In linguistics, stress is the

relative emphasis that may be given
to certain syllables in a word. The

term is also used for similar patterns
of phonetic prominence inside


Understanding Syllables To understand word stress, it helps to understand syllables. Every word is made from syllables. Each word has one, two, three or more syllables.


Number of syllables

Dog Quiet Expensive

Dog Qui-et Ex-pen-sive

1 2 3
4 5

Unexceptional Un-ex-cep-tion-al

(Some early attempts at speech synthesizers sounded like this. not absolute.Prominence: It would have been logically possible for every syllable to have exactly the same loudness.) But human languages have ways to make some syllables more prominent than others.) . A syllable might be more prominent by differing from the surrounding syllables in terms of: loudness pitch length Prominence is relative to the surrounding syllables. (A stressed syllable that is nearly whispered will be quieter than an unstressed syllable that is shouted. pitch. and so on.

changing which syllable is stressed can change the meaning of a word.The realization of stress in English In English. . the three ways to make a syllable more prominent are to make it: louder longer higher pitched (usually) In many languages.

Stress may be characterized by more than one of these characteristics. depending on the sentence type. they may bear either higher or lower pitch than surrounding syllables (a pitch excursion). Further. sometimes the difference between the acoustic signals of stressed and unstressed syllables may be minimal. There are also dynamic accent (loudness). In some languages. qualitative accent (full vowels) and quantitative accent (length). In other languages.TYPES OF STRESS: The ways stress manifests itself in the speech stream are highly language dependent. . stressed syllables have a higher or lower pitch than non-stressed syllables — so-called pitch accent (or musical accent). stress may be realized to varying degrees on different words in a sentence.

the stress-related acoustic differences between the syllables of "tomorrow" would be small compared to the differences between the syllables of "dinner". stress is most dramatically realized on focussed or accented words. it's dinner tomorrow. it does not mean a more forceful articulation in the vocal tract.In English. Stressed syllables are often perceived as being more forceful than non-stressed syllables. that although dynamic stress is accompanied by greater respiratory force. They may also have a different fundamental frequency. stressed syllables such as "din" in "dinner" are louder and longer." In it. consider the dialogue "Is it brunch tomorrow?" "No. or other properties. while stressed vowels are more fully realized. For instance. In these emphasized words. however. . the emphasized word. Unstressed syllables typically have a vowel which is closer to a neutral position. Research has shown.

very (adverb). You MUSTN'T talk so loudly. barely. definitely. great. especially. terrific. utterly. extremely. i. quite. terribly. pretty. . Compare the following examples. etc. completely. It was VEry boring. -self. It was very BOring. The first two examples are adapted from.Emphatic Stress One reason to move the tonic stress from its utterance final position is to assign an emphasis to a content word. very (adjective). an adverb. enough. own. grand. only. truly. which is usually a modal auxiliary. awfully. (unmarked) ii. You mustn't talk so LOUDly. Roach (1983:144). tremendous. absolute. really. entirely. (unmarked) ii. literally. (emphatic) Some intensifying adverbs and modifiers (or their derivatives) that are emphatic by nature are Indeed. an intensifier. alone. far. surely. too. (emphatic) i.

) . No distinction exists between content and function words regarding this. The contrasted item receives the tonic stress provided that it is contrastive with some lexical element (notion.) in the stimulus utterance.Contrastive Stress In contrastive contexts. Syllables that are normally stressed in the utterance almost always get the same treatment they do in non-emphatic contexts. the stress pattern is quite different from the emphatic and non-emphatic stresses in that any lexical item in an utterance can receive the tonic stress provided that the contrastively stressed item can be contrastable in that universe of speech.

.... harmed) .) She played the piano yesterday. Consider the following: She played the piano yesterday. (It was yesterday.) She played the piano yesterday.) She played the piano yesterday.. Many other larger contrastive contexts (dialogues) can be found or worked out.. or even selected from literary works for a study of contrastive stress. (It was the piano that. .Examples Consider the following examples: a) Do you like this one or THAT one? b) b) I like THIS one. (It was her who. (She only played (not..

in which the tonic syllable is underlined: I'm going. the syllable that receives the tonic stress is called 'tonic syllable'. the following is arrived at. where the tonic syllable is further capitalized: I'm going to London for HOliday. Because stress applies to syllables. A question does arise as to what happens to the previously tonic assigned syllables. proclaiming. Consider the following. which is called 'tonic stress'. not as much as the tonic syllable. however.Tonic Stress An intonation unit almost always has one peak of stress. and reporting utterances. producing a three level stress for utterances. The term tonic stress is usually preferred to refer to this kind of stress in referring. I'm going to London.. They still get stressed. Then. Tonic stress is almost always found in a content word in utterance final position. or 'nucleus'. . I'm going to London for a holiday.

the information supplied. it is pronounced with more breath force. since it is more prominent against a background given information in the question. in which case the answers are: George. a) Where are you FROM? b) I'm from WALES.New Information Stress In a response given to a wh-question.. is stressed. Therefore. The concept of new information is much clearer to students of English in responses to wh-questions than in declarative statements. The questions given above could also be answered in short form except for the last one. Wales. in Bonn in May . naturally enough. That is. it is best to start with teaching the stressing of the new information supplied to questions with a question word: a) What's your NAME b) My name's GEORGE. a) What do you DO b) I'm a STUdent. a) Where do you LIVE b) I live in BONN a) When does the school term END b) It ends in MAY.

