Stress and Rhythm - stress-timed rhythm. Poetry makes artistic use of stress-timing by employing regular rhythmic patterns. William Shakespeare. Poetic meter

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  • Stress and Rhythm

    Donna M. BrintonProfessor of TESOL

    Soka University of America

  • Overview of todays lecture

    Characteristics of stressed syllables The effect of affixation on lexical stress Lexical stress in . . .

    Compounds Noun/verb pairs Phrasal verbs Numbers

    Poetic meter and stress-timing Teaching strategies

  • Stressed syllables

    Stressed syllables are Louder: in volume Longer: in duration Higher: in pitch

    They contain full vowels,not unstressed vowels.

  • Louder, longer, higher








  • Lexical stress


    primary secondary unstressed

    There are three levels of lexical stress:

  • Levels of lexical stress

    Lightly stressed (secondary stress) Unstressed (weak or no stress) Strongly stressed (primary stress)


    /dZQpniyz /

  • Stress and unstress

    Polysyllabic words alternate stressed and unstressed syllables. There is one primary stressed syllable. There may also be syllables containing

    secondary stress. Primary and secondary stressed

    syllables contain full vowels. All remaining syllables are unstressed

    and contain unstressed vowels.

  • Marking stress

    IPA marks primary versus secondary stress by means of diacritics: A superscript / / indicates primary stress. A subscript / / indicates secondary stress.

    Alternately, acute / @/ and grave / $/ accent marks may be placed over the respective primary and secondary stressed vowels.


  • Stress and meaning

    to express disapproval

    obJECTa thing that can be seen and touched


    state in the south of the U.S.

    MiSSOURia state of extreme unhappiness


    no longer good; out of date

    inVALlida person who is ill or disabled


    a sweet dish served at the end of a meal

    deSSERTa geographical area with very little rain


    Stress placement can affect meaning:

  • A little desert?

  • British vs. American

    Word stress sometimes differentiates British from American English:



  • Overview of stress placement

    The following influence where the stress falls within a word: Historical origin of the word (e.g., Anglo

    Saxon, Norman French, Classical, etc.) Affixation (addition of prefixes/suffixes) Compounding (new word formation) Grammatical category (e.g., noun, verb,

    adjective, etc.)

  • A words origins

    Many loan words in English retain the stress of the language from which they were borrowed, e.g., French: masseuse, bizarre, baroque Persian: bazaar Arabic: giraffe

    These words count as exceptions to the general stress rules.

    Stockwell & Minkova (2001)

  • The Anglo Saxon root rule

    Words of Anglo Saxon origin are stressed on the first syllable of the root:

    These tend to be common words (e.g., parts of the body, the calendar, animals, domestic life, basic verbs and adjectives, the landscape, war and peace).



  • Overview: Suffixes and stress

    The addition of a suffix in English causes one of three things to occur:

    1) Stress neutral suffixes: No change in stress forgive forgivenregret regretful

    2) Stress demanding suffixes: Stress falls on the suffix itself absent absenteeauction auctioneer

  • Overview, contd.

    3) Stress changing suffixes: Stress shifts to the penultimate (next to the last) syllableathlete athletictelephone telephonic

    athlete + -ic = athletic

  • Stress neutral suffixes

    These do not change a words stress: Early English suffixes: -dom, -en, -er, -

    ess, -ful, -hood, -ish, -less, -ly, -man, -ness, -some, -ward(s), -wiseking kingdom; child childhood

    Non-native suffixes: -ist, -ize (with minor exceptions)active activist; union unionize

    Stockwell & Minkova (2001)

  • Stress demanding suffixes

    These demand or steal the stress: -aire, -ee, -eer, -elle, -esce,

    -ese, -esque, -ette

    Stockwell & Minkova (2001)

    acquire acquiesce

    China Chinese

  • Stress changing suffixes

    These shift the stress to the left of the suffix: -ic (also: ical, -ics)

    gene genetic microscope microscopic

    -id, -ity stupid stupidity masculine masculinity

    Stockwell & Minkova (2001)

