Word Stress

Word Stress: What You May Not Know

What is Word Stress? The likely answers are

  1. The force or energy applied to a particular syllable of a word
  2. The extra emphasis given to a particular syllable of a word
  3. The volume given to a particular syllable of a word to make it stand out.

These simple but complicated answers are saying the same thing in different ways.

The answers imply that each syllable in a multisyllabic word is said with a measure of force,

Energy, emphasis or volume while the stressed syllable is said louder.

When you listen to native speakers of English—British or American, you will observe that each syllable of a word is not loud nor are they said with any force. You may not make this observation when you listen with a mindset. You have to listen with your ears and eyes too. Not with your earlobes.

Listening carefully and attentively to native speakers, you will observe that

  1. Each syllable is not said loudly
  2. Depending on the number of syllables, some syllables are faint, that is, hardly heard, while one or two syllables are loud—clearly heard.

So now, what makes a syllable loud or faint?

A syllable is loud or stressed when we say loud and clear each letter contained therein. A syllable is unstressed or faint when we drop or reduce the sound of the vowel in it. Here comes the full or detailed explanation.

How to Achieve Word Stress

  1. Recognize that polysyllabic words have loud and faint parts.
  2. A loud syllable is given full pronunciation. This means that the vowel and consonants in a loud syllable are said clearly.
  3. A faint syllable is given part or partial pronunciation. This means that we don’t use all the letters in a faint syllable.
  4. We drop or reduce the vowel sound in a faint syllable and say just the consonants.
Formula

Loud Syllable = Consonant + Vowel = Full Pronunciation

Faint Syllable = Consonants – vowel = partial Pronunciation.

Examples of Applying Word Stress

Comfortable = com for ta ble

Comfortable = com f t bl = comftbl

Consonant = con so nant

Consonant = con s n’nt = consn’nt

Handsome = hand some

Handsome = han s’m = hans’m

Pronounce = pro nounce

Pronounce = pr nounce = prnounce

Mistake = mis take

Mistake = m’s take = m’stake

Neutral = neu tral

Neutral = neu trl = neutrl

Method = me thod

Method = me th’d = meth’d

Comment = com ment

Comment = com m’nt = com’nt

Command = com mand

Command = c’mand = c’mand

Comment = com ment

Comment = c’ment = c’ment

We do not achieve Word Stress by knowing and applying its deceptive definition. Instead, we achieve stress when a speaker is aware and conscious of the fact that words of more than one syllable have loud and faint parts. This is why at ICCOM we have done away with the term ‘Word Stress’ and rather use the phrase “Loud and Faint Parts of Words.”

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