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Chapter IV


In this section we shall focus our attention on the accentual patterns of English words. The sequence of syllables in the word is not pronounced identically. The syllable or syllables which are uttered with more prominence than the other syllables of the word are said to be stressed or accented. The correlation of varying prominences of syllables in a word is understood as the accentual structure of the word or its stress pattern.

It would be perfectly natural to begin this section with the nature of word stress.According to A.C.Gimson, the effect of prominence is achieved by any or all of four factors: force, tone, length and vowel colour (57). The dynamic stress implies greater force with which the syllable is pronounced. In other words in the articulation of the stressed syllable greater muscular energy is produced by the speaker. European languages such as English, German, French, Russian are believed to possess predominantly dynamic word stress. In Scandinavian languages the word stress is considered to be both dynamic and musical. For instance, in Swedish, the word comma (comma) is distinguished from the word comma (come) by a difference in tones. The musical (or tonic) word stress is observed in Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese. It is effected by the variations of voice pitch in relation to neighbouring syllables. In Chinese the sound sequence chu pronounced with the level tone means "pig", with the rising tone — "bamboo", with the falling tone — "to live".

The English linguists (D.Crystal (50), A.C.Gimson (57)) agree that in English word stress or accent is a complex phenomenon, marked by the variations in force, pitch, quantityand quality.The dynamic and the tonic features of English word stress prevail over the others. It should be noted that when the tonic or musical component of word stress is involved it is the change of pitch, level that is significant in making the syllable prominent, but not the type of tone direction.

Let us turn to some examples. If the words 'import (n) and im'port (v) are said on a level tone and each vowel with its own length, it is rather difficult to distinguish them. The tonic or musical component may be helpful in defining the place of stress in a word as it is observed within the syllable marked by the pitch change, which contributes to the syllable prominence.


The placement of the pitch change marks the seat of the stress. It should be noted here that the very type of pitch change, its direction, does not influence the word stress, e.g.


The pitch direction is changed but the stress remains unchanged.

On the other hand, a whole idea may be conveyed by uttering a single word (one-word phrase). Then we shall deal with the sentence stress and the musical component of intonation. There is undoubtedly a close interrelation between word stress and sentence stress.

The nature of word stress, the interrelation of its components is still a problem which is awaiting its solution.

, As to the quantitative and qualitative components of word stress they are also significant. Certain distinctions of the vowel length and colour are reduced or lacking in unstressed syllables. The fact strengthens the idea that the accentuation is influenced by the vowel length and quality. The vowel of the stressed syllable is perceived as never reduced or obscure and longer than the same vowel in the unstressed syllables. Thus, the word "stress" or "accent" is also defined as qualitative where the vowel colour or qualily is a means of stress and quantitative with relatively increased length of the stressed vowel. Compare the quality (colour) and quantity (length) of the same vowel in a word, e.g. ab'stract, 'car-park; иди, или, уму.

It is fair to mention that there is a terminological confusion in discussing the nature of stress. According to D.Crystal (50) the terms "heaviness, sound pressure, force, power, strength, intensity, amplitude, prominence, emphasis, accent, stress" tend to be used synonymously by most writers. The discrepancy in terminology is largely due to the fact that there are two major views depending on whether the productive or receptive aspects of stress are discussed. The main drawback with any theory of stress based on production of speech is that it only gives a parlial explanation of the phenomenon but does not analyse it on the perceptive level. Instrumental investigations study the physical nature of word stress. On the acoustic level the counterpart of force is the intensity of the vibrations of the vocal cords of the speaker which is perceived by the listener as loudness. Thus the greater energy with which the speaker articulates the stressed syllable in the word is associated by the listener with greater loudness. The acoustic counterparts of voice pitch and length are frequency and duration respectively.

The nature of word stress in Russian seems to differ from that in English. The quantitative component plays a greater role in Russian accentual structure than in English word accent. In the Russian language we never pronounce vowels of full formation and full length in unstressed positions, they are always reduced. Therefore the vowels of full length are unmistakably perceived as stressed. In English the quantitative component of word stress is not of primary importance because of the nonreduced vowels in the unstressed syllables which sometimes occur in English words, e.g. 'architect, 'transport, 'partake.

Russian phoneticians (L.V.Zlatoustova; 17, L.L.Bulanin, 9) insist on the quantitative character of the Russian word stress as its principal feature, though other components of word stress in Russian are not denied.