    Exceptions: arithmetic, heretic, lunatic, politic, rhetoric, arsenic, Catholic, choleric, Arabic

  • Compounding

    Compounding is a productive strategy in English for creating new words. Compounds function somewhat like

    idioms, assuming a special meaning:

    They also assume a unique stress pattern, with stress falling on the first element of the compound:

    greenhouse whiteboardJackson & Z Amvela (2007)

    greenhouse a special structure used to grow plantswhiteboard a surface teachers use to write on

  • Stress patterns with compounds

    Noun + nounbird cagewagon train

    Noun + verbbaby sitweb surfknee jerk

    Adjective + noungreen cardhot plate

    Noun + adjectiveair sicksea sick

    Verb + prepositionsplashdowncountdowntouchdown

    Adjective + noun + nounback seat driverwaste paper baskethot dog bunblackbird nest

    Jackson & Z Amvela (2007)

  • Compounds vs. phrasal units

    Compounds and phrasal units are differentiated by their stress patterns. The stress difference also signals a

    difference in meaning: Adjective + noun compound

    Dont forget to turn off the ho@t plate.[=small electric burner]

    Adjective modifying a nounCareful, thats a ho$t pla@te.

    [=plate that is hot]

  • Juncture in compounds

    Compounds also lack the open juncturethat signifies word boundaries: greenhouse vs. green house White House vs. white house shortstop vs. short stop head doctor vs. head doctor freeway vs. free way bluebook vs. blue book

  • Hip doctor

    hip 1960s slang for fashionable; trendygroovy 1960s slang for terrific; excellent

  • Stress and grammar

    In certain pairings (~130 of them), stress marks grammatical category:






  • Stress and grammar, contd.

    Compare: The teacher presented the present

    perfect tense. Its a rebels responsibility to rebel

    against authority. If you dont conduct yourself

    appropriately, Ill give you a failing grade for conduct.

  • Phrasal verbs

    Like compounds, phrasal verbs function much like idioms, acquiring a special meaning of their own. Phrasal verbs consist of verb + particle

    element(s). The particle receives stress. look out (= be careful; pay attention) turn on (= become excited or aroused) take off (= leave; depart) look down on (= lack respect for;


  • Look out!

    LOOKout =a scenicview

    look OUT =caution; payattention

  • Careful vicious dog!

    turn ON sexually exciteTURN on attack


  • Stress and phrasal verb

    Stress in phrasal verbs functions one of three ways: Stressed verb + unstressed particle

    He doesnt approve of her friends. Stressed verb + stressed particle

    I cant figure out this problem. Stressed verb + stressed particle +

    unstressed particleHe got away with murder.

  • Cardinals and ordinals

    Cardinal and ordinal numbers are typically stressed on the first syllable:

    twenty, twentieth However, when differentiating teen

    numbers from their double-digit counterparts, speakers typically place the stress on the second syllable:

    fiftieth vs. fifteenth

  • Hyphenated numbers

    Hyphenated numbers function as compounds; they can be stressed on either element. Stress serves a disambiguating function.

    Compare: You got seventy-five on your quiz, not

    seventy-six. You got seventy-six on your quiz, not sixty-


  • Phrasal stress

    The same combination of stress and unstress that characterizes English words also characterizes phrase-length utterances:

    she went to the STAtionelectrifiCAtion

    its a CHICKadeenatioNALity

    in the COMicsecoNOmics

    Its a chickadee!

  • Da da DA da da DA da da DA

    The alternation of stressed/unstressed syllables characterizes English stress-timedrhythm. Poetry makes artistic

    use of stress-timing by employing regular rhythmic patterns.

    William Shakespeare

  • Poetic meter

    Dactylic - a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables'

    Trochaic - a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable'

    Anapestic - two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable '

    Iambic - an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable '

  • Poetic meter, contd.

    Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble.Fillet of a fenny snake, In the caldron boil and bake; Eye of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and tongue of dog, Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting, Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing,For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

    ' ' ' ' trochaic

  • Stress and meaning

    Try reading the following three phra


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