The Accentual Structure of English Words.

A. Think about the following questions:

In an utterance only the more important words are accented, other words are either slurred over or are partially stressed. Are the stress patterns of English words ever altered by utterance stress?

Is there a single stress per word in English?

Is the English stressed syllable always louder, longer and higher in pitch than the unstressed syllables?

There are languages in which certain vowel qualities are strictly associated with either stressed or unstressed syllables. This produces a certain effect on the perception of stress. Is the connection between stress and vowel quality in English very strict? Are there particular sounds which occur only in stressed syllables and other sounds which occur only in unstressed syllables?

Stress is generally considered to be the result of an interaction of three acoustic parameters: intensity, fundamental frequency and duration. Why has a fourth parameter (that of formant structure) recently been included in the list? Does the inherent quality of sounds affect the perception of English stress?

Why cant stress in English delimit one word from another as it may in languages with fixed stress? Can stress in English signal the beginning or end of a word?

B. Provide evidence to prove the following:

There are hundreds of English words with unstable stress patterns. Compare an 'outside blind and he 'went outside, a 'Chinese lantern and he 'knows Chinese. Find more words in which stress may shift from one syllable to another in an utterance.

Linguists generally distinguish three relevant degrees of stress in English and state that there occur the following oppositions: fully stressed vs. partially stressed, partially stressed vs. unstressed, and fully stressed vs. unstressed (syllables, words). Find examples for each of the oppositions.

A large number of more or less fixed word combinations have what is called even stress, though the second stress of such groups is usually slightly stronger than the first: 'Charles 'Dickens, 'Mrs. 'Smith, 'New 'York, 'apple 'pie. Collect more examples.

C. Express your opinion of the following:

The recessive tendency accounts (1) for the large number of English words stressed on the first syllable, (2) for the large number of monosyllables in English, one or more syllables having been lost from the end of the word by reduction and elision, (3) for the loss of one or more syllables as in ordinary ['o:dnri].


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Allophones variants or members of one and the same phoneme, which never occur in identical positions, but are said to be in complementary distribution,they are actual speech sounds.

Aspects of a phoneme:a phoneme is a dialectical unity of three aspects: 1) material, real and objective; 2) abstract and generalized; 3) functional.

Assimilation the result of coarticulation, when one sound is made similar to its neighbour; in English it mainly affects the place of articulation. It can be progressive, regressive or reciprocal. Most commonly the sounds which undergo assimilation are immediately adjacent in the stream of speech.

Attitudinal function:this function is performed by intonation, when the speaker expresses his attitude to what he is saying, by intonation alone.

Communicative centre a word or a group of words which conveys the most important point of communication in the sense-group or sentence.

Constitutive function of speech sounds the function to constitute the material forms of morphemes, words and sentences.

Descending scale gradual lowering of the voice pitch.

Diphthongization slight shifting of the position of the organs of speech within the articulation of one and the same vowel. Diphthongization changes the quality of the sound during its articulation.

Distinctive function of speech sounds:it is manifested most conspicuously in minimal pairs when the opposition of speech sounds is the only phonetic means of distinguishing one member of that pair from the other.

Elision the loss of a vowel or a consonant in initial or terminal position.

Enclitic an unstressed word or syllable, which refers to the preceding stressed word or syllable. Together with the stressed word enclitics form one phonetic unit.

Fall lowering of the voice pitch within a stressed syllable.

Fortis strong.

Functional phonological,connected with the distinctive function.

Functional phonetics the branch of phonetics which studies the purely linguistic aspect of speech sounds.

Functions of a phoneme:in speech a phoneme performs three functions: distinctive, constitutive and identificatory (recognitive); they are inseparable.

General American (GA) the most widespread type of educated American speech.

Glottal stop a sound which reminds a slight cough and articulated by the vocal cords, before a vowel sound is heard in cases of emphatic speech.

Head stressed syllables preceding the nucleus together with the intervening unstressed syllables.

Intonation a component of the phonetic structure which is viewed in the narrow meaning as pitch variations, or speech melody. It manifests itself in the delimitative function within a sentence and at its end.

Intonation group an actualized sense-group.

Juncture the place where two sounds or words are joined together.