We would like to dwell on the term prominencehere. It seems to cause some ambiguity when related to word stress. The stressed syllables are often said to be the most prominent syllables in the word. According to G.P.Torsuev the notions "stressed" and "prominent" should not be used synonymically (31). The effect of prominence is created by some phonetic features of sounds which have nothing to do with word or sentence stress. It is common knowledge that sounds of speech have different degrees of sonority. Vowels are more sonorous than consonants. Open vowels are more sonorous than close ones. Sonority is the inner quality of vowels which is not directly connected with the accentual structure of words but with other articulatory characteristics, it contributes to the effect of prominence.

Another characteristic of a vowel which also adds to the effect of prominence but is not connected with the word stress is historical (traditional) length of vowels. The presence of a traditionally long sound in the stressed syllable and a traditionally short vowel in the unstressed syllable adds to the effect of the prominence o'f the stressed syllable, e.g. [m'kri:s], [bi'lirv], ['i:zi].

Naturally the historical length of vowels is the vowel inner quality which should not be mixed with the quantitative characteristics of word stress.

To sum it up prominence in speech is a broader term than stress. It is obtained by the components of word stress, such as the loudness, the length, the quality of the vowel plus the inherent sonority of the vowel and its historical length. In a discourse the effect of prominence may be strengthened by the melody which is the component of intonation.

Languages are also differentiated according to the placement of word stress.The traditional classification of languages concerning place of stress in a word is into those with a fixed stress and those with a free stress. In languages .with a fixed stress the occurrence of the word stress is limited to a particular syllable in a multisyllabic word. For instance, in French the stress falls on the last syllable of the word (if pronounced in isolation), in Finnish and Czech it is fixed on the first syllable, in Polish on the one but last syllable. Some foreign words borrowed into Russian and proper names retain the original stresses and give an ide\ of the fixed word stress, e.g.

French: Париж, кашне, партер

Finnish: Хельсинки, сауна

Czech: Злата Прага, Карловы Вары

Polish: Варшава, Катовице, Познань.

In languages with a free stress its place is nol confined to a specific position in the word. In one word it may fall on the first syllable, in another on the second syllable, in the third word — on the last syllable, etc.

The free placement of stress is exemplified in the English and Russian languages, e.g.

English: 'appetite — be'ginning — ba'lloon

Russian: озеро — погода — молоко

The word siress in English as well as in Russian is not only free but it may also be shifting, performing the semantic function of differentiating lexical units, parts of speech, grammatical forms. It is worth noting that in English word stress is used as a means of word-building, in Russian it marks both word-building and word formation, e.g.

'contrast — con'trast

'habit — ha'bitual 'music — mu'sician

дома — дома; чудная — чудная

воды воды; козы — козы

There are actually as many degrees of stressin a word as there are syllables. A.C.Gimson, for example, shows the distribution of the

32 415

degrees of stress in the word examination. The opinions of phoneticians differ as to how many degrees of stress are linguistically relevant in a word. The British linguists usually distinguish three degrees of stress in the word. The primary stress is the strongest, it is marked by number 1 in the, word examination, the secondaiy stress is the second strongest marked by 2. All the other degrees are termed weak stress. Unstressed syllables are supposed to have weak stress. The American scholars B.Bloch and G.Trager find four contrastive degrees of word stress, namely: loud, reduced loud, medial and weak stresses (45). Other American linguists also distinguish four degrees of word stress but term them: primary stress, secondary stress, tertiary stress and weak stress. The difference between the secondary and tertiary stresses is very subtle and seems subjective. The criteria of their difference are very vague. The second pretonic syllables of such words as ,7ibe'raft'on, ,recog'nitiim are marked by secondary stress in RP, in General American they are said to have a tertiary stress. In GA a tertiary stress also affects the suffixes -ory, -ary, -ony of nouns and the suffixes -ate, -ize, -y of verbs, which are considered unstressed in RP, e.g. 'territory, 'cere,mony, 'dictionary; 'demonstrate, 'organize, 'simplify.

British linguists do not always deny the existence of tertiary stress as a tendency to use a tertiary stress on a post-tonic syllable in RP is also traced. However, the British conception of three degrees of word stress is accepted as the teaching norm.

