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Word Stress

 Simple Words
Complex Words
What is the difference between a simple and a complex word?
Ortiz Lira (1998):

A simple word is:

a single grammatical unit or stem

e.g. consider /k@n sId@/

A derivative (a word that contains affixes)

e.g. consideration /k@n sId@ reISn/

A complex word is:

a compound word (generally made of two independent words)

e.g. tape recorder / teIp rikO:d@/

lemon pie /lem@n paI/

What is the difference between a simple and a complex word?
Roach (1993):

A simple word is:

a single grammatical unit or stem

e.g. consider /k@nsId@/

A complex word is:

a word made from a basic stem with the addition of an affix
(prefixes and suffixes)

e.g. consideration /k@nsId@reISn/

a compound word (generally made of two independent words)

e.g. tape recorder /teIp rikO:d@/

lemon pie /lem@n paI/

What is a polysyllabic word?
 Two levels of stress
 Primary stress (stronger)
 Secondary stress (weaker)
 A polysyllabic word = more than one syllable

 Single stressed (primary stress)

e.g. activity /ktIvIti/

 Double stressed (primary and secondary

 Secondary stresses always precede and never
follow primary stresses in words
e.g. university /ju:nIv3:sIti/
Different systems to represent stress

Polysyllabic word Wells’s notation Ortiz Lira’s

system notation system

consideration /k@nsId@reISn/ /k@nsId@ reISn/

tape recorder /teIp ri%kO:d@/ / teIp rikO:d@/

lemon pie /lem@n paI/ /lem@n paI/

Activity 1:Transcribe the words below.
Use Wells’s notation system


PRONOUNCE /prnaUns/PRONUNCIATION /pr@nnsieISn/



COMPOSE /kmpUz/ COMPOSITION /kQmp@zISn/

Two opposing tendencies
 The Teutonic or Germanic tendency towards early stress.
 The Romanic tendency towards late stress

Important rules:
 All polysyllabic words in English have some sort of stress
(primary or secondary stress) on one of their first two syllables
e.g. advertise /dv@taIz/, conversation /kQnv@seISn/
(Kingdon, 1959:13)

 Friederich’s Fundamental Rule of Derivation: If the stress

moves towards the end of the word by more than one syllable
(after adding an affix), then a secondary stress remains on the
originally stressed syllable e.g. pronounce /prnaUns/
pronunciation /pr@nnsieISn/
 If the primary stress is not removed by more than one
syllable , the stress is not remained on the originally stressed
syllable, instead, it is shifted on to the first syllable e.g. compose
/kmpUz/ composition /kQmp@zISn/
Activity 2:What’s wrong with the
pronunciation of these words?

intelligiBIlity particuLArity communiCAtion

 The secondary stress on any of the first two

syllables of the words is misssing!!!

 intelligibility /IntelIdZ@bIl@ti/
 particularity /p@tIkjulr@ti/
 communication /k@mju:nIkeISn
Morphological rules: Are they useful?
 Prefixes do not affect the stress on the stem/word
e.g. patient /peISnt/ impatient /ImpeISnt/

 Suffixes can have 3 effects:

 Stress (accent) neutral: Suffixes that do not affect the accentual

pattern of the root –able comfort /kVmf@t/comfortable
/kVmf@t@bl/ (Other examples -er, -est, -ing, -ment, --ish, -ism,
- ise, , -ous, -ness).

 Stress (accent) attracting: Suffixes take the accent themselves –

ese Portugal /pO:tSUgl/, Portuguese /pO:tSugi:z/. (Other
examples -esque, -ette, -ee). Exceptions: omelette, etiquete,
pedigree, commitee.

 Stress (accent) fixing: Suffixes fix the accent on the immediately

preceding syllable –ic. economy /ikQn@mi/, economic
/i:k@nQmIk/. Exceptions: Arabic, lunatic, catholic, politics,
rhetoric.(Other examples -ity, -ion).
Which syllable carries the primary
stress in the following pairs of words?

deteriorar/deteriorate contaminar/contaminate

identificar/identify certificar/certify

 –ate 2 syllables accent on -ate: inflate, translate /trnsleIt/.

 3 or more syllables the accent moves back two syllables e.g.

contaminate /k@ntmIneIt/

 –ify Certify / s3:tIfaI /

Activity 3: Classify the words in the box
according to the rule that is applied:

inspiration, dangerous, pinturesque, refugee, interesting, curiosity

 inspire /InspaI@/ inspiration /InspIreISn/ (stress fixing)

 danger /deIndZ@/ dangerous /deIndZ@r@s/(stress neutral)

 picture /pIktS@/ picturesque /pIktS@resk/ (stress attracting)

 refuge / refju:dZ / refugee /refju:dZi:/ (stress attracting)

 Interest /Intr@st/ interesting /Intr@stIN/(stress neutral)

 curious / kjU@ri@s/ curiosity /kjUri@QsIti/ (stress fixing)

Word Stress: Are grammatical
