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Re: OT - Syllabic Stress in English and Russian

It's not so much that English lacks stress rules; they're just a little capricious (if one can say that about rules and still define them as rules). Virtually every native Anglo-Saxon word in English obeys the basic Germanic tendency: first-syllable stress, excluding prefixes.

Norman French imports from 1055 onward, as well as other foreign borrowings, can go one of two ways: 1) they assimilate to the native first-syllable rule or 2) they retain the stress found in the donor language (or whatever a Anglophone's cockeyed understanding of the donor language leads him to believe the native stress is--witness KaBUL as the capital of Afghanistan).

Russian stress is more genuinely free: usually, the stress MUST be learned along with the word, and the stress within a declension occasionally migrates alarmingly--"sestra" (Eng. "sister") has nominative sg. sestrA, nom. plural sYOstry, and genitive pl. sestYOr! (the e-->yo shift multipies the fun.)

However, Russian has some stress tendencies that can be counted on, usually in derived forms. Verbal nouns ending in -Eniye always, as far as I know, have stress on that first "e"; perfective verbs with the prefix "vy-" inevitably stress that prefix; and other such exceptions to the prevailing chaos.

Taking this in mind, I'd say that English has fundamental rules about stress, but Russian, with some exceptions, doesn't. You can say much the same about other Slavonic languages ... although some have evolved extremely STRICT stress rules, whether first-syllable (Czech and Slovak), antepenultimate (Macedonian), or penultimate (Polish, Cassubian, some Slovak dialects). You could count the stress-rule exceptions in these languages on one hand.

-Scott Hersey

On Fri, 12 Jan 2001 18:57:37   Dennis wrote:
>	One usually hears that in both English and Russian
>there is no rule for where to place the syllabic
>stress, that it has to be learned with each word, and
>in Russian it shifts with different declensional and
>conjugational forms.
>	However, I've read that this is not true in either
>case.  There are rules; they just depend on whether a
>noun or verb is involved.  I read this in Frederick
>Newmeyer's *Linguistic Theory in America*, 2nd ed. a
>long time ago.  He just mentioned it in passing and
>gave a reference.  I just got the book again and
>skimmed it, but could not find it.  Can anyone point me
>to references on this?

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