We would like to point out right here that the accentual structure of English words is liable to instability due to the different origin of several layers in the Modern English wordstock. 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. Most English words of Anglo-Saxon origin as well as the French borrowings (dated back to the 15th century) are subjected to this recessive tendency. Unrestricted recessive tendency is observed in the native English words having no prefix, e.g. mother, daughter, brother, swallow, in assimilated French borrowings, e.g. reason, colour, restaurant. Restricted recessive tendency marks English words with prefixes, e.g. foresee, begin, withdraw, apart. A great number of words of Anglo-Saxon origin are monosyllabic or disyllabic, both notional words and form words. They tend to alternate in the flow of speech, e.g. / 'don't be'lieve he's 'right.

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. revolution, prganVsation, os.sz-mi'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 interrelation of both the recessive and the rhythmical tendencies is traced in the process of accentual assimilation of the French-borrowed word personal on the diachronic level, e.g. personal 'perso'nal 'personal.

The appearance of the stress on the first syllable is the result of the recessive tendency and at the same time adaptation to the rhythmical tendency. The recessive tendency being stronger, the trisyllabic words like personal gained the only stress on the third syllable from the end, e.g. 'family, 'library, 'faculty, 'possible.

The accentual patterns of the words 'terrifory, 'dictionary, 'neces,sary in GA with the primary stress on the first syllable and the tertiary stress on the third are other examples illustrating the correlation of the recessive and rhythmical tendencies. Nowadays we witness a great number of variations in the accentual structure of English multisyllabic words as a result 9f the interrelation of the tendencies. The stress on the initial syllable is caused by the diachronical recessive tendency or the stress on the second syllable under the influence of the strong rhythmical tendency of the present day, e.g. 'hospitable ho'spitable

'distribute — dis'tribute, 'aristocrat — a'ristocmt, 'laryngoscope — la'ryngoscope.

A third tendency was traced in the instability of the accentual structure of English word stress, the retentivetendency: a derivative often retains the stress of the original or parent word, e.g. 'similar as'similate, ,recom'mend fecommen'dation.

The numerous variations of English word stress are systematized in the typology of accentual structureof English words worked out by G.P.Torsuev (31). 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 bv? several accentual structures: 'well-'bred [j.j.], 'absent-minded [ j,_a_ ], or 'good-looking [ j.j— ]. 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. This accentual type marks both simple and com-

pound words. The accentual structures of this type may include two and more syllables, e.g. 'father, 'possibly, 'mother-in-law, 'gas-pipe.

П. The accentual type is commonly realized in com-

pound words, most of them are with separable prefixes, e.g. 'radio-active, 're'write, 'diso'bey.

Ш. and IV. The accentual types are met in

initial compound abbreviations like V'S'A, V'S'S'R.

V . The type is realized both in simple and com-

pound words, very common among compound words, e.g. 'hair-,dresser, 'substructure.

VI. , 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: .maqra'zme;

— the root and the suffix: fiospi'tality;

— the prefix and the suffix: tdisorgani'zation.

Vn. . The type includes rather a small number of

simple words with the separable prefixes, e.g. 'misrepresent.

УШ. . 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. jndiyiduali'zation.

IX . The type is met in rare instances of compound

words with separable prefixes, e.g. 'urisea,worthy.

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

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

The data given above suggest an idea of the great variability in the accentual structure of English words. The most widely spread among the enumerated accentual types are supposed to

be Type I Type П Type V and Type VI

. Each type includes varieties of definite accentual structures with different numbers of syllables and marks thousands of words. So the four of them cover the main bulk of most common English words and are therefore most typical for the English vocabulary. As we may see, the typical feature of English accentual structure is its instability. There is a great number of words having variants of their accentual patterns. They may differ in:

— number of stresses: USSR

— the place of stress: hospitable

3) the degree of stress: individualizationor

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 organization of the 'meeting was faulty.

The variability of the English word accentual structure presents great difficulty for students of English. They should be well acquainted with the four most widely spread accentual types of words, mentioned above and be aware of the modifications of word accentual patterns influenced by rhythm and tempo in connected speech.

The given examples of the accentual structure of words in connected speech show that the word stress is closely interrelated with sentence stress. We shall now try to see their similarity and difference. 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 in a phrase are notional words. They convey the main idea of the phrase, though any word including form words may be marked by sentence stress, if it has certain semantic value in the sentence.