PLACEMENT: English does this to some extent with noun-verb pairs such as a récord vs. to recórd. record also hyphenates differently: a réc-ord vs.TIMING: English is a stress-timed language. and nonstressed syllables are shortened to accommodate this. . to re-córd. stressed syllables appear at a roughly constant rate. where the verb is stressed on the last syllable and the related noun is stressed on the first. that is.

 Primary stress is very important in compound words. Secondary stress is important primarily in long words with several syllables .DEGRESS OF STRESS: Primary stress:  It is the stronger degree of stress. Secondary stress gives the other lexically stressed syllables in a word.  Primary stress gives the final stressed syllable. Secondary stress: Secondary stress is the weaker of two degrees of stress in the pronunciation of a word.

Quaternary stress: It includes the reduced vowels. articulation. loudness.Tertiary stress: It includes the fully unstressed vowels. sonority. Vowel reduction is the term in phonetics that refers to various changes in the acoustic quality of vowels. An unstressed vowel is the vowel sound that forms the syllable peak of a syllable that has no lexical stress. duration. or position in the word which are perceived as "weakening . which are related to changes in stress.

as part of a good accent. A clear example is that of stress in two word expressions. the place of the stress changes. . a "fat BOY" is an overweight young male. and not blue or gray). Similarly. and therefore. set expression.Two Word Stress Knowing when and where to stress the words you use is very important for understanding. In this case the most important note is the noun because we are talking about a house that happens to be white. In an ordinary expression the two words are used to describe something like a "white HOUSE" (meaning a house that is painted white. According to whether it is an ordinary two-word expression or a special.

In the same way. chosen because the word fat emphasizes his weight. and write a brief explanation. the emphasis is on the adjective because we are more interested in stressing that it is the house that is known because it is white. they mean something special) and have to be made different from similar expressions. Bush lives. One example is "the WHITE house" where Mr. Underline the syllable that is stressed. Here is a list of a few that will get you thinking and give you some practice in identifying them and using them correctly. It will be useful for you to be aware of both types of two word expressions. "FAT boy" is the nickname of a boy. (that is. I start the exercise with two examples. Make sure you say the phrases OUT LOUD! white HOUSE House painted white LIGHT bulb Shines with electricity Light BULB A bulb that is not heavy .But sometimes short two word expressions are set or "consecrated". You do the rest. for both uses of each phrase. In this case.

In IPA. In ad hoc pronunciation guides. secondary stress by a low vertical line.NOTATION: Different systems exist for indicating syllabification and stress. Example: si-lab-if-i-KAY-shun or si-LAB-if-i-KAY-shun . Example: [sɪˌlæbəfɪˈkeɪʃən] or /sɪˌlæbəfɪˈkeɪʃən/. stress is typically marked with a prime mark placed after the stressed syllable: /si-lab′-ə-fi-kay′-shən/. In English dictionaries which do not use IPA. stress is often indicated using a combination of bold text and capital letters. primary stress is indicated by a high vertical line before the syllable.

It is true that there can be a "secondary" stress in some words. If you hear two stresses. (One word cannot have two stresses.) We can only stress vowels.Rules of Word Stress in English There are two very simple rules about word stress: One word has only one stress. not consonants. But a secondary stress is much smaller than the main [primary] stress. you hear two words. and is only used in long words. . Two stresses cannot be one word.

If you keep a vocabulary book. make a note to show which syllable is stressed. usually with an apostrophe (') just before or just after the stressed syllable.Where do I put a word stress? These rules are rather complicated! Probably the best way to learn where to put a word stress is from experience. If you do not know. When you learn a new word. (The notes at the front of the dictionary will explain the system used. you can look in a dictionary. This is where they show which syllable is stressed. All dictionaries give the phonetic spelling of a word.) . Listen carefully to spoken English and try to develop a feeling for the "music" of the language. you should also learn its stress pattern.

Word Stress Quiz Can you pass me a plas/tic knife? I want to take a pho/to/gra/phy class. Chi/na is the place where I was born. It is cri/ti/cal that you finish your essay. I can't de/cide which book to borrow. Please turn off the tel/e/vi/sion before you go out. . Do you un/der/stand this lesson? Sparky is a very hap/py puppy.

Intonation and stress are two main elements of linguistic prosody. and is perhaps the most important element of a good accent. Intonation is the "music" of a language. Often we hear someone speaking with perfect grammar. intonation is the variation of pitch when speaking. . Intonation – the rise and fall of pitch in our voices – plays a crucial role in how we express meaning.INTONATION: In linguistics. and perfect formation of the sounds of English but with a little something that gives them away as not being a native speaker.