Lenis pronounced with weak articulation.

Level tone the tone neutral in its communicative function, which is used mostly in poetry.

Linguistic functions:in phonetics they are connected with phonemic, significant properties of sound, syllable, stress and intonation.

Low pitch a low tone. It is usually used in the narrow range of tone-pitch.

Melody changes in the voice pitch in the process of speech.

Modifications in context sound changes in context. Positional and combinatory modifications of allophones of certain phonemes in connected speech.

Monotone a tone lacking the necessary variations in the voice pitch; a way of speaking in which the voice neither rises nor falls, but continues on the same note.

Narrow range:if the range of the voice pitch is represented by two horizontal parallel lines

10 mm wide, then the head syllable of the wide range utterance will be arbitrarily represented by a dash 2 mm from the top range line. The head syllable of the narrow range will be represented by a dash 2 mm from the bottom range line. The head syllable of medium range will be represented by a dash 6 mm from the bottom range line.

Nuclear tone:the tone associated with the nucleus of a sense-group is a nuclear tone. In RP they are the following: the high falling, the low falling, the high rising, the low rising, the rising-falling, the falling-rising, the rising-falling-rising, the level tone.

Nucleus of a sense-group the last stressed syllable of a sense-group.

Open syllable the type of syllable which ends in a vowel CV-type.

Oratorical style the type of speech with which orators address large audiences. It is characterized by slow rate, eloquent and moving traits.

Orthoepy the correct pronunciation of the words of a language. The interpretation of the rules of reading cannot be done without a good command of phonetics.

Pause a short period of time when sound stops before starting again. Pauses are non-obligatory between sense-groups and obligatory between sentences.

Peaks of prominence the points of maximal acoustic activity of tone.

Peculiarity a feature which characterizes some phonetic phenomenon.

Periodicity the quality or fact of recurring at constant intervals.

Phoneme the shortest functional unit of a language. Each phoneme exists in speech in the form of mutually non-distinctive speech sounds, its allophones. Each speech sound is an allophone of some phoneme.

Phonemic component: this component of the phonetic structure manifests itself in the system of separate phonemes and their allophones.

Phonetic system a systemic combination of five components of the language, i. e. the system of segmental phonemes, the phonemic component, the syllabic component, the accentual component (relating to accent stress and pitch combined), intonation.

Phonetics the science that studies the sound matter of the language, its semantic functions and the lines of development.

Phonological mistakes mistakes connected with the alteration of the meaning of words, which prevent communication.

Phonological opposition a pair of words in which any one phoneme is usually opposed to any other phoneme in at least one lexical or grammatical minimal or subminimal pair, e. g. [t d],

[k g] in ten den, coat goat.

Phonology the science that deals with phonemes and their sequences. It is functional phonetics since it investigates the functional side of phonemes, accent, syllable, and intonation.

Pitch the degree of highness or lowness varying with the number of the vibrations of the vocal cords and determining the tone of the voice, an acoustic basis of speech melody.

Principal allophone that variant of a phoneme which is considered to be free from the influence of the neighbouring sounds.

Proclitic a monosyllabic word or particle with no accent of his own, which is pronounced with the following pre-tonic (having secondary stress) or accented syllable as one phonetic unit.

Prominence singling out acoustically, which produces the effect of greater loudness.

Prosodic features of the sentence:speech melody (pitch), accent, tempo, rhythm and pausation, timbre (tamber); they constitute intonation in a broad sense.

Prosody non-segmental phenomena regarded as the modifications of fundamental frequency (the frequency of the vibrations of the vocal cords over their whole length), intensity and duration at the level of their acoustic properties. The notion of prosody is broader than the notion of intonation, whereas prosody of the utterance and intonation are equivalent notions. Prosody and intonation are characterized by such distinct qualities as stress and pitch prominence at the level of perception.

Received pronunciation (RP) the type of pronunciation which is the most widely understood one in England and in English-speaking countries. It is the teaching norm in England and in most countries where English is taught as a foreign language, including Russia.

Rhythm:rhythm is a flow, movement, procedure, etc., characterized by basically regular recurrence of elements or features, as beat, or accent, in alternation with opposite or different elements or features (Websters New World Dictionary). Rhythm in speech is the periodic recurrence of stressed syllables. Rhythm exists both in prose and in verse. It can be regarded as one of the forms in which a language exists.