The common character of word stress and sentence stress is also observed in their rhythmical tendency to alternate stressed and unstressed syllables and pronounce them at approximately equal intervals.

Now we should like to distinguish the notions of word stress and sentence stress. They are first of all different in their sphere of application as they are applied to different language units: word stress is naturally applied to a word, as a linguistic unit, sentence stress is applied to a phrase.

Secondly, the distinction of the rhythmic structure of a word and a phrase is clearly observed in the cases when the word stress in notional words is omitted in a phrase, e.g.

I 'don't think he is 'right.

Or when the rhythmic structure of the isolated word does not coincide with that of a phrase, e.g.

'Fifteen. 'Room Fifteen. 'Fifteen 'pages.

So in a speech chain the phonetic structure of a word obtains additional characteristics connected with rhythm, melody, and tempo. Though the sentence stress falls on the syllable marked by the word stress it is not realized in the stressed syllable of an isolated word but in a word within speech continuum. Since the spheres of word stress and sentence stress fall apart their functions are actually different. Sentence stress organizes a sentence into a linguistic unit, helps to form its rhythmic and intonation pattern, performs its distinctive function on the level of a phrase. In discussing accentual structure of English words we should 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 of a word 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.

П. 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 (or recognitive). 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.

Ш. Word stress alone is capable of differentiating the meaning of words or their forms, thus performing its distinctive function. The accentual patterns of words or the degrees of word stress and their positions form oppositions, e.g. 'importim'port, 'billow below.

VA.Vassilyev introduces the term "accenteme" for word stress as a suprasegmental phonological unit having different degrees and placement in a word (79). For instance the primary accenteme is opposed to the weak word accenteme (unstressed position), in 'import im'port differentiating the noun from the verb. A.C.Gimson establishes three groups of words with identical spelling representing different parts of speech which are opposed by means of shifting of the stress (57).

1. A small group of words where the noun is differentiated from a verb by the opposition of the accentual pattern of the word alone, e.g.

increase ['mkrts] — [m'kiis]

insult ['insAlt] [in'sAlt]

impress ['impres] — [im'presj

inlay j'mlei] — [m'lei]

2. The second group where the shifting of the stress which
means the change of the accentual pattern of the word may be
or may not be accompanied by the reduction of the vowel in the
unstressed syllable of the verbs, e.g.

transport ['transport] — [traens'po:t] or [trans'po:t] torment ['txment] — [ta'ment] or [ts'ment]

3. The largest group of such pairs of words manifests the
change of their accentual pattern together with the qualitative
reduction of the unstressed vowel, e.g.

combine ['kombam) - [kam'bam]

conduct j'kondAkt] - [kan'dAkt]

contrast ['kontrast] — [kan'trast]

and many others.

Oppositions of accentual types of words are also observed as a concomitant factor in word-formation in addition to suffixation.

1. e.g. 'organize — .organization

'substitute — .substi'tution

2. e.g. 'reorganize — 'reorganization

'predis'pose — 'pre .disposition

3. e.g. 'palatalize — 'palatalization

'solemn — 'solemni'zation

4. e.g. .incon'siderable — 'incon.side'ration and others.

There is also a group of accentuation oppositions where compound nouns are opposed to free word combinations, e.g.

a 'blackboard классная доска

a 'black 'board черная доска

a 'dancing-airl танцовщица

a 'dancing girl танцующая девушка

As we have already mentioned, the same distinctive function of word stress is observed in the Russian language. It differentiates words and their grammatical forms, e.g.

The words чудная — чудная, безобразная — безобразная are different lexical units, they differ in meaning.

The words зимы — зимы, беды — беды represent different grammatical forms of the same lexical unit. Both in word-building and in word-formation the shifting of stress is accompanied by the qualitative reduction of the unstressed syllable. Word-formation with the help of the shifting of stress is quite common in Russian as well as in English.

The accentual structure of words is actually very closely interrelated with their semantic value. By way of illustration we shall now analyse a fairly large class of words in English which are marked by two primary stresses (Accentual Type П). They are either compounds consisting of two semantically important stems or words with semantically relevant separable prefixes or the suffix -teen. The accentual pattern of this group of words is regulated by the meaningful weight of the elements of the compounds. Word stress establishes contrastive relationship of the elements and often creates opposition to comparable words.

