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Sentence Stress in English. Stress and intonation

Доклад

Иностранные языки, филология и лингвистика

In the work we will be discussing the position of sentence stress while the second part of the chapter will discuss intonation the melody of sentences. Let us now continue with a description of how the same thing works at sentence level.

Английский

2015-08-28

83.5 KB

2 чел.

Table of Contents

Introduction   2

Sentence Stress in English 2

Stress and intonation 5

Types of tonic 7

Contrast   9

How Sentence Stress Works and Why 11

Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………14

Bibliography……………………………………………………………………….15

Introduction

This presentation is concerned with some suprasegmental processes of English which are often grouped under the umbrella term of intonation. In the work we will be discussing the position of sentence stress while the second part of the chapter will discuss intonation, the melody of sentences. Let us now continue with a description of how the same thing works at sentence level.

If we want to show stress (and later intonation) at sentence level, we will have to do things a little bit differently from what we have been doing when transcribing the stressed syllables of isolated words. There are several principles to be kept in mind:

In isolation, every word has a primary stressed syllable (although the stress of monosyllabic words is not indicated). In a sentence, many words will have no stressed syllable at all, i.e., they occur in their weak forms.

In isolation, the stress of monosyllabic words is not shown. However, if they receive sentence stress it is always indicated, e.g., This is the car that I bought. The words this, car, bought are stressed in the sentence as indicated by the stress marks although they are all monosyllabic words.

  1.  Sentence Stress in English

Sentence stress is the music of spoken English. Like word stress, sentence stress can help you to understand spoken English, especially when spoken fast. Word stress is accent on one syllable within a word while sentence stress is accent on certain words within a sentence.

Most sentences have two types of word:

content words

structure words

Content words are the key words of a sentence. They are the important words that carry the meaning or sense.

Structure words are not very important words. They are small, simple words that make the sentence correct grammatically.

If you remove the structure words from a sentence, you will probably still understand the sentence.

If you remove the content words from a sentence, you will not understand the sentence. The sentence has no sense or meaning.

Imagine that you receive this telegram message:

Will

you

SELL

me

CAR

because

I'm

GONE

to

FRANCE

This sentence is not complete. It is not a "grammatically correct" sentence. But you probably understand it. These 4 words communicate very well. Somebody wants you to sell their car for them because they have gone to France. We can add a few words:

Will

you

SELL

my

CAR

because

I've

GONE

to

FRANCE

The new words do not really add any more information. But they make the message more correct grammatically. We can add even more words to make one complete, grammatically correct sentence. But the information is basically the same:

*Content Words

Will

you

*SELL

my

*CAR

because

I've

*GONE

to

*FRANCE.

Structure Words

In our sentence, the 4 key words (sell, car, gone, France) are accentuated or stressed

Some examples of content and structural words

Content Words

Structural Words

Main Verbs

go, talk, writing

Pronouns

I, you, he ,they

Nouns

student, desk

Prepositions

on, under, with

Adjectives

big, clever

Articles

the, a, some

Adverbs

quickly, loudly

Conjunctions

but, and, so

Negative Aux. Verbs

can’t, don’t, aren’t

Auxiliary Verbs

can, should, must

Demonstratives

this, that, those

Verb “to be”

is, was, am

Question Words

who, which, where

What is “Sentence Stress”?

“Sentence Stress” need not be referred to as the particular anxiety an ESL student experiences when attempting to pronounce a particularly wordy sentence in English…  Sentence Stress is actually the “music” of English, the thing that gives the language its particular “beat” or “rhythm”.  In general, in any given English utterance there will be particular words that carry more “weight” or “volume” (stress) than others.  From a speaking perspective, Sentence Stress will affect the degree to which an ESL student sounds “natural”.  In terms of listening, it affects how well a student can understand the utterances they hear.

What is “Word Stress”?

Whereas Sentence Stress refers to the process whereby particular words are stressed within an overall sentence, Word Stress refers to the process whereby particular syllables (or parts of words) are stressed within an overall word.  In general, Sentence Stress is more of a consideration for overall fluency – Word Stress tends to have more of a phonological and morphemic importance.

  1.  Stress and intonation

To be able to cope with the assignment of sentence stress and, on the basis of that, intonation, we have to clarify a few important basic notions. One of the distinctions we have to make is between lexical/content words and grammatical/function words. The former include the four basic categories, nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs – including adverbial particles like up – while the latter contain the rest of the categories, prepositions, pronouns, auxiliaries, conjunctions. Also, some minor categories can be compared to one of these two groups: demonstrative and interrogative pronouns, e.g., this, that and what, where respectively, are stressed like content words. In the case of word stress we identified different degrees of stress, we may do so in sentences, too, and just like in words, in sentences it is also the last stress that is the strongest.

