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Accentual Structure of English Words. Phrase Accent.

1. Accent. Stress in different languages of the world.

2. Accentual structure of English words.

3. Functional aspect of word stress.

4. Guidelines to English word stress placement.


1. Accent. Stress in different languages of the world. The syllable or syllables which are uttered with more prominence than the other syllables of the word are said to be stressedor accented. Word stresscan be defined as the singling out of one or more syllables in a word, which is accompanied by the change of the force of utterance, pitch of the voice, qualitative and quantitative characteristics of the sound which is usually a vowel. The correlation of varying prominences of syllables in a word is understood as the accentual structure of the word or its stress pattern.

According to the most prominent features the following types of word stress are distinguished in different languages: 1. dynamic or force stressif special prominence in a stressed syllable is achieved mainly through the intensity of articulation; 2. musical or tonic stressif special prominence is achieved mainly through the range of pitch, or musical tone. 3. quantitative stressif special prominence is achieved through the changes in the quantity of the vowels, which are longer in the stressed syllables than in the unstressed ones. 4. qualitative stressif special prominence is achieved through the changes in the quality of the vowel under stress. Vowel reduction is often used as manipulation of quality in unstressed syllables.

The effect of prominence is achieved by any or all of four factors: force, tone, length and vowel colour. The dynamic stress implies greater force with which the syllable is pronounced. European languages such as English, German, French, Ukrainian are believed to possess predominantly dynamic word stress. In Scandinavian languages the word stress is considered to be both dynamic and musical. The musical word stress is observed in Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese. It is effected by the variations of voice pitch in relation to neighbouring syllables.

Languages are also differentiated according to the placement of word stress.The traditional classification of languages concerningplace of stress in a word is intothose with a fixed stress and those with a free stress. In languages with a fixed stressthe occurrence of the word stress is limited to a particular syllable in a multisyllabicword. For instance, in French the stress falls on the last syllable of the word, in Finnishand Czech it is fixed on the first syllable.In languages with a free stress its place is not confined to a specific position in the word.

The word stress in English as well as in Ukrainian is not only free but it may also be shifting, performing the semantic function of differentiating lexical units, parts of speech, grammatical forms.

There are several systems of notation for marking stress in a written word that can make the concept visual for the language users. Most dictionaries mark primary stress with a vertical superscript stress mark – ' before the main stress syllable, and secondary stress with a subscript stress mark– ̗ before the syllable bearing secondary stress; tertiary (['tɜːʃ(ə)rɪ] третього порядку) stress is marked with ˳ before the appropriate syllable: interchangeability [̗Intə˳tSeinʤə'bIlətI]. The stress marks in the Ukrainian and Russian phonetic traditions are placed above the stressed vowels which are the nuclei of the syllable.

The stress in a word may be on the last syllable, the ult;on the next-to-last (the second from the end), the penult;on the third syllable from the end, the antepenult;and a few words are stressed on the fourth syllable from the end, the pre-antepenult.


2. Accentual structure of English words. The accentual structure of English words is liable to instability due to the different origin of several layers in the Modern English word stock. In Germanic languages the word stress originally fell on the initial syllable or the second syllable, the root syllable in the English words with prefixes. This tendency was called recessive. The rhythm of alternating stressed and unstressed syllables gave birth to the rhythmical tendency in the present-day English which caused the appearance of the secondary stress in the multisyllabic French borrowings, e.g. ,revo'lution, ,organi'sation, as,simi'lation, etc. It also explains the placement of primary stress on the third syllable from the end in three- and four-syllable words, e.g. 'cinema, 'situate, ar'ticulate.

The retentive tendencyconsists in the retention (утримання, збереження) of the primary stress on the parent word: 'person - 'personal, or more commonly the retention of the secondary stress on the current word: 'personal-personality. The difference between constant accent and the retentive stress consists in that the former remains on the same syllable in all the grammatical forms of a word or in all the derivatives from one and the same root, whereas retentive stress in a derivative falls on the same syllable on which it falls in the parent word, while in her derivatives from the same root it may be shifted, e.g. .'person − 'personal -per'sonify.

