English Stress Pattern. Episode 1

Most times, the urge to sound fluent is the desire of learners of English as a second language. We strive to attain a level of proficiency in our command of English, and as such, some resort to erroneous placement of stress, 'indecent' and repulsive change of accent. I must say, at times, I get pissed to see such act while it might look difficult to attain proficiency as they make us believe.

A little knowledge of English stress and rhythm will aid correct accentuation of English words. Stress and rhythm are examples of supra segmental aspect of English; by this, we mean it is above the level of segment. Stress and rhythm constitute the backbone of English pronunciation; their roles go far beyond the segment and have bearings on syllable structures. A learner of English who maintains the stress and rhythm of the language is likely to sound both natural and fluent than one who does not. Therefore, for intelligibility to be achieved, it is important to give words their correct accentual pattern and rhythm.

For the purpose of clarity, we will take each one individually.

Stressed sounds are those on which the speaker expends energy on. The degree of force one uses to produce a particular sound either makes it a stressed sound or an unstressed sound. There are various degrees of stress. We have:

·         Primary stress
·         Secondary stress
·         Tertiary stress
·         Weakly stressed

Primary Stress
Primary stress is received by the syllable produced more forcibly than the others, i.e., the one that has more force in production than the others, e.g., 'understand.' 
The primary stress is on the syllable 'stand', so the word is underSTAND.

Secondary Stress
Secondary stress is received by the syllable that follows the primary in being forcibly pronounced. For example, in the word, 'understand', the secondary stressed syllable is UN

Weakly stressed syllable
This syllable is weakly produced. It usually has the vowel schwa as its nucleus. Another vowel that can be weakly stressed is the/i/ sound. Still in the word 'understand', the weakly stressed syllable is 'der'. In the transcription of 'understand', you will notice schwa comes after 'd' that automatically makes that syllable weakly stressed.

Look out for the operational levels of stress in the next edition.

Written by:
Joy Iwuchukwu Daniels

Tamuno Reuben

Those who seek knowledge seek power because the pen is mightier than the sword.


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