That is, the strongest stress of a sentence falls on the last stressed syllable, which is called the tonic – sometimes also called accent, nucleus or sentence stress, indicated by underlining in this chapter. The tonic will have a special role in describing intonation as intonation is nothing else but a falling or rising melody starting on the tonic. With the help of the tonic we may define some further concepts relevant for our discussion: speech is divided into so-called tone-units – or tone groups or intonation phrases –, which are parts of connected speech ending in a tonic. That is, a tone-unit starts after a tonic and ends in a tonic. Tone-units are normally realized by clauses as in the first three examples or by longer phrases as in the second three examples below. The boundaries of tone-units are usually indicated by vertical lines.

‘She ‘wanted to ‘face the ‘problems on ‘Tuesday.

‘He ’felt un’easy ’but the ‘others were en’joying them’selves.

‘I ‘didn't really ‘want to ‘come’ but ‘here I ‘am.

‘No ‘way! ‘At ‘five o'’clock. ‘No’, ‘only at the ‘meeting.

Besides the tonic, the tone-unit has the following parts: tail – the unstressed syllables following the tonic, e.g., -day in the first example above –, the pre- head – the unstressed syllables before the first stress, e.g., she in the first example –, and the head – starting with the first stressed syllable and ending with the last unstressed syllable before the tonic, e.g., wanted to face the problems on in the first example above:

‘She           ‘wanted to ‘face the ‘problems on ‘Tuesday.

Pre-head      Head                                           Tonic Tail

The tone unit may also be divided into other kinds of constituents which play a very important role in determining the rhythm of the sentence. These units of rhythm are called feet, the same name that is used for rhythmic units in literature to determine the rhythm of poems. As it was mentioned , a foot is the sequence of a stressed syllable and all the unstressed syllables following it up to the next stress. The sentence above may be divided into feet the following way:

She      ‘wanted to    ‘face the    ‘problems on   ‘Tuesday.

foot0    foot1                foot2             foot3                 foot4

It is clear that the first foot, foot0 is an incomplete one as it only contains unstressed syllables – if there is a pre-head, it is always an incomplete foot.  The special characteristic property of English rhythm is that it is stress-timed. It means that the stressed syllables follow each other at intervals of about the same length, which sounds like a pulsating rhythm. This means that in the sentence above the time elapsing between the stressed syllables ‘wan- ... ‘face ...’prob ...’Tues is approximately equal although there might be different numbers of unstressed syllables between them. Since this rhythmic sequence of pulses is very different from Hungarian, it is something to be practised a lot to get used to pronouncing (sometimes many) weak syllables between the stressed ones.

When connecting words into a sentence it often happens that there will be a sequence of three stressed syllables with zero or just one unstressed syllable between them. In such cases the rhythm becomes jerky, staccato-like. To avoid such stress clusters the middle one of the three stresses is deleted and the syllable is pronounced as unstressed, a process called Rhythmic Stress Deletion – this deletion of stress is indicated with a superscript zero in the examples:

‘good ‘old ‘days → ‘good 0old ‘days

‘very ‘brave ‘soldier → ‘very 0brave ‘soldier

‘cover the ‘big ‘news → ‘cover the 0big ‘news

In cases when a word with two stresses is followed by a word stressed on the initial syllable it would result in three stressed syllables in a row. As a result, rhythmic stress deletion will delete the stress in the middle. This way the stress pattern of the first word has been changed as the primary stress has shifted to the left from the last syllable, a process called Rhythmic Stress- Shift:

the ‘best ‘man ‘asked → the ‘best 0man ‘asked

a ‘stone ‘deaf ‘guy  → a ‘stone 0deaf ‘guy

a ‘dark ‘brown ‘hat  → a ‘dark 0brown ‘hat

  1.  Types of tonic

As is clear from the above, this may affect finally-stressed compounds and longer words ending in two stressed syllables in a way that they will have two slightly different stress patterns depending on whether the next word starts with a stressed or unstressed syllable. Before words starting with an unstressed syllable nothing happens, but before words starting with a stressed one the final primary stress of the first word shifts one to the left. In the following we take a look at the two major types of tonic placement. The first type of tonic placement is the neutral, unmarked or default type: it does not express emphasis or contrast. This is called neutral tonic placement or neutral tonicity. The neutral tonic is normally placed on the last content word but in some exceptional cases it may fall on an earlier content word or on a function word.

Tonic on last content word

 ‘Everyone was ‘there.

 We ‘didn't ‘want to ‘talk about the ‘details.

‘He was ‘finally ad’mitted to uni’versity.

Tonic on an earlier content word (the skipped last content word italicized)

He ‘bought a ‘new ‘mountain bike.                No tonic on 2nd part of initially stressed compound.