Most of compound adjectives have two equal stresses as both elements in them are semantically important, e.g. 'absent-minded, 'left-'handed, 'good-looting.

As soon as the significance of one of the elements of a compound adjective is weakened, its accentual pattern is changed. (Accentual Type I), e.g. 'spring-like, 'nymph-like, 'powder-like; 'oval-shaped, 'bow-shaped.

The same tendency is observed in compound nouns: if their elements are semantically important both elements are equally stressed (Accentual Type П), e.g. 'north-east, 'north-west, 'south-'west.

At the same time, as we very well know, most of compound nouns have one stress on the first element which is more significant than the second one. They are sometimes opposed to other compounds with the same second element, e.g. 'dining-room 'bedroom 'bathroom 'living-room; 'shop-girl 'ballet-girl.

Compound verbs have two equal stresses as their postpositions change the actual meaning of the verb itself as it is illustrated in the following example:

What shall I do with it? — 'Put it where it xwas.

3. 'Put it von.

4. 'Put it xoff.

Oppositions are also found among compound verbs:

to 'switch 'on — to 'switch 'off to 'turn 'on — to 'turn 'off

Words with meaningful prefixes are likewise semantically opposed to those without prefixes. Compare:

'educated — 'un'educated

'regular — 'ir'regular

'please — 'dis'please

'cyclone — 'anti'cyclon

.understand — 'misunder'stand

Compound numerals have naturally two equal stresses, making both elements significant, e.g. 'twenty-three, 'sixty-five.

Numerals with the -teen suffix are marked by two stresses to oppose them to the numerals with the unstressed suffix -ry. If the suffix -teen is not stressed the vowel [i:] in it is shortened and obscured, the sonant [n] is weakened, there is consequently a danger of misunderstanding, e.g.

1. 'What \page is it? ||

2. 'Seventeen. ||

3. 'Seven ,teen | or xseventy?

The above-given illustrations show how' important it is in teaching practice to make the students realize that the accentual •structure of words is conditioned by the semantic interrelation of their elements. The teacher should attract the students' attention to the correlation between the accentual and semantic structures of words which will save the students many mistakes.

The regulation of the accentuation in the Russian language is too complicated and is practically unpredictable. The stress may fall on the same morpheme in the derivatives where word-formation is performed by the grammatical means alone, e.g. кожа — кожи — кожей — кожу; год — годы — годом. In another group of words the stress may effect different morphemes of the word participating in the word-formation alongside with the grammatical' means, e.g. сад сады — садами — садом; пар пары — парами — паром; but: пара — пары — парами — парам.

R.I.Avanesov considers the variability in the placement of the Russian word stress an individual sign of every particular word which presents a difficulty for foreign learners and sometimes for the natives (1).

It is interesting to note that Russian word stress may have stylistic distinction and poetic usage, cf. молодец — молодец, девица — девица, шёлковый — шелковый.

The complicated system of the accentual structure of English words makes teacher trainees be very attentive to the subject. The typical mistakes of Russian learners in the sphere of word stress are the mispronunciation of: 1) words with the main and secondary stresses (fonver'sational); 2) words with two equal stresses in connected speech ("up'sfazrs, 're'organize); 3) words with the full vowel in the unstressed syllable ('architect).

The instability of English accentual structure of words presents much difficulty for Russian learners. Students' attention should be attracted to English multisyllabic words the accentual structure of which is regulated by the rhythmical tendency and the use of the secondary stress in those words, as it has no analogy in the Russian language, compare: 'transportation — транспортировка, de,mocraf/'zafz'on — демократизация.

Anolher group of words presenting difficulty for Russian learners is large group of compounds which are marked either by two equal stresses (compound adjectives) or by one stress (compound nouns). The semantic factor in defining the accentual structure of compounds should be most decisive, as it has been illustrated above. One more group of words requires learners' attention, the group which forms accentual oppositions of different parts of speech by way of conversion accompanied by the shifting of stress, e.g. 'combine (n) —combine (v), 'insult (n) — in'sult (v).

In case of doubt it is advisable to consult a pronouncing dictionary.

The accentual structure of English words in speech continuum is inseparably connected with the rhythmic organization of speech chain which will be thoroughly discussed in Chapter V.

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