STUDY OF ENGLISH
STRESS AND
INTONATION
STRESS
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
syllables.
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.
Word
Number of
syllables
Dog
Quiet
Dog
Qui.et
1
2
Expensive
Ex.pen.sive
3
Interesting
In.ter.est.ing
4
Unexceptional Un.ex.cep.tion.al
5
Prominence:
A
syllable
might
be
more
prominent by differing from the
surrounding syllables in terms of:
 loudness
 pitch
 length
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)
For
some
words,
changing
which
syllable is stressed can change the meaning of
a word.
In English, stress is most dramatically realized on
focussed or accented words. For instance, consider
the dialogue

"Is it brunch tomorrow?"

"No, it's dinner tomorrow."
In it, the stress-related acoustic differences
between the syllables of "tomorrow" would be small
compared to the differences between the syllables of
"dinner", the emphasized word. In these emphasized
words, stressed syllables such as "din" in "dinner" are
louder and longer. They may also have a different
fundamental frequency, or other properties.
Unstressed syllables typically have a vowel which is
closer to a neutral position, while stressed vowels are
more fully realized.
CONTRASTIVE STRESS

In contrastive contexts, 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. 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. Syllables that are normally stressed in the
utterance almost always get the same treatment they do
in non-emphatic contexts.)
EXAMPLES
Consider the following examples:
a) Do you like this one or THAT one?
b) b) I like THIS one.
Many other larger contrastive contexts (dialogues) can be found or
worked out, or even selected from literary works for a study of
contrastive stress. Consider the following:
 She played the piano yesterday. (It was her who...)
 She played the piano yesterday. (She only played (not.
harmed) ...)
 She played the piano yesterday. (It was the piano that...)
 She played the piano yesterday. (It was yesterday..)
NEW INFORMATION STRESS

In a response given to a wh-question, the
information supplied, naturally enough, is
stressed,. That is, it is pronounced with more
breath force, since it is more prominent against a
background given information in the question.
 a) What's your NAME
b) My name's GEORGE.
 a) Where are you FROM?
b) I'm from NEW YORK.
 a) Where do you LIVE
b) I live in BRAZIL.
 a) When does the school term END
b) It ends in MAY.
 a) What do you DO
b) I'm a STUdent.
TIMING:
English is a stress-timed language; that is,
stressed syllables appear at a roughly constant rate,
and
non-stressed
syllables
are
shortened
to
accommodate this.
PLACEMENT:
English does this to some extent with nounverb pairs such as a récord vs. to recórd, where
the verb is stressed on the last syllable and the
related noun is stressed on the first; record also
hyphenates differently: a réc.ord vs. to re.córd.
DEGRESS OF STRESS:
Primary stress:

It is the stronger degree of stress.

Primary stress gives the final stressed syllable.

Primary stress is very important in compound words.
Secondary stress:
It is the weaker of two degrees of stress in the pronunciation of a
word.
Secondary stress gives the other lexically stressed syllables in a
word.
Secondary stress is important primarily in long words with several
syllables
TWO WORD STRESS

Knowing when and where to stress the words you use is very important for
understanding, and therefore, as part of a good accent. A clear example is
that of stress in two word expressions.

According to whether it is an ordinary two-word expression or a special, set
expression, the place of the stress changes. In an ordinary expression the
two words are used to describe something like a "white HOUSE" (meaning a
house that is painted white, and not blue or gray). In this case the most
important note is the noun because we are talking about a house that
happens to be white.

But sometimes short two word expressions are
set or "consecrated", (that is, they mean
something special) and have to be made
different from similar expressions. One example
is "the WHITE house" where Mr. Obama lives. In
this case, 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.
It will be useful for you to be aware of both types
of two word expressions. Here is a list of a few that
will get you thinking and give you some practice in
identifying them and using them correctly.
Underline the syllable that is stressed, and write a
brief explanation, for both uses of each phrase. I
start the exercise with two examples. You do the
rest. 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
NOTATION:
Different systems exist for indicating syllabification and stress.

In IPA, primary stress is indicated by a high vertical line before
the syllable, secondary stress by a low vertical line. Example:
[sɪˌlæbəfɪˈkeɪʃən] or /sɪˌlæbəfɪˈkeɪʃən/.

In English dictionaries which do not use IPA, stress is typically
marked with a prime mark placed after the stressed syllable:
/si-lab′-ə-fi-key′-shən/.z
RULES
OF
WORD
STRESS
IN
ENGLISH
There are two very simple rules about word stress:

One word has only one stress. (One word cannot have two
stresses. If you hear two stresses, you hear two words. Two
stresses cannot be in one word. It is true that there can be a
"secondary" stress in some words. But a secondary stress is
much smaller than the main [primary] one, and is only used in
long words.

We can only stress vowels, not consonants.
INTONATION:
In linguistics, intonation is the variation
of pitch when speaking. Intonation and stress are two
main elements of linguistic prosody. Intonation is the
"music" of a language, and is perhaps the most important
element of a good accent. Often we hear someone
speaking with perfect grammar, and perfect formation of
the sounds of English but with a little something that gives
them
away
as
not
being
a
native
speaker.
Intonation – the rise and fall of pitch in our voices – plays
a crucial role in how we express meaning.
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. The same set of segments and word
stresses can occur with a number of pitch patterns. Consider the difference
between:

You're going. (statement)

You're going? (question)
The rise and fall of pitch throughout is called its intonation contour.
English
has
a
number
of
intonation
patterns
which
add
conventionalized meanings to the utterance: question, statement,
surprise, disbelief, sarcasm, teasing.
An important feature of English intonation is the use of an
intonational accent (and extra stress) to mark the focus of a
sentence. Normally this focus accent goes on the last major word of
the sentence, but it can come earlier in order to emphasize one of
the earlier words or to contrast it with something else.
TONE

A unit of speech bounded by pauses has movement, of
music and rhythm, associated with the pitch of voice. This
certain pattern of voice movement is called 'tone'. A tone
is a certain pattern, not an arbitrary one, because it is
meaningful in discourse. By means of tones, speakers
signal whether to refer, proclaim, agree, disagree, question
or hesitate, or indicate completion and continuation of
turn-taking, in speech.
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. Different languages can use
different conventions, giving rise to the potential for cross-
cultural misunderstandings. Two examples of crosslinguistic differences in intonation patterns:
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