Saturday, December 7, 2019

Stress-points in English


English is not a flat language. English speaking is all about stress-points (SPs): SPs inside the words and SPs inside the sentences. Without maintaining the SPs, meanings of the words as well as the sentences can change significantly. SPs decide the meanings as well as pronunciations.

‘Present’ is a 2-syllable word. Both syllables cannot be sounded at the same pitch; that is, the word cannot be monotone.

When the first syllable /pre/ is sounded with a higher pitch, it is used as a noun or an adjective. It’s pronounced as prezənt
Give me the presents. (noun)
In the present situation, you should save more. (adjective)

However, when the second syllable /sent/ is sounded with a higher pitch, it is used as a verb. It’s pronounced as prɪzent
I will present this award to her. (verb)

All words with more than 1 syllable follow SP rules. Without following the rules, either the pronunciation or the grammar or both will be wrong.

In a sentence, which word is stressed can change the entire meaning. Try saying these saying sentences with more volume at the words in bold and you’ll see:

helped him yesterday.
helped him yesterday.
I helped him yesterday.
I helped him yesterday.

Try saying this sentence:

It’s made of wood.

·      If you’ve said /it/ with high pitch, it’s wrong because if /it/ carried the significant intention in the sentence, it wouldn't be contracted with /is/
·      If you’ve said the word /of/ as complete /of/, it’s wrong, because in a sentence like this a preposition cannot carry the SP.
·      If you've said /made/ with high pitch, it’s wrong because if the writer meant to emphasize more on that aspect of being /made/, then /it/ and /is/ wouldn't be contracted together and /is/ would be the SP

Thus, /wood/ is the logical SP of the sentence and thus the sentence will be:
ɪtz meɪd əv wʊd

(Notice the pronunciation of /of/ in a sentence like this)

Stress-Points are very important. Without them, our spoken English may be completely wrong.

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