ТОП 10:

Stress Tendencies in Modern English

§ the recessive tendency:

- unrestricted (the stress falls on the first s-le which is generally the root s-le (e.g. `mother, `ready);

- restricted (the stress falls on the second s-le if a word has a prefix of no special meaning (e.g. be`come, in`deed, for`give, bé`hind);

§ the rhythmic tendency (the stress falls on the third s-le from the end) (e.g. `decorate, `justify, `recognize);

n the retentive tendency(the stress of the parent word is often retrained in derivatives (e.g. `wonder – `wonderful);

n in some polysyllabic words there is a tendency nowadays to avoid a succession of weak s-les, especially if these have [ǝ] or [i], as a result there a stress shift with a rhythmic alteration of stressed and unstressed s-les appears (e.g. ́hospitable – hoś pitable, ,articú latory–ar,ticú latory);

n there is a tendency to stress the most important elements in words: negative prefixes; prefixes ex-, vice-, sub-; suffix –teen.



n Constitutive function

(W-S moulds s-les into a word by forming its stress pattern);

n Distinctive function

(in English different words exist with analogous sound structure which are differentiated in speech only by their stress patterns, e.g. `abstract –ab`stract);

n Identificatory function

(the stress patterns of words enable people to identify definite combinations of sounds as meaningful linguistic units).



The term “prosody” embraces such notions as pitch, loudness, tempo and substitutes the term “intonation”.

Intonation (in a broad sense) – is a complex unity of 5 components, which enables a speaker to express his thoughts, emotions and attitudes towards the contents of an utterance and a hearer:

(1) speech melody (pitch)

(2) utterance stress

(3) tempo

(4) rhythm

(5) voice timbre.

Intonation (in a narrow sense) is reduced only to 1 component – speech melody (pitch).

The Hierarchy of Prosodic Units

n a syllable

the smallest prosodic unit which has no meaning of its own, but it is significant for constituting hierarchically higher prosodic units; prosodic features of a s-le (tone, stress, duration) depend on its position and function in a rhythmic unit and an utterance;

n a rhythmic (accentual) group (unit)

is either one stressed s-le or a stressed s-le with a number of unstressed ones grouped around it; the stressed s-le is the nucleus of a rhythmic unit, the unstressed s-les are clitics (proclitics and enclitics); there are as many rhythmic units in an utterance as there are stressed s-les in it;

§ an intonation group

is a meaningful complex prosodic unit that structurally consists of one or several s-les and rhythmic groups and has a certain phonetic contour: stress, pitch, duration; minimally, an intonation group consists of one (stressed) s-le — the nucleus and maximally, it contains the prehead, the head, the nucleus and the tail;

the prehead, head and tail are non-obligatory elements of an intonation group, whereas the nucleus is an obligatory and the most important functional element;

§ an utterance

is a higher unit in which prosodic features are actualized, the main prosodic communicative unit which is characterized by semantic unity expressed by all the language means: lexical, grammatical, prosodic;

§ a supraphrasal unit (hyperutterance)

is formed by grouping utterances into complexes occupying a certain slot in the semantic structure of the text;

§ a phonetic paragraph

§ a text


Prosodic subsystems

v pitch (speech melody) - is the variations in the pitch of the voice which take place with voiced sounds.


the pitch level is determined by the pitch of the highest-pitched syllable in an utterance; in unemphatic speech most phoneticians distinguish 3 pitch levels: high, mid, low.

the pitch range is the interval between the highest-pitched and the lowest-pitched syllable in an utterance.

the rate of speech variations may be different depending on the time during which these variations take place and on the range of the variations.


The basic unit used to describe the pitch component is the tone depending on whether the pitch of the voice varies or remains unvaried.

Tones are divided into:





Kinetic (terminal)

*simple (falling (F), rising(R)

*complex (R-F, F-R, R-F-R)

v utterance stress is the special prominence given to one or more words in an utterance by means of variations of pitch, loudness, length and quality. The subsystem of English utterance stress includes three basic subtypes: *nuclear, *non-nuclear, * partial.

The distribution of stresses in an utterance depends on several factors: semantic, grammatical and rhythmical. Stress in an utterance fulfills the same three functions as other components of prosody: constitutive, distinctive, identificatory.

v rhythm is regularity or periodicity in the occurrence of a particular phenomenon in an utterance.

According to the rhythm:

SYLLABLE-timed languages (French, Spanish) – the speaker gives approximately equal period to each s-le (stressed or unstressed);

STRESS-timed languages (English, German, Russian) - the utterance stress serves as a basis for the rhythmical organization of speech and stresses segment the speech continuum into rhythmic units of more or less equal length.

Acoustically, rhythm is a complex of variations in frequency, intensity and duration.

v tempo is the rate at which utterances and their smaller units are pronounced.

On the acoustic level tempo is generally measured by the number of syllables per second. Tempo of speech may be determined by different factors: the size of audience, the acoustic qualities of the room, the individuality of the speaker.

Speech has some norm of tempo, so phoneticians generally distinguish normal tempo and two deviations from it: fast and slow.

v pauses divide the speech continuum into units of different length and size.

The main function of a pause is to segment connected speech into utterances and intonation groups and to delimit one utterance or intonation group from another.

Phoneticians distinguish 3 main types of pauses:

§ silent pauses (a stop in the phonation);

§ pauses of perception (a sharp change of pitch direction or variations in duration, or both);

§ voiced (filled) pauses (hesitation pauses) (are used in spontaneous speech to think over what to say next).



Functions of Prosody

1. The Constitutive Function(unifies words into utterances, the main communicative units)

Constituting an utterance prosody at the same time performs the segmentative and delimitative function (segments connected discourse into utterances and intonation groups, simultaneously delimits utterances and intonation groups one from another showing relations between them and signals the semantic nucleus and other semantically important words of an utterance or an intonation group).

2. The Distinctive Function (manifests itself in several particular functions depending on the meaning which is differentiated):

*communicative-distinctive (prosody differentiates the communicative types of utterances, statements, questions, exclamations, imperatives

e.g. ̀Fire! (statement)

́Fire? (question)

* modal (attitudinal)-distinctive (prosody differentiates modal meanings of utterances and the speaker’s attitudes

e.g. ٧Thank you! (friendly attitude)

* culminative (logical)-distinctive (prosody differentiates the location of the semantic nuclei of utterances and other semantically important words; prosody indicates the “theme-rheme” organization of an utterance):

e.g. The 'teacher (theme) has ̀come (rheme)

The ̀teacher (rheme) has ֽcome (theme)

*syntactical-distinctive (prosody differentiates syntactical types of sentences and syntactical relations in sentences):

e.g. Smiling (attribute) Tom ǁ entered the room

Smiling (adverbial modifier of manner) ǁ Tom entered the room

*stylistic-distinctive (prosody differentiates pronunciation (phonetic) styles, determined by extra linguistic factors)

3. The Identificatory Function of Prosody(prosody provides a basis for the hearer's identification of the communicative and modal type of an utterance, its semantic and syntactical structure with the situation of the discourse)

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