It was ‘nice, I think.                                           No tonic on afterthoughts, appended remarks.

We'll just ‘stay here.                                        No tonic on common adverbs.

‘That's what the ‘book says.                            No tonic on "obvious predicates".

Tonic on a function-word

‘No, you ‘can't.                                                Tonic on an auxiliary if no other stressable word.

‘Where are you ‘from?                                   Tonic on Prep in short sentences without main verb.

‘This is ‘mine                                                   Tonic on possessive pronoun.

In the second major type of tonic placement the speaker wishes to emphasize some part of the utterance, contrast a part of it with something or focus on some new information, which may be achieved by placing the tonic at a different place from where it would normally appear. The following two sentences demonstrate that while the first sentence with neutral tonic placement on the last content word does not emphasize or contrast any part of the sentence, the second sentence with so-called dislocated tonic does.

‘Jim was ‘there.

‘Jim was ‘there.

As the underlining indicates, there has the tonic in the first sentence while Jim has the tonic in the second. Accordingly, the first sentence has a neutral interpretation, while the second sentence emphasizes that it was Jim who was there, not somebody else. Let us now take a look at what might be the reasons for having a dislocated tonic in a sentence.

  1.  Contrast.

In many cases the tonic is placed on an earlier content word to express contrast between what has been said and the word/expression bearing the tonic. The two most common cases are when either it is a particular lexical item, a certain word that we want to contrast with another one, e.g., a name with another name, or negative polarity with positive polarity, i.e., negation with assertion. If a word is contrasted, it is indicated in capital letters.

I ‘gave ‘JACK   that ‘book on ‘history ‘yesterday.      ... and not somebody else.

We ‘visited a lot of MU  ‘SE  UMS in ‘London. ... and not night-clubs.

I ‘HAVE   ‘seen the ‘film ‘earlier.                    ... contrary to what you think/claim.

I ‘DID   ‘pass the ‘test.                           ... although that's not what you think.

New information.  If the end of the sentence contains information the speaker thinks is known by the listener as old information, then the words describing this old information will be de-stressed and stress (and the tonic) will be shifted leftwards to some earlier word considered to carry new information. It most typically happens in answering questions repeating some words from the question – the old information skipped by tonic assignment is italicized.

Is the book interesting? It is ‘VE  RY interesting.

Do you want to have lunch? But I ‘already ‘HAD   lunch.

I'm from Hungary. ‘Oh, my FI’AN  CÉE is Hun’garian, ‘too.

So far we have seen which part of a sentence carries the strongest stress – the tonic –, how it relates to the rest of the clause – the tail, the head and the pre- head –, how the head plays a role in determining the rhythm of the clause by being divided into feet, and, finally, how tonic assignment may be performed in neutral cases and in dislocated cases when the speaker wishes to emphasize or contrast some part of the sentence. Now we turn to how these units relate to intonation, the melody and the melody change of a sentence. The intonation or melody of a sentence is the voice-height, or pitch.

On the one hand, pitch depends on what kind of intonation is used in the pronunciation of a particular sentence. On the other hand, there are also non- linguistic factors that influence pitch: age – children have a higher pitch than adults –, sex – men normally have a lower pitch than women –, and the emotional state of the speaker – excited speakers tend to have a higher pitch than someone in a neutral mood. Every speaker has a limit to how high or how low a pitch they may produce; these two are the upper and lower limits of one's pitch range.

This pitch range is different for each speaker but it does not influence the understandability of their speech: it is not the absolute but the relative pitch height that matters. Pitch differences do not only occur between speakers but also between languages. Armenian, for instance, is said to have a much narrower pitch range in general than that of English; that is, the highest pitch of an average native English speaker is higher than that of an average native Armenian speaker, while the lowest pitch of an English speaker is generally lower than that of a Armenian speaker. This is even noticed by the untrained ear. For instance, Hungarian speakers often report that they find English speech too emotional, excited and affected; English speakers, on the other hand, find the speech of the average Armenian– whether this average Armenians speaks English or Armenian – too flat, monotonous or boring. Intonation is the way the pitch changes in the tone-unit.

Recall that the last stressed syllable of the tone-unit, the tonic always has pitch change, that is, the speakers' voice will either rise or fall on the tonic syllable. This change associated with the tonic syllable is referred to as the tone1. The melody of the tone is always continued in the tail of the tone-unit; the tail will never contain another change in pitch. If we do not only consider the pitch change realized on the tonic syllable, but rather the pitch changes occurring throughout the whole tone-unit, we may talk about the tune or intonation pattern of the sentence.