The numerous variations of English word stress are systematized in the typology of accentual structure of English words worked out by G.P. Torsuev. He classifies them according to the number of stressed syllables, their degree or character (the main and the secondary stress). The distribution of stressed syllables within the word accentual types forms accentual structures of words, e.g. the accentual type of words with two equal stresses may be presented by several accentual structures: 'well-'bred [ᅩᅩ], 'absent-minded [ᅩ –ᅩ –], or 'good-looking [ᅩᅩ –]. Accentual types and accentual structures are closely connected with the morphological type of words, with the number of syllables, the semantic value of the root and the prefix of the word.

The accentual types are:

I. [ᅩ –] This accentual type marks both simple and compound words. The accentual structures of this type may include two and more syllables, e.g. 'father, 'possibly, 'mother-in-law.

II. [ᅩᅩ]. The accentual type is commonly realized in compound words, most of them are with separable prefixes, e.g. 'radio-'active, 're'write, 'diso'bey.

III. [ᅩᅩᅩ] and IV. [ᅩᅩᅩᅩ]. The accentual types are met in initial compound abbreviations like 'U'S'A.

V. [ᅩᅮ –] The type is realized both in simple and compound words, very common among compound words, e.g. 'hair-,dresser, 'sub,structure.

VI. [ᅮᅩ –]. The accentual type marks a great number of simple words and some compound words as well. In simple words the stresses fall onto: the prefix and the root: ,maga'zine; the root and the suffix: ,hospi'tality; the prefix and the suffix: ,disorgani'zation.

VII. [ᅩᅮᅩ –] The type includes rather a small number of simple words with the separable prefixes, e.g. 'mis,repre'sent.

VIII. [ᅮᅮᅩ –]. The type is found in a very small number of words, usually simple words with the stresses on the prefix, the root and the suffix, e.g. ,indi,viduali'zation.

IX. [ᅩᅩᅮ–]. The type is met in rare instances of compound words with separable prefixes, e.g. 'un'sea,worthy.

X. [ᅩ –ᅮᅮ]. The type is represented by rare instances of simple and compound words, e.g. 'soda-,water ,bottle.

XI. [ᅮᅩᅮ]. The type is found in rare instances of compound words consisting of the three components, e.g. ,ginger 'beer-,bottle.

In the English language the most widely spread among the enumerated accentual types are supposed to be Type I [ᅩ –], Type II [ᅩᅩ], Type V [ᅩᅮ] and Type VI [ᅮᅩ].

The variability of the word accentual structure is multiplied in connected speech. The accentual structure of words may be altered under the influence of rhythm, e.g. An 'unpolished 'stone. But: The 'stone was un'polished. 'Find 'page four'teen. But: We 'counted 'fourteen 'birds.

The tempo of speech may influence the accentual pattern of words. With the quickening of the speed the carefulness of articulation is diminished, the vowels are reduced or elided, the secondary stress may be dropped, e.g. The 'whole organi'zation of the 'meeting was 'faulty. The word stress is closely interrelated with sentence stress. The demarcation of word stress and sentence stress is very important both from the theoretical and the practical viewpoint. Sentence stress usually falls on the very syllable of the word which is marked by word stress. Thus the accentual structure of the word predetermines the arrangement of stresses in a phrase. At the same time the stress pattern of a phrase is always conditioned by the semantic and syntactical factors. The words which usually become stressed convey the main idea of the phrase.


3. Functional aspect of word stress. We shall turn now to the functional aspect of word stress. Word stress in a language performs three functions:

I. Word stress constitutes a word, it organizes the syllables into a language unit having a definite accentual structure, that is a pattern of relationship among the syllables; a word does not exist without the word stress. Thus the word stress performs the constitutive function. Sound continuum becomes a phrase when it is divided into units organized by word stress into words.

