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I. Stress in Simple Words

The nature of stress

The nature of stress is simple, we can study stress from the point of view of production and of perception, the two are obviously closely related, but are not identical. The production of stress depends on the speaker using more muscular energy that is used for unstressed syllables.

From the point of view of perception, all stressed syllables have one characteristic in common, and that is prominence, stressed syllable are recognised as stressed because they are more prominent than unstressed syllable. What makes a syllable prominent?

At least four different factors are important:

1) most people seem to feel that stressed syllable are louder than unstressed, in other words, loudness is a component of prominence.

2) the length of syllable has an important part to play in prominence.

3) every syllable is said on some pitch, pitch in speech is closely related to the frequency of vibration of the vocal cords.

4) A syllable will tend to be prominent if it contains a vowel that is different in quality from neighboring vowels.

Generally these four factor work together in combination, though syllables may sometimes be made prominent by means of only one or two of them. These factors are not equally important, the strongest effect is produced by pitch and length, loudness and quality have much less effect.


Levels of stress

The prominence that results from the pitch movement, or tone, gives the strongest type of stress, this is called primary stress.

In some words, we can observe a type of stress that is weaker than primary stress but stronger than unstressed syllables. The stress of these words is called secondary stress.

We have now identified two levels of stress: primary and secondary, as well as a third level which is called unstressed and regarded as being the absence of any amount of prominence. These are the three levels that we’ll use in describing English stress.


Placement of stress within the word

How can one select the correct syllable or syllables to stress in an English word? As it is well known, English is not one of those languages where word stress can be decided simply in relation to the syllable of the word, as it can be done in French (where the last syllable is stressed), Polish (where the syllable before the last is stressed) or Czech Polish (where the first syllable is stressed). Many writers have said that English word stress is so difficult to predict that it is best to treat stress placement as a property of the individual word, to be learned when the word itself is learned.

In order to decide on stress placement, it is necessary to make use of the following information:

1. whether the word is morphologically simple, or whether it is complex as a resul either of containing one or more affixes (that is, prefixes or suffixes) or being a compound word;

2. the grammatical category to which the word belongs (noun, verb, adjective, etc);

3. the number of syllable in the word.


Date: 2016-01-03; view: 2776

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II. Branches of Phonetics | III Tones and Pitch Height
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