Word Stress in English

1. The sequence of syllables in the word is not pronounced identically. The syllable or syllables which are uttered with more prominence than the other syllables of the word are said to be stressed or accented. Stress in the isolated word is termed word stress; stress in connected speech is termed sentence stress.

If we compare stressed and unstressed syllables in the words contract [‘k?ntr?kt], to contract [k?n’tr?kt], we may note that in the stressed syllable: (a) the force is greater, which is connected with more energetic articulation; (b) the pitch of voice is higher, which is connected with stronger tenseness of the vocal cords and the walls of the resonance chamber; (c) the quantity of the vowel [?] in [k?n’tr?kt] is greater, the vowel becomes longer; (d) the quality of the vowel [?] in the stressed syllable is different from the quality of this vowel in the unstressed position, in which it is more narrow than [‘?].

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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. 2) 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. 3) 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 ype of stress is called quantitative. 4) 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. All English vowels may occur in accented syllables, the only exception is /?/, which is never stressed. . Languages are also differentiated according to the place of word stress. The traditional classification of languages concerning place of stress in a word is into those with a fixed stress and those with a free stress. In languages with a fixed stress the occurrence of the word stress is limited to a particular syllable in a polysyllabic word. For instance, in French the stress falls on the last syllable of the word (if pronounced in isolation), in Finnish and Czech it is fixed on the first syllable, in Polish on the one but last syllable.

In languages with a free stress its place is not confined to a specific position in the word. In one word it may fall on the first syllable, in another on the second syllable, in the third word — on the last syllable, etc. The free placement of stress is exemplified in the English and Russian languages, e. g. English: ‘appetite – be’ginning – ba’lloon; Russian: озеро – погода – молоко. The word stress in English as well as in Russian is not only free but it may also be shifting, performing the semantic function of differentiating lexical units, parts of speech, grammatical forms.

In English word stress is used as a means of word-building; in Russian it marks both word-building and word formation, e. g. ‘contrast — con’trast; ‘habit — habitual ‘music — mu’sician; дома — дома; чудная — чудная, воды — воды. There are actually as many degrees of stress in a word as there are syllables. The opinions of phoneticians differ as to how many degrees of stress are linguistically relevant in a word. The British linguists usually distinguish three degrees of stress in the word. A. C. Gimson, for example, shows the distribution of the degrees of stress in the word examination.

The primary stress is the strongest, it is marked by number 1, the secondary stress is the second strongest marked by 2. All the other degrees are termed weak stress. Unstressed syllables are supposed to have weak stress. The American scholars B. Bloch and G. Trager find four contrastive degrees of word stress, namely: loud, reduced loud, medial and weak stresses. Other American linguists also distinguish four degrees of word stress but term them: primary stress, secondary stress, tertiary stress and weak stress.

The difference between the secondary and tertiary stresses is very subtle and seems subjective. The criteria of their difference are very vague. The second pretonic syllables of such words as libe’ration, recog’nition are marked by secondary stress in BrE, in AmE they are said to have tertiary stress. In AmE tertiary stress also affects the suffixes -ory, -ary, -ony of nouns and the suffixes –ate, -ize, -y of verbs, which are considered unstressed in BrE, e. g. ‘territory, ‘ceremony, ‘dictionary; ‘demonstrate, ‘organize, ‘simplify. 3. Word stress in a language performs three functions. . Word stress constitutes a word, it organizes the syllables of a word into a language unit having a definite accentual structure, that is a pattern of relationship among the syllables; a word does not exist without the word stress Thus the word stress performs the constitutive function. Sound continuum becomes a phrase when it is divided into units organized by word stress into words. 2. Word stress enables a person to identify a succession of syllables as a definite accentual pattern of a word. This function of word stress is known as identificatory (or recognitive).

Correct accentuation helps the listener to make the process of communication easier, whereas the distorted accentual pattern of words, misplaced word stresses prevent normal understanding. 3. Word stress alone is capable of differentiating the meaning of words or their forms, thus performing its distinctive function. The accentual patterns of words or the degrees of word stress and their positions form oppositions, e. g. ‘import — im’port, ‘billow — below. 5. The numerous variations of English word stress are systematized in the typology of accentual structure of English words worked out by G.

P. Torsuyev. He classifies them according to the number of stressed syllables, their degree or character (the main and the secondary stress). The distribution of stressed syllables within the word accentual types forms accentual structures of words. Accentual types and accentual structures are closely connected with the morphological type of words, with the number of syllables, the semantic value of the root and the prefix of the word. The accentual types are: 1. [‘___]. This accentual type marks both simple and compound words.

The accentual structures of this type may include two and more syllables, e. g. ‘fafher, ‘possibly, ‘mother-in-law, ‘gas-pipe. 2. [‘_ ‘_ ]. The accentual type is commonly realized in compound words, most of them are with separable prefixes, e. g. ‘radio-‘active, ‘re’write, ‘diso’bey. 3. [‘_ ‘_ ‘_] and 4. [‘_ ‘_ ‘_ ‘_]. The accentual types are met in initial compound abbreviations like ‘U’S’A, ‘U’S’S’R. 5. [‘_ ,__]. The type is realized both in simple and compound words, very common among compound words, e. g. ‘hair-,dresser, ‘substructure. 6. [ ,_’___].

The accentual type marks a great number of simple words and some compound words as well. In derivative words the stresses fall onto: 1. the prefix and the root: maga’zine; 2. the root and the suffix: ,hospi’tality; 3. the prefix and the suffix: disorganization. The other five types are rare and found in small number of words. The most widely spread among the enumerated accentual types are supposed to be Type 1, Type 2, Type 5 and Type 6. Each type includes varieties of definite accentual structures with different numbers of syllables and marks thousands of words.

So the four of them cover the main bulk of most common English words and are therefore most typical for the English vocabulary. The variability of the word accentual structure is multiplied in connected speech. The accentual structure of words may be altered under the influence of rhythm, e. g. An ‘unpolished ‘stone but: The ‘stone was un’polished. The tempo of speech may influence the accentual pattern of words. With the quickening of the speed the carefulness of articulation is diminished, the vowels are reduced or elided, the secondary stress may be dropped, e. g. The ‘whole organi’zation of the ‘meeting was ‘faulty.

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Word Stress in English. (2016, Dec 16). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/word-stress-in-english/