of rules, or at least patterns that can be taught (but there are also many exceptions to the rules). Example word stress rules:
1. There is front weight in many nouns and adjectives.
DELTA Module 1 Phonology 2

Therefore an ‘ad hoc’ approach to teaching stress may be a more effective method. insult. For example.g. or years. could be stressed in He’s. Tendency for words of 4 or more syllables to be stressed somewhere in the middle. five. One of the problems of drawing the students’ attention to sentence stress is to risk them becoming over-attentive to details of stress that would perhaps be best disregarded in the interests of focus on the single stressed syllable. and each would have a slightly different meaning. word stress rules are often very complicated to learn and express. record. In words with suffixes the suffixes are never stressed e. Some content words are more likely to have prominence than others. Another reason that some words might be stressed is that they may contain new information rather than information that is known. postman. Teaching Sentence Stress – In a typical sentence most of the syllables are not stressed. However. 2. 3. import/export. DELTA Module 1 Phonology 2 . and the noun has stress on the first syllable whereas the verb has stress on the second syllable. Accommodation (the process of squeezing together unstressed syllables so that each segment takes the same amount of time to produce) is a common feature of stress-timed languages. For example: Has anyone got today’s paper? Here there are two tone groups (which can be defined as a sub-division of an utterance which contains a tonic syllable) which are bounded by (brief) pauses when we speak. Compound words (such as teapot.2 2. and this can affect the meaning of the sentence. Sentence Stress Sentence stress (also known as prominence) may be the result of several things: 1. There are words that can be used as both a noun and a verb in English. ‘He’s been working in London for five years’. London. permit. and crossword) tend to be stressed on the first syllable. For example. indeed often all but one remain unstressed. increase/decrease. 3. 5. and are fraught with exceptions. Some words are more likely to be stressed because they are content words rather than structural words. working. Stress-Timed Language – A stress-timed Language (such as English) is one in which the stressed syllables occur at regular intervals of time. 4. –ly in quietly.

The tonic syllable is also known as the nucleus. E. Accommodation is the process of compressing unstressed syllables so that each segment of an utterance takes the same amount of time to produce. Longer pauses are sometimes represented by double slanted lines. and Japanese) can be defined as a language which has a speech rhythm in which all syllables are said to occur at equal intervals. often crammed together and phonologically 'distorted'. The Tonic Syllable is the most prominent syllable within an utterance which carries the main stress. While the stressed syllables occur regularly. This utterance contains two tone groups.3 The onset syllable is the stressed syllable before the tonic syllable (the syllable in an utterance that carries the main stress). the spaces between the stressed words/syllables can be comprised of varying numbers of syllables.'mon' is the onset syllable (in capitals) while rained is the tonic syllable (underlined and in capitals). For example in the utterance On MONday it RAINED . In each tone group there is a stressed word (or stressed syllable within a word. Features of Connected Speech       Accommodation Assimilation Catenation Intrusion Elision Weak forms Assimilation. Tone groups are usually represented by slanted lines as in ‘She got here / just after 8:00 o'clock’. if the word is of more than one syllable). For example: Weak syllables get squashed together and strong syllables get attenuated. Syllable-times language (such as French. but are more common at the ends of words since the start of words is typically too important for identification. Spanish. the ‘How long have you’ takes about the same amount of time to produce as the ‘worked’ in “How long have you worked here?” DELTA Module 1 Phonology 2 . and is generally higher in pitch/longer/louder than the surrounding syllables.g. linking. and elision all happen within words and between words.

Assimilation is evident in the spelling of words such as intolerant or impossible (switching around the negative prefixes makes them much more difficult to say). The most common example of catenation is the linking ‘r’ for example here pronounced /hiƏ/ but here are pronounced /hiƏr Ə/. “In a minute I’ll be leaving” said at normal speed involves consonant-vowel linking and ends with something like mini tile (/tail/). The three semi-vowels (/j/. For example. but liaison is concerned with the way sounds are fused together at word boundaries. For example in ordinary speech handbag is pronounced /hæmbæg/.  Coalescence occurs when both sounds affect each other as in the boundary between ‘would’ and ‘you’ in “Would you like a cup of coffee?”. whereas those ending with an unvoiced sound are followed by an unvoiced /t/ as in danced.4 Assimilation: This is when a speech sound changes to become more like another sound that either follows or proceeds it. Intrusion: The addition of an extra phoneme to facilitate articulation. as in /hæmbæg/)  Progressive (such as the endings of many regular past tense verbs – those ending with an voiced sound are followed by a voiced /d/ as in moved. and /w/) are commonly found in intrusion linking together two vowel sounds. Consonant to vowel linking is a very common feature of liaison as is intrusion. Assimilation can be either  Regressive (when a sound affects what comes before it. casual speech than slow. For example. For example. Here the sounds /d/ and /j/ coalesce into the sound /dƷ/. if the words India and Japan are written in phonemics /IndIƏrƏndƷƏpæn/ there is an intrusive /r/ sound coming between the weak vowel sound in this care the schwa /Ə/ and another vowel sound (also a schwa). Elision: The omission of sounds/syllables because a similar sound occurs immediately afterwards. the /ed/ at the end of walked disappears in ‘I walked to work’. carefully enunciated speech. Pancake in slow carefully enunciated speech is usually pronounced /pænkeik/ but in rapid speech may be pronounced /pæŋkeik/. in order to link them smoothly. Two words can have a silence between them. DELTA Module 1 Phonology 2 . /r/. Assimilation is more common in rapid. Catenation/Liaison: This refers to a smooth linking or joining together between words in connected speech.

must. In dealing with phonology we tend to see the utterance holistically (top-down). and you (/jƱ/). It is towards this sound that many common. Knowing how a phrase might be said by a native speaker will help recognition. she (/ʃI/). was. that. and is the archetypal English sound. Many common words are found in their weak form such as: and. some. etc. but. and there are particular reasons why teaching connected speech can be difficult:  The normal features of connected speech are a description of native speaker speech. are. Teaching Connected Speech Teaching connected speech is more of a challenge than teaching individual phonemes. weak forms. unstressed non-content words conform when they are unstressed. Elision commonly occurs within the consonant sounds /t/ and /d/ and also the schwa /Ə/ as in suppose (/spƏƱz/). whereby sounds are inserted into a word to ease pronunciation. and it is unlikely that a learner will be able to reach a level of fluency that is similar to that of a native speaker. The schwa sound is one of the commonest vowel sounds in English. does.5 The /t/ sound in ‘next please’ is also often elided. rather than helping production. as a form of laziness. For example: Can might be pronounced /k n/ but is more commonly pronounced /kƏn/. whereas bottom-up means that we approach the message of the text primarily through its language components). Weak form: If a word is unstressed (and non-context) then it often appears in its weak form. There are also other weak forms as in been (/bIn/). them. of. from. The schwa is the most commonly elided vowel as in /t’dei/ and /t’ma:tƏƱ/ The opposite of elision is epenthesis. etc. than. DELTA Module 1 Phonology 2 .  Some learners see the features of connected speech such as contractions.  How we approach the analysis of phonology can be top-down or bottom-up (in much the same way that we approach the components of a text – top-down typically approaches the overall knowledge of the text type and our expectations as we approach the text type. to. are all pronounced with the schwa (/Ə/). and is often found in weak form.

6  A modest amount of focus on the features of connected speech must be part of teaching pronunciation. DELTA Module 1 Phonology 2 . i. at natural speed. but connected speech can only really be studied ‘in its natural habitat’.e.