1. What’s stress? (Contrast more than one theory)
Stress must be defined in terms of both production and perception.
In terms of production, stress stands for the extra muscular activity envolved in the
pronunciation of some syllables. It is manifested in the air pressure generated in the
lungs for producing the syllable and also, in the articulatory movements in the vocal
In terms of perception, stressed syllables are recognized as to be more prominent,
that is to say, the audible effect make the stressed syllable stand out from its context.
Even more, it makes us perceive its presence and/or its absence, leading us to give
meanin to the utterance.
2. What’s Prominence? (explain in your own words, and give original
We say Prominence is the audible perception of stressed syllable that is given due to
some characteristics such as loudness and duration, vowel quality and pitch.
3. What makes a syllable prominent? (explain in your own words, and give
A syllable is prominent when we perceive it takes some ‘extra time’ to be said
(duration), also, when we hear it with ‘extra volume’ (loudness), we also perceive it
in the tone of the voice, sort of a change in the ‘musical note’, and the last factor of
importance that makes a syllable stressed is the quality of the vowel.
We notice that normally stressed syllables tend to use long vowel sounds, or
diphthongs, also, we notice that ‘schwa’ and syllabic consonants are only found in
unstressed syllables and that /I/ and /U/ are found in both stressed and unstressed
4. What’s pitch?
Is related to the frequency of vibration of the vocal folds,
The higher tha rate of vibration of the vocal folds, the higher the pitch perceived. It
is also related to the musical notion of high and low.
5. How many stress levels are there?
At least two: Stressed and unstressed. However, some linguists point out that in
some words we can observe a stressed slightly less prominent that the ones
unstressed and slightly more prominent than the ones stressed. Thus we would have
3 levels of stress: Primary, Secondary and Unstressed.
6. What are the functions of stress?
Its functions are several, among them we have:
- to disambiguate between grammatically polysemous words, i.e. where we have
cases of different pronunciations depending on whether the word is (in most
cases) a noun or a verb, as in present (n.) / vs. present (v.) /
- help distinguish adjective-noun pairs and compounds, such as e.g. black bird (2
words) // / / / / / / / / / vs. blackbird (compound) // / / / / / / / /, when they occur
in isolation or form complete noun phrases.
- to mark certain derivational effects, primarily caused by the addition of specific
(but certainly not all) suffixes, such as in photograph / / vs.
photography // / / / / / / / / /
7. What do we refer to by saying ‘strong’ or ‘weak’ syllable?
A Strong Syllable is said to be stressed and all the opposite for a weak syllable. Both
types have phonological restrictions, which are:
8. Name two relationships between grammar and stress.
The placement of stress can help us in:
- deciding the stress pattern in two syllable words with the option of using the
word as a noun or a verb (noun-verb alternation),
- knowing how to stress compound words,
- difficult words such as goodness, childhood, etc.
- Also, the analysis of suffixes and prefixes can give us a hint on the placement of
9. Name all the most important rules for stress placement in English.
#1: In 2-Syllable words, nouns are stressed on the first syllable, for verbs the stress
is on the second syllable.
#2: In 3-syllable words, major stress is often on the first or second syllable. If the
major stress in on the first syllable, then the third often gets minor stress.
#3: In Compound words, the first word receives major stress, and the second word
receives minor stress.
#4: Suffixes change the placement of stress in related words. Major stress always
falls on the last syllable before these suffixes: -ic, -ity, -ical, -tion
Roach, P. (2000) English Phonetics and Phonology. A Practical Course. 3rd edition.
Cambridge University Press
Stress and Prominence. Online. Available from: http://ell.phil.tu-
chemnitz.de/phon/supra/stress.html [accessed May 2010].