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Re: OT: Syllabic Stress in English

Good summary, Dennis. One missed is Noun-Noun compounds, such as "políce
dog" vs. an Adjective-Noun such as "iron gate." Note the low stress on "dog"
vs. the high stress on "gate." This is a particularly interesting
suprasegmental contrast because it's so unconscious with English speakers
and hard to bring up to consciousness.

warm regards, moonhawk

> From: Dennis <ixohoxi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> Date: Wed, 24 Jan 2001 05:36:43 -0600
> To: VOYNICH-L <voynich@xxxxxxxx>
> Subject: OT: Syllabic Stress in English
> I found a book which explains syllabic stress in
> English"
> *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
> verbs: 
> 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
> distinction 
> 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
> appear 
> differently in special grammatical constructions, or as
> the 
> impressions or desires of the speaker necessitate his
> making such 
> changes."
> 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
> unstressed 
> 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
> quarter", 
> "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
> one
> Dennis