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Word Stress in English

Accent or stress is another suprasegmental feature. It is a meaure of relative volume of sound between syllable peaks. Auditorily, we hear an accented syllable of a word as relatively louder than the unaccented syllables. Acoustically, this difference can be measured in decibels.

Languages differ in how they use stress.

1) In some languages, each syllable is equally stressed or unstressed-- Cambodian

2) one syllable in each word is more stressed.

The place of stress is fixed on a certain syllable:

1) initial. Finnish, Hungarian and other Finno-Ugric languages

2) penultimate. Polish,

3) final. French.

4) complex set of rules. In Bulgarian nouns and verbs have separate sets of rules for stress placement. Hopi (phonetic: first syllable of a two syllable word: síkwi meat; in words of three or more syllables, accent falls on the first long vowel: máamatsi to recognize; or on the first short vowel before a consonant cluster: péntani to write; otherwise it falls on the next to last syllable: wunúvtu stand up)

The place of stress is random.

1) In Russian the stress is completely random: xoroshó, xoróshi.

2) In English the stress is more predictable but still random. Usually a middle syllable of a longer word receives the stress. In two syllable words stress is rando and often renders differences in meaning: project/to project, produce/produce, insult/ to insult.

Some languages have more than one stress per word: English is such a language. In English, words of four syllables or more have a primary and a secondary stress: educátion.

Many languages lack word stress and instead have phrasal stress, with one stress per syllable of an entire phrase. Many Turkic languages have phrasal stress, usually on the last syllable of a phrase:

Some English compounds have phrasal stress on the first element of the compound. Phrasal stress often distinguishes meaning in adjective/noun combinations: White House, white house greenhouse/ green house.

Any word spoken in isolation has at least one prominent syllable. We perceive it as stressed. Stress in the isolated word is termed word stress, stress in connected speech is termed sentence stress. Stress is indicated by placing a stress mark before the stressed syllable: /'/.

Stress is defined differently by different authors. B. A. Bogoroditsky,
for instance, defined stress as an increase of energy, accompanied by an
increase of expiratory and articulatory activity. D. Jones defined stress as
the degree of force, which is accompanied by a strong force of exhala­
tion and gives an impression of loudness. H. Sweet also stated that stress
is connected with the force of breath.

Word stress can be defined as the singling out of one or more sylla­bles in a word, which is accompanied by the change of the force of utterance, pitch of the voice, qualitative and quantitative characteristics of the sound, which is usually a vowel.

In different languages one of the factors constituting word stress is usually more significant than the others. According to the most impor­tant feature different types of word stress are distinguished in different languages.

If special prominence in a stressed syllable or syllables is achieved mainly through the intensity of articulation, such type of stress is called dynamic, or force stress.

If special prominence in a stressed syllable is achieved mainly through the change of pitch, or musical tone, such accent is called musi­cal, or tonic. It is characteristic of the Japanese, Korean and other orien­tal languages.

If special prominence in a stressed syllable is achieved through the changes in the quantity of the vowels, which are longer in the stressed syllables than in the unstressed ones, such type of stress is called quanti­tative.


Qualitative type of stress is achieved through the changes in the quality of the vowel under stress. English word stress is traditionally defined as dynamic, but in fact, the special prominence of the stressed syllables is manifested in the En­glish language not only through the increase of intensity, but also through the changes in the vowel quantity, consonant and vowel quality and pitch of the voice.

Stress difficulties peculiar to the accentual structure of the English language are connected with the vowel special and inherent prominence. In identical positions the intensity of English vowels is different. The highest in intensity is /a:/, then go

The quantity of long vowels and diphthongs can be preserved in pretonic and post-tonic position in English. All English vowels may occur in accented syllables, the only excep­tion is which is never stressed. English vowels tend to occur in unstressed syllables. Syllables with the syllabic /1, m, n/ are never stressed.

Stress can be characterized as fixed and free. In languages with fixed type of stress the place of stress is always the same. For example in Czech and Slovak the stress regularly falls on the first syllable. In Italian, Welsh, Polish it is on the penultimate syllable.

In English and Russian word-stress is free, that is it may fall on any syllable in a word. Stress in English and in Russian is not only free but also shifting. In both languages the place of stress may shift, which helps to differentiate different parts of speech, e.g. 'insult — to in'sult, `import — to im'port.

When the shifting of word-stress serves to perform distinctive function. V. Vassilyev terms this suprasegmental phonological unit form dis­tinctive accenteme, when it serves to distinguish the meaning of differ­ent words, the term is word-distinctive accenteme.

Stress performs not only distinctive function, it helps to constitute and recognize words and their forms.

A polysyllabic word has as many degrees of stress as there are syllables in it. American and English phoneticians give the following pattern of stress distribution in the words examination, opportunity. They mark the strongest syllable with primary accent with the numeral 1, then goes 2, 3, etc.

American descriptivists (B. Bloch, G. Trager) distinguish the follow­ing degrees of word-stress: loud /'/, reduced loud /^/, medial /`/, weak, which is not indicated. H. A. Gleason defines the degrees of stress as primary /'/, secondary /^/, tertiary /`/, weak /~/. H. Sweet distinguishes weak /~/, medium, or half-strong /:/, strong and extrastrong, or em­phatic stress /;/.

V.A. Vassilyev, D. Jones, R. Kingdon consider that there are three degrees of word-stress in English: primary — strong, secondary — partial, weak — in unstressed syllables. For example: certification

Most English scientists place the stress marks before the stressed syl­lables and don't mark monosyllabic words,

Some American scientists suggest placing the stress marks above the vowels of the stressed syllable, e.g. blackbird They place the stress marks even on monosyllabic words, e.g. cat, pen, map.

Date: 2015-12-18; view: 3358

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