II. Word stress enables a person to identify a succession of syllables as a definite accentual pattern of a word. This function of word stress is known as identificatory. Correct accentuation helps the listener to make the process of communication easier, whereas the distorted accentual pattern of words, misplaced word stresses prevent normal understanding.

III. Word stress alone is capable of differentiating the meaning of words or their forms, thus performing its distinctive function. There are about 135 pairs of words of identical orthography in English which could occur either as nouns or as verbs: 'import (noun) – im'port (verb), 'insult (noun) – in'sult (verb).


4. Guidelines to English word stress placement.English stress placement is a highly complicated matter. There is an opinion that itis best to treat stress placement as a property of an individual word, to be learned whenthe word itself is learned. However, it is also recognized that in most cases when Englishspeakers come across an unfamiliar word, they can pronounce it with the correct stress.Thus in principle, it should be possible to summarize rules of lexical stress placement inEnglish, and practically all the rules will have exceptions.

In order to decide on stress placement, it is necessary to make use of some or all of the following information:

1. whether the word is morphologically simple, or whether it is complex containing one or more affixes (prefixes or suffixes) or a compound word;

2. the grammatical category to which the word belongs (noun, verb, etc.)

3. the number of syllables in a word;

4. the phonological structure of the syllables;

5. the historical origin of a word.

Lexical stress of monosyllabic wordspresents no problem − pronounced in isolation they are said with primary stress.

Basic rules of stressing two-syllable simple wordscomprise rules of stressing verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc. The basic rule of stressing two-syllable verbsruns that if the second syllable of the verb contains a long vowel or a diphthong, or if it ends with more than one consonant, that second syllable is stressed: apply, attract, arrive. If the final syllable contains a short vowel and one final consonant, the first syllable is stressed: open, enter. A final syllable is also unstressed if it contains -ow: follow, borrow. Any two-syllable verbs with prefixes of Germanic and Latin origin have the root syllable stressed (see a more detailed explanation in words with prefixes).

Two syllable simple adjectivesare stressed according to the same rule as two syllable verbs: 'lovely, 'even, 'hollow; di'vine, co'rrect, a'live .There are exceptions to this rule: 'honest, 'perfect.

Two-syllable nounshave the first syllable stressed if the second syllable contains a short vowel: dinner, money, colour. Otherwise it will be on the second syllable: de'sign, bdloon.

Other two-syllable words such as adverbs seem to behave like verbs and adjectives.


Lexical stress of three-syllable simple words.

Three-syllable verbs Three-syllable nouns
If the last syllable of a three-syllable verb 1) contains a short voweland ends with not more than one consonant, that syllable will be unstressed, and stress will be placed on the preceding (penultimate syllable): de'termine, en'counter. 2) contains a long vowelor a diphthong, or ends with more than one consonant, that final syllable will be stressed: enter'tain, under'stand. If the final syllable of a three-syllable simple nouncontains 1) a long vowel or a diphthongand/orends with more than one consonant, the stress willusually be placed on the first syllable: 'intellect,'marigold. 2) a short voweland the middle syllable contains a short vowel and ends with not more than one consonant, the first syllable will be stressed: 'quantity, 'cinema. 3) contains a short vowelor [ǝu] and if the penultimate syllable contains a long vowel or a diphthong, or if it ends with more than one syllable, that penultimate syllable will be stressed: po'tato, di'saster, sy'nopsis.

Lexical stress of words of four or more syllables.It can be stated in a most general way that in words of four and more syllables the stress is placed on the antepenultimate syllable (third from the end), e'mergency, hi'storical, ca'lamity. But most of such words are of complex morphological structure containing affixes (prefixes and / or suffixes) which makes it necessary to regard stress placement rules applied to prefixal and suffixal words separately.