.Intonation contours in English Not all rises and falls in pitch that occur in the course of an English phrase can be attributed to stress. (statement) You're going? (question) The rise and fall of pitch throughout is called its intonation contour. Consider the difference between: You're going. The same set of segments and word stresses can occur with a number of pitch patterns.

but it can come earlier in order to emphasize one of the earlier words or to contrast it with something else.English has a number of intonation patterns which add conventionalized meanings to the utterance: question. surprise. . Normally this focus accent goes on the last major word of the sentence. teasing. An important feature of English intonation is the use of an intonational accent (and extra stress) to mark the focus of a sentence. sarcasm. statement. disbelief.

For example. . consider the statement “Nancy bought a new house on Thursday”. The figures shows different Intonation counters for this statement with stress on each word present in it.

or indicate completion and continuation of turn-taking. associated with the pitch of voice. in speech. speakers signal whether to refer. This certain pattern of voice movement is called 'tone'. of music and rhythm.Tone A unit of speech bounded by pauses has movement. agree. By means of tones. because it is meaningful in discourse. A tone is a certain pattern. . disagree. proclaim. question or hesitate. not an arbitrary one.

Types fall low-rise high-rise fall-rise .

by choosing a falling tone. It signals a sense of finality.Fall (A Falling Tone) A falling tone is by far the most common used tone of all. A speaker. and so on. belief in the content of the utterance. completion. agree or disagree with. and offers a chance (turntaking) to the addressee to comment on. also indicates to the addressee that that is all he has to say. or add to his utterance. .

Example Consequences of his unacceptable behavior. Have you MET him? b) YES. Requests or orders have a falling tone too. I'll report you to the HEADmaster A falling tone may be used in referring expressions as well. i) Please sit DOWN Exclamations: Watch OUT! Yes/No questions and tag questions seeking or expecting confirmation a) You like it. DON'T you? b) YEES. I've spoken with the CLEAner. Questions that begin with wh-questions are generally pronounced with a falling tone: Where is the PENcil? Imperative statements have a falling tone. i) Go and see a DOCtor. Here it is used when it is sure that the answer is yes. .

ii) No. and that the addressee knows the answer. Other examples which are uttered with a rising tone are: Do you want some COFfee? Do you take CREAM in your coffee? . consider the following question uttered with a rising tone. Such Yes/No questions are uttered with a rising tone. and which can only have one appropriate answer in the context: a) Isn't he NICE b) YES. which is uttered with a falling tone.Low Rise (A Rising Tone) This tone is used in genuine 'Yes/No' questions where the speaker is sure that he does not know the answer. the answer of which could be either of the three options: A) Isn't he NICE B) i) Yes. iii) I don't know. For instance. Compare the above example with the following example.

b) She PASSED? (disbelief) .High Rise (A Rising Tone) If the tonic stress is uttered with extra pitch height. as in the following intonation units. we may think that the speaker is asking for a repetition or clarification. b) Taking up WHAT? (clarification) a) She passed her DRIving test. Examples a) I'm taking up TAxidermy this autumn. or indicating disbelief.

continuity. It generally occurs in sentence non-final intonation units. Consider the following in which the former of the intonation units are uttered with a fall-rise tone (the slash indicates a pause): Examples Private enterPRISE / is always EFficient. PreSUmably / he thinks he CAN. . Usually / he comes on SUNday.Fall Rise Fall-rise signals dependency. A quick tour of the CIty / would be NICE. and non-finality.

Different languages can use different conventions. giving rise to the potential for crosscultural misunderstandings. Two examples of cross-linguistic differences in intonation patterns: .Cross-linguistic differences People have a tendency to think of intonation as being directly linked to the speaker's emotions. In fact. the meaning of intonation contours is as conventionalized as any other aspect of language.

Questions . moving the emphasized phrase to the beginning of the sentence. Instead of I want a car for my birthday. Listeners who don't speak the second type of language will not necessarily interpret a different word order as marking emphasis (as opposed to assuming that the speaker doesn't know basic grammar). Many other languages use only syntactic devices for contrastive emphasis. for example. It's a car that I want for my birthday. using an intonational accent and additional stress. (as opposed to a bike) you would have to say something like: A car I want for my birthday. Listeners who speak the second type of language will not necessarily interpret extra pitch and volume as marking emphasis.Contrastive emphasis Many languages mark contrastive emphasis like English.

.. E.g. Rising intonation on a Wh-question can imply surprise or that you didn't hear the answer the first time and are asking to have it repeated. falling intonation on a Yes/No question can be interpreted as abruptness.Questions The normal intonation contours for questions in English use: final rising pitch for a Yes/No question Are you coming today? final falling pitch for a Wh-question When are you coming? Where are you going? Using a different pattern typically adds something extra to the question.

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