In the following we briefly describe the characteristic properties of the parts of the tone-unit followed by a discussion of the tones and the typical meanings or functions associated with them. The melody of the pre-head of the tone-unit – if there is one – normally starts at a relatively low pitch which normally jumps high up on the first stressed syllable, i.e., on the beginning of the head. The pitch usually gradually falls throughout the head, which is called downdrift. Since it is not the pitch change realized on the tonic, it does not count as falling intonation, it is just a natural consequence of the fact that speakers are normally running out of air and this way the velocity of the outflowing air is dropping, which results in a lower pitch. The part of the tone-unit after the tonic, the tail – if there is one – is normally a simple continuation of the pitch change of the tonic: if the pitch rises on the tonic, it will slowly, gradually rise on the tail, too. If it falls on the tonic, then it will fall on the tail, too. This is demonstrated by the graphic representations below. The arrow before the tonic syllable indicates the pitch change on the tonic.

He be’lieved that they had ‘seen the ‘movie ‘earlier.

‘Have you ‘seen this ‘movie?

  1.  How Sentence Stress Works and Why

In any given sentence in English there will be words that carry stress and others that don’t.  This is not a random pattern.  Stressed words carry the meaning or the sense behind the sentence, and for this reason they are called “Content Words” – they carry the content of the sentence.  Unstressed words tend to be smaller words that have more of a grammatical significance – they help the sentence “function” syntactically and for this reason they are called Function Words (NOTE: sometimes “Function Words” are referred to as “Structure Words”).

Obviously the “content” of a sentence carries more significance than the particular “way” it is put together.  An easier way to think of it is that if you take out all the “function” words (without real meaning) from a sentence, the sentence will still have a certain amount of meaning and can be understood.  Doing the opposite will remove the meaning from a sentence and render it obsolete.  It is logical that the meaningful units within a sentence will carry the most significance and therefore stress.

Content Words include:   (Main) Verbs, Nouns, Adjectives, Adverbs, Negative Auxiliary Verbs, Demonstratives, Question Words

Function Words include: Pronouns, Prepositions, Articles, Conjunctions, Auxiliary Verbs, (Main) Verb “to be”

Content Words

Function Words

Main Verbs

go, talk, writing

Pronouns

I, you, he ,they

Nouns

student, desk

Prepositions

on, under, with

Adjectives

big, clever

Articles

the, a, some

Adverbs

quickly, loudly

Conjunctions

but, and, so

Negative Aux. Verbs

can’t, don’t, aren’t

Auxiliary Verbs

can, should, must

Demonstratives

this, that, those

Verb “to be”

is, was, am

Question Words

who, which, where

Examples:

I am talking to the clever students.

You’re sitting on the desk, but you aren’t listening to me.

He’s writing quickly, so it’s difficult for him to hear me.

A Note on Sentence Stress and English “rhythm”

It is important to remember that an English sentence will have a certain number of beats.  Stressed (content) words always take up an entire “beat”, while “unstressed” function words fall between the beats – irrespective of how many function words have been grouped together.  The time between beats is always the same.  For this reason, function words are often spoken faster and with less volume – they are literally being “squeezed” into the gap between regular stressed beats.  In the examples below, all of the function words (or groups of function words) take the same amount of time to pronounce, irrespective of the number of sounds or syllables they include.  Doing a simple rhythmic clap or thump in time to the spoken sentence will demonstrate how this happens.

Examples:

Beat 1

Beat 2

Beat 3

I am

talking

to the

clever

students.

Beat 1

Beat 2

Beat 3

Beat 4

You’re

sitting

on the

desk

but you

aren’t

listening

to me.

Beat 1

Beat 2

Beat 3

Beat 4

He’s

writing

quickly

so it’s

difficult

for him to

hear

me.

Conclusion

In this presentation we have taken a look at two very important suprasegmental aspects of English pronunciation: the stress patterns of sentences, especially tone placement on the one hand, and the bit about the basic types of intonation and their differences from Armenian intonation on the other.

Bibliography

  1.  Васильев В.А. Фонетика английского языка. Нормативный курс: Учебник для институтов и фак. иностр. языков. – 2-е изд., перераб. – М: Высш. школа, 1980. - 256с.
  2.  Соколова М.А., Гинтовт К.П., Кантер Л.А., Крылова Н.И., Тихонова И.О., Шабадаш Г.А. Практическая фонетика английского языка: Учеб. для студ. высш. учеб. заведений. – М.: Гуманит. изд. центр ВЛАДОС, 2001. – 384 с.
  3.  Соколова М.А., Гинтовт К.П., Тихонова И.С., Тихонова P.M. Теоретическая фонетика английского языка: Учеб. для студ. высш. учеб. заведений. – 3-е изд., стереотип. – М.: Гуманит. изд. центр ВЛАДОС, 2006. – 286 c.

Теоретическая фонетика английского языка. Полный курс лекций по теоретической фонетике англ. языка. СГУ, ФРГЯ Преп.: Красса С.И.

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