Rhythmic tendency the tendency to alternate stressed and unstressed syllables.

Scale the arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables of a syntactic whole.

Segment: in phonetics it is the shortest part of speech continuum a sound or a phoneme.

Segmental phoneme the shortest part of speech continuum that is capable of differentiating words.

Semantic function:in phonetics the term is used in connection with the distinctive function (semantic role) of phonetic means.

Sense-group a word or a group of words that conveys some idea.

Sentence accent a constituent part of the phonetic structure of the spoken sentence utterance and one of the components of intonation in the broad sense of the term.

Sentence stress the greater degree of prominence given to certain words in a sentence. These words are usually nouns, adjectives, notional verbs and adverbs, interjections, numerals, demonstrative, possessive, emphasizing pronouns, interrogative words and two-syllable prepositions. Articles, particles, auxiliary, modal, and connective verbs, personal, reflexive and reciprocal pronouns, one-syllable prepositions, conjunctions and conjunctive words are, as a rule, unstressed. The distribution of sentence stress is determined by the semantic factor.

Speech melody the variations in the pitch of the voice in connected speech.

Stress or accent a greater degree of prominence which is caused mainly by pronouncing the stressed syllable (a) on a different pitch level or with a change of pitch direction in it; (b) with greater force of exhalation and greater muscular tension. The greater force of articulation is accompanied by an increase in the length of the sound in the stressed syllable, especially vowels. Vowels in the stressed syllables are not reduced.

Styles of pronunciation L. V. Shcherba suggested two types of style in pronunciation: full style and colloquial style. According to D. Jones, there are the following varieties of style: rapid familiar style, slower colloquial style, slow conversational style, natural style, acquired style, formal style. Styles of pronunciation are determined by the stylistic-distinctive function of intonation.

Subsidiary allophones variants of phonemes that appear under the influence of neighbouring speech sounds (variants of some other phonemes) with which they are in complementary distribution. They are subdivided into combinatory and positional ones.

Syllable shortest segment of speech continuum. Syllables are material carriers of words. They constitute words and their forms, phrases and sentences. According to J. Kenyon the syllable is one or more speech sounds, forming a single uninterrupted unit of utterance, which may be a word, or a commonly recognized and separable subdivision of a word. It is a unity of segmental and suprasegmental qualities.

Syllable division division of the word into arcs of articulatory effort (N. I. Zhinkins theory). A strong-end consonant begins the arc of loudness and a weak-end consonant terminates it.

Syllable pattern the type of syllable most common for language. English is characterized by (C)VC syllable pattern and Russian by CV pattern.

Tail unstressed or partially stressed syllables (or syllable) that follow the nucleus of the intonation group.

Tmber the quality of a musical sound, depending on what overtones (the tones above the fundamental tone in a harmonic series) are present, including their respective amplitudes. Also timbre, tambre.

Tempo of speech the rate of utterance.

Temporal component of intonation: it consists of pauses, duration, rhythm.

Terminal tone a change of pitch at the junction (the joining of two sounds or words) of two sense-groups.

Tone:sounds may be periodical and non-periodical. If the vibrations of a physical body are rhythmical, the auditory impression of periodic waves is a musical tone, or in speech a speech tone.

Toneme: the toneme of a sentence or of a sense-group is a separate phonological unit because it performs the distinctive function.

Tune One a falling tone.

Tune Two a rising tone.

Unaccented unstressed.

Undertone a low tone of the voice.

Utterance vocal expression of some idea.

Variations (in stylistic variations) variations in the pronunciation of speech sounds, words and sentences peculiar to different styles of speech.

Volume force or loudness of oral speech.

Widening the range one of the emphatic means which consists in deliberate widening the pitch levels of sense-groups.

Word stress or word accent:every disyllabic and polysyllabic word pronounced in isolation has word stress. It is the singling out of one or more of its syllables by giving them a greater degree of prominence as compared to the other syllable or syllables in the same word.

(Leontyeva, S. F. A Theoretical Course of English Phonetics, 2004, pp. 298-334)




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