Stress is the extra muscular activity orforce that is exerted on either thesyllable of a word or the entire word. Itis not every word of a sentence that isstressed in the English language. Thosewords or syllables of a word that arestressed are usually more prominentthan others. Generally, nouns, verbs,adjectives, adverbs, and relativepronouns are stressed in a sentence.Personal pronouns conjunctions,prepositions, and articles on the otherhand are not stressed.
It should be noted that, when we stress the syllable of a word, or the entire word we perceived that the syllable or the word is louder and longer compared to the unstressed word or syllable around it. There are three different types of stress in English which can be assigned to either disyllabic or multisyllabic words.1. PRIMARY OR NUCLEAR STRESS. This is marked by a high upright line placed on the syllable that is considered louder and longer than the others.
2. SECONDARY STRESS. This is marked by a low upright lineon the next syllable that we considerequally loud and long but not as loudand long as the one that attracts theprimary stress.3. TERTIARY STRESS. This is assigned to less prominentsyllables or words.
EXAMPLE. ,eco’nomic ,responsi’bility In the two words above, the secondary stress comes in the first syllable, while the primary or main stress for economic comes in the third syllable from the left. That of responsibility comes in the third syllable from the right. We indicate the syllable that is stressed in a word by either using a high upright line, an asterisk or writing the syllable in capital letters as indicated in the examples above. E.g. ‘master (n), *master MAS-ter.
We have different methods of stressassignment on disyllabic and multisyllabicwords. Generally, disyllabic nouns arestressed on the first syllable while disyllabicverbs are stressed on the last syllable.e.g. Disyllable nouns Disyllable verbs ‘master at’tend ‘teacher be’lieve ‘preacher re’tire ‘creator re’turn ‘painter a’buse ‘prayer be‘have
‘mistake al’low ‘baby en’sure ‘writer at’tain ‘angel de’ceive. In public examinations such as SSCE andNECO, the candidate is given four wordsthree of which have the same stress patternwhile the last one is stressed differently. Thecandidate is expected to choose the optionthat has the word that has a different stresspattern. E.g. A. mistake B. attend C. forgive D. invite.
In the example above, options B, C andD have the same stress pattern whileoption A is stressed differently. optionA is, therefore, the correct answer. Note that disyllabic adjectives andadverbs may be stressed either at thefirst or last syllable. A good rule ofthumb therefore is that when wepronounce a word the syllable on whichour pitch is the highest and longestbears the stress.
The following are some disyllabic words andtheir stress patterns. Word Correct stress advocate ADvocate bargain BARgain canoe caNOE challenge CHALlenge colleague COLleague despite desPITE elite eLITE success sucCESS genuine GENuine interpret inTERpret
Stress patterns of multisyllabic words. Multisyllabic words may be stressed on any syllable. In public examinations, the candidate is given a word and different options A to D. The syllable that is stressed is capitalised. We are expected to choose the option that has the appropriate stress. E.g.1. autocratic A. AU-to-cra-tic B. au-TO-cra-tic C. au-to-CRA-tic D. au-to-cra-TIC
In the example above, the correctanswer is C because it is the secondsyllable from the end that is stressed. The following are rules governing thestress patterns of multisyllabic words.
Simple ruleS foraSSigning StreSS topolySyllabic wordS
We shall consider some simple rules forstress placement based on word endings(suffixes). ‘ate’ stress the first syllable if the wordhas three or more syllables. Example: CALculate CAStigate ALtenate DEMonstrate MAgistrate PROmulgate FORtunate MOtivate CONfiscate PENetrate OPerateCONtemplate
‘-ic’ stress the second syllable from the end if a word has three or four syllables.Example: idioMATic ecoNOmic optiMIStic draMAtic inorGAnic humanIStic emPHAtic hisTORic phoNETics‘-cal’ stress the third syllable from the end if the word has four or five syllables.Example:demoCRAtical geoMETrical reCIProcalecoNOMical hisTORical meTHODicalphotoGRAPHical poLITical ilLOgical
‘-ure’ stress the second syllable from the end if the word has three or four syllables.Example: adMIXture conJECture adVENture deBENture‘-ion’ stress the second syllable from the end if the word has four or five syllables. Example:satisFACtion exeCUtion elimiNAtion
‘-ation’ stress the second syllable from the end.Example: adminisTRAtion privatiZAtion confedeRAtion consideRAtion co-opeRAtion organiZAtion‘-ism’ Stress the first syllable (initial stress) PATrotism NAtionalism RAtionism ORganism MECHanism COMmunism
‘-able’ stress the first syllable from thebeginning if the word has four or fivesyllables.Example:COMfortable EXEcutable FAvourableHOnourable REAsonable CREditable
EMPHATIC STRESS. Emphatic or shifting stress is used bythe speaker to show the importance orsignificance of a unit of information inan utterance. Emphasis is focused on themost important element the speakerwishes to draw attention to and it isachieved through the degree of intensity(pitch change) given to the particularword.
In public examinations, we are given four options lettered A to D. The word that bears the emphatic stress is capitalised. The candidate is expected to choose the option that contrasts the word that is capitalised in the sentence.e.g.1. The teacher SOLD a book to him?A. Did the teacher sell a book to him?B. Did the teacher borrow a book from him?C. Did the teacher buy a book from him?D. Did the teacher loan a book to him? The correct answer is ‘C’ because ‘buy’ is the only word that contrast ‘sold’.