Words with prefixes.As a general rule, words containing prefixes tend to be stressed on the first syllable of the base or root element, with the prefix either unstressed or having secondary stress. In English, prefixes fall into one of two categories:

Prefixes of Germanic origin Prefixes of Latin ate origin
a-, be, for-, fore-, mis-, out-, over-, un-, under-, up-, with, e.g. awake, believe, forgive, foresee, mistake, outrun, overdo, untie, understand, uphold,withdraw a(d)-, com-, de-, dis-, ex-, en-, in-, o-, per-, pre-, pro-, re-, sub-, sur-, e. g. admix, complain, discard, exclude, entreat, inhale, oppose, persuade, remember, subside, surmount
1) Some of these prefixes are always unstressed in the words in which they occur: a-, be-, fore-, with-. 2) Others usually receive secondary stress in the following prefix+verbcombinations: undo, outdo, overlook, underpay. 3) An exception to this general rule (secondary stress on the prefix and primary stress on the base) occurs when a word with a prefix functions as a noun and has the same pattern as a noun compound. In this case, the prefix or its first syllable tends to have primary stress: foresight, outlook, overdose, underwear, upstart. Cf: I couldn 't stop the OVERflow of the tank! (prefix+basefunctioning as a noun) Why did the tank overFLOWl (prefix+verb) 1) It is usually the base (not the prefix) that receives primary stress. However, unlike Germanic prefixes, the majority of Latin prefixes are unstressed when part of a verb: compare, disturb, produce, expect. 2) When these prefixes are part of a word that functions as a noun, the prefix often receives primary stress: Cf.: Fresh PROduce (noun) is expensive in winter. The company will PRO'duce (verb) new brands. In these examples, the difference in stress patterns helps to reinforce the differences between parts of speech.

Words with suffixes.We can identify three types of suffixes, from the point of view of stress

1) Stress-neutral suffix – the suffix does not affect the location of stress in the base to which it is attached 2) Stress-imposing / stress-attracting suffix – the suffix causes thestress to fall on a particularsyllable of the stem 3) Stressed / stressfixing suffix – the suffixitself is stressed
1) for the most part, stress-neutral suffixes are Germanic in origin: -hood, -less, -ship, -ful, e.g. childhood, tasteless, beautiful, friendship. 2) Other neutral suffixes – not all of Germanic origin – that function the same way include derivational suffixes ending in -ment,and most of those ending in-y: ary, -ery, -ory, -cy-, -acy, -ty; diminutive -y; -ish, -ism, -ist, -er, -ess, -ness, -dom, e.g. disagreement, infirmary, delicacy, foolish, separatist, lioness. 1) on the syllable immediately preceding the suffix: -eous,advantegeous -graphy,photography -ial,proverbial -ian,parisian -ic, climatic -ical,ecological -ious,injurious -ity,ability -ion education   1) suffixes that have come into English via French often cause the final syllable of a word to receive primary stress: -aire,questionnaire -eer,volunteer -ese, Vietnamese -esque,grotesque -ique,antique -oon,balloon -ette,cassette

Stress in compounds and phrases. Compoundsare composed of more than one root morpheme but function grammatically and/or semantically as a single word. Compounds may be written as one word, e.g. dishwasher, or with a hyphen, e.g. user-friendly, or with a space between the two elements, e.g. season ticket. There is no systematic practice in the choice among these three ways, although there is a tendency for compounds with primary stress on the first element to be written as one word or with a hyphen, and for those with the primary stress on the final element to be written as two words.

When an adjective modifies the following noun, they make a phrase,and typically, they have a late stress,i.e. the second word has more stress than the first, e.g. ,polished 'wood, ,interesting 'book.

There are some guidelines for defining stress placement in compoundsand phrases:

Compoundstypically have early stress,the first element is more stressed than the second: 'firewood, 'library book, 'running shoes, 'homework. Early stressis usual in compounds in which:

• the two elements are written as one word: 'headline, 'screwdriver; 'laptop, 'lifestyle;

• expressions consisting of NOUN+NOUN: 'picture frame, 'child abuse, 'theme park, 'tape measure.

• expressions consisting of A(djective)+NOUN, N's+N, N+V, N+Ving: 'batting average, 'bull'seye, 'crow'snest, 'landfill, 'ear-splitting, 'job-sharing,

• phrasal and prepositional verbs used as nouns:' burn-out, 'lay-off, 'melt-down, 'setup.

Late stressis usual in the following compoundsas if they were phrases:

• when the first element is the material or ingredient out of which the thing is made: cherry 'pie, pork 'chop, except for CAKE, JUICE and WATER: these have normal early stress: 'carrot cake, 'orange juice, 'mineral water.

• the first element is a proper name: ,Euston 'Road, the ,Hilton 'Hotel, ,Oxford 'Circus, except for STREET: these have normal early stress: 'Oxford Street, 'Euston Street.

• the first element names a place or time: ,city 'centre, ,town 'hall, ,summer 'holidays, ,office 'party.

• when both Nl andN2 are equally referential: acid 'rain, aroma 'therapy, fridge- 'freezer;

• when Nl is a value: 100per cent 'effort, dollar 'bill, pound 'note.

Compound adjectivesdivide fairly evenly between those with initial primary stress: 'seasick, 'hen-pecked, 'ladylike, and those with final stress: deep-'seated, rent-'free, skin- 'deep, sky-'blue.

Sometimes the same sequence of words can make a phraseor a compound. Here the lateor early stressdistinguishes them:

Compounds = EARLY STRESS Phrases = LATE STRESS
a 'darkroom = a room for developing photographs a 'moving van = to carry furniture when one moves house a 'blackbird = a kind of bird an 'English teacher = a teacher of English a ,dark 'room = a room which is dark because there is little light in it a ,moving 'van = a van that is in motion a ,black 'bird = any bird that is black an ,English 'teacher = a teacher who is English


The stress patterns of some English words are liable to variations of different kinds. There is free variation of stress location due to some rhythmic and analogical pressures, e.g. 1) in some words of three syllables, there is variation between '- - - and -'- - patterns: deficit, integral (adj), exquisite. 2) similarly, in words of four syllables, there is variation between first and second syllable stressing: hospitable, formidable, despicable. Pronunciation patterns of such words due to the variation in stress placement have the status of alternative pronunciation formswhich occur in educated usage.

Cases of variable stress placement caused by the context is known as ‘stressshift'. When a word of several syllables has a stress near the end of theword, and is followed by another word with stress near its beginning, there is a tendencyor the stress in the first word to move nearer the beginning if it contains a syllable thatis capable of receiving stress, e.g. the word academic in isolation usually has the stresson the penultimate syllable [-dem-]. However, when the word year follows, the stress isoften found to move to the first syllable [æk-]; the whole phrase 'academic year’ will lavethe primary stress on the word year, so the resulting stress pattern will be ,academic'year. In isolation, we say fundamental and Japanese with primary stress on -ment, and-nese, in connected speech these words may have a different pattern: greater stress onfund- and Jap-.

There are also often differences between the stressing of compounds in RP and General American, e.g.

RP GenAm

'season ,ticket ,season 'ticket

,Adam’s 'apple 'Adam's ,apple

,peanut 'butter 'peanut ,butter

,vocal 'cords 'vocal ,cords

Answer the questions:

1. How can word stress (WS) be defined ?

2. What types of WS are distinguished in different languages according to its nature?

3. Comment on the systems of notation for marking stress in a written word in English and Ukrainian.

4. What function does WS perform? Explain the essence of each function.

5. Comment on the case when the location of WS alone differentiates parts of speech. Give examples.

7. What information should be taken into account in order to decide on stress


8. Speak on the guidelinesto WS placement in English:

• monosyllabic words

• two-syllable simple words

• three-syllable simple words

• four or more syllables

• words with prefixes

• words with suffixes

• compounds and phrases.

9. What is 'stress-shift'?

Література: [1, с. 179-188; 2, с. 138-145; 4, c. 68 -82].


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