WHAT IS SENTENCE STRESS? Remember that word stress (syllable stress) is the„beat‟ on one or more syllables within a word;sentence stress is the „beat‟ on certain words withina sentence. In other words, sentence stress can be describedas the „rhythm‟ of spoken language. Like word or syllable stress, sentence stress canhelp you to understand a language, especially whenspoken fast.
WHY IS ‘STRESS’ IMPORTANTIN PRONUNCIATION? Stress is important because it addsrhythm when you speak. If you stress all the words in anutterance, you may soundunpleasant or even causemisunderstanding, because:1. You are giving too muchinformation; and2. English native speakers usuallystress all words only when theyare impatient or angry.
Dealing with sentence stress, we have to knowwhich words should be stressed and which shouldbe unstressed. To know more about this, let‟s see the followingtypes of words:
According to the way they function, words in alanguage are normally classified into two types:a). Content words, are the key words of asentence. They are the important words thatcarry the meaning or sense.b). Structure words, are not very importantwords. They are small, simple words that makethe sentence correct grammatically. They givethe sentence its correct form or structure.
Imagine that you receive a telegram message:Will you sell my car because Ive gone to FranceThis sentence is not complete. It is not a grammaticallycorrect sentence. But you probably understand itbecause the four words communicate very well. This kindof words are known as the content words.The sentence above may has a meaning that:“Somebody wants you to sell his car forhim, because he has gone to France.”
We can add a few words to the sentence:You sell my car because Ive gone toFranceThe new words (my, I’ve, and to) do not really addany more information, but they make the messagemore correct grammatically.We can add even more words to make one complete,grammatically correct sentence, but the information isbasically the same.
Will you sell my car because Ive gone toFrance?In the sentence above, the four key words (sell, car,gone, and France) are the “content words” and areall stressed.The additional information to complete the sentenceare called “structure words” and are all unstressed.
In the previous example, there is 1 syllable between“sell” and “car” and 3 syllables between “car” and“gone”, but the time (t) between “sell” and “car” andbetween “car” and “gone” is the same.Will you sell my car because Ive gone to France?We maintain a constant beat on the stressed words (sell,car, gone, France). To do this, we say "my" more slowly,and "because Ive" more quickly.1 syllable 3 syllables
We change the speed of the small“structure words”, so that the rhythm ofthe key “content words” stays the same.In other words, the time (t) between eachstressed word is the same.
Will you sell my car because Ive gone to France?2 1 3 1t t t tN u m b e r o f S y l l a b l e s 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6
RULES OF SENTENCESTRESS The basic rules of sentence stress in English are:1. Content words are stressed;2. Structure words are unstressed; and3. The time between stressed words is always thesame.The following table can help you decide which words are thecontent words and which are the structure words:
Words for Correct Grammar: Examples:Personal & Relative Pronouns I, you, we, he, whom, whichPrepositions on, at, into, inArticles the, an, aConjunctions and, but, because, orAuxiliary Verbs do, can, have to, mustPossessive Adjectives my, your, her, his, our, their, itsDemonstratives this, that, these, thoseExpletive “THERE” thereSTRUCTUREWORDS
Exception !!!The above rules are for what is called “normalstress”. But sometimes we can stress words that arestructure words, for example to correct information,such as in:They’ve been to Japan, haven’t they?No, they haven’t, but we have.NOTE: The underlined words are stressed, although theybelong to the structure words.
English as aStress-timed Language English is a stress-timed language, which has absolutepatterns of rhythm. In other words, approximatelyevery 0.6 seconds a stressed syllablemust occur.This syllables may follow the variety of patterns thataffect the length of the stressed and unstressed syllables,but the length of time required topronounce the various sentences isthe same.
a. English, typically, has a predetermined rhythm, and the syllablesseem to scramble to accommodate this beat. The rhythm requires amajor stressed syllable every 0.6 seconds, and there are normally oneor two unstressed syllables near each major syllable:The Rhythm of a Typical English SentenceExample:The beautiful lady has talked to my brother.[ðə ‘bju:tɪfl ‘leɪdi həz ‘tɔ:kd tə maɪ ‘brʌðə(r)]0.6 0.6 0.6second second second
b. The rhythm is maintained (kept in existence) by the stress syllables. Ifthere are several unstressed syllables around the stressed syllables, itsduration is shortened, and the unstressed syllables must be glided oververy rapidly:The Rhythm with Several Unstressed SyllablesExample:Children should not be allowed to play alone near a congested street[‘tʃɪldrən ʃəd nɒt bi ə’laʊd tə pleɪ ələʊn ‘nɪə(r) ə kəndʒestɪd ‘stri:t]0.6 0.6 0.6second second second
c. If there are no unstressed syllables nearby, the stressedsyllables are naturally lengthened in order to fill thespaces of 0.6 second intervals:The Rhythm with No Unstressed SyllablesExample:Go to bed now! [‘gəʊ ‘tu: ‘bed ‘naʊ]0.6 0.6 0.6second second second
Formality of the Language Levels ofPronunciationThe stress pattern used at thephrase or sentence level is highlyinterrelated to both the formality ofthe language and the intonationpattern.
There are four levels of pronunciation that reflectthe formality of the speaking situation. They are:A• Stage speech (public reading style)B• Formal speech (public speaking style)C• Formal colloquial (vernacular)D• Everyday Speech (familiar colloquial)
Each of those levels of speech vary incases of rate of speech, the number ofstressed and unstressed words, thesituation, the dialect, and vocabulary. Here are the four levels of pronunciationthat reflect the formality of the speakingsituation:
A. Stage Speech (Public Reading Style) This type of speech isused in a formalpresentation situation inwhich a large group ofpeople are listening. It is used for stageproductions (theater),literary readings, churchservices, or othersettings when there islittle audience contact.
Sentences are composed primarily of stressedwords making the pronunciation clear anddeliberate (done carefully without hurrying). Open juncture and slow rate of speech arecommon. There is little use of the schwa (weak vowelsound) with the exeption of adding the schwa tothe end of words for emphasis, such as speak[‘spi:k] becomes [‘spi:kə].
B. Formal Speech (Public Speaking Style) This type of speech is used inparticular situations, which mightinclude a lawyer presenting in thecourtroom, an intervieweeanswering questions with anemployer, or when talking toindividuals in authority orpositions of importance. This style requires exactpronunciation and an accuratevocabulary. This requires openjuncture with many stressedwords and a slow rate.
All final consonants are pronounced, including “nt”, “nd”,and other CC endings.Examples: sent [sent], send [send]. The voiceless plosive /p/, /t/, and /k/ are aspirated briefly.Examples: pen [phen], take [theɪk], cat [khæt]. The dipthongs /əʊ/ are pronounced clearly.Examples: go [gəʊ], note [nəʊt], code [kəʊd]. /ju/ is used in all types of /u/ context.Examples: new /nu:/ → /nju:/, during [dʊrɪŋ] → [djʊərɪŋ].
C. Formal Colloquial (Vernacular) This type is used in everydaysituations involvingconversation with people instructures situations, such as aclassroom lecture (involvingquestions and answers fromthe class), or a conversationwith a store clerk during thepurchase of a selected item. This type is less intentionallyusing some stressed words. Although technical ofoccupational terms may beused, slang is not acceptable.
D. Everyday Speech (Familiar Colloquial) Familiar colloquial speech isused in everyday, casualsituations with friends,family, or close relatives. The rate of speech fasterwith closed juncture, fewstressed words, and lessexact or accuratepronunciations. Vocabulary is relaxed andmay contain slang typewords.