[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

OT: Syllabic Stress in English

    I found a book which explains syllabic stress in
    *The Pronunciation of American English* by Arthur
J. Bronstein 
[just like Trotsky :-) ] .  (New York,
Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1960).
    He notes that there are three supersegmental
phonemes in English: 
stress, pitch, and juncture (pauses).  
    His discussion makes it clear that there are no
hard and fast 
rules for these and that they all affect each other. 
There are, 
however, useful generalizations.   On p.256 he
summarizes these for 
syllabic stress.
    "In general, then, (1) stress shifts may result
from the desire to 
intensify the contrast in similar words; (2) in most
disyllabic words 
which may function as nouns, or adjectives, and verbs
the stress 
shifts from the first syllable of the adjective or noun
to the second 
in the verb: cóntract, éxtract, dígest, ínsult,
cónvict, próject, 
cóncert, súrvey, and íncrease are nouns, while
contráct, extráct, 
digést, insúlt, convíct, projéct, concért, survéy, and
incréase are 
verbs; (3) in other polysyllabic words, we tend to omit
the secondary 
accent for the nouns or adjectives, retaining them for
éstimate, cómpliment, órnament, and delíberate are
nouns or 
adjectives, while éstimàte, cómplimènt, órnamènt, and
delíberàte are 
verbs (note well that some American speakers make no
between the noun and verb forms of compliment and
ornament); (4) 
stress shifts in certain words may be an indication of
individual or 
regional preference; (5) stress shifts may result from
the presence or 
absence of stress in neighboring words; (6) stresses
differently in special grammatical constructions, or as
impressions or desires of the speaker necessitate his
making such 
    Pitch is a more complicated matter; the only
useful, simple 
generalization I see is "... stressed utterances are
normally spoken 
at higher pitch levels than are lesser-stress or
syllables..." (p.262).  
    Juncture, both with stress and pitch, is also a
more complicated 
matter, so I won't discuss it.  
    I remembered that Frederick Newmeyer said somewhere
in *History of 
American Linguistics* that syllabic stress in English
is in fact 
predictable.  What he must have meant is that if you
know from context 
whether a word is a noun/adjective or a verb, you know
where the 
stress goes.  In "I project higher sales in the next
"project" is clearly a verb and should be pronounced
"projéct".  In 
"This is a very large project", "project" is clearly a
noun and should 
be pronounced "próject".  

	Learning a little bit about Cherokee made me think
about this.  Cherokee must have a phonemic syllable
stress as English does, and a pitch accent system that
is meaningful in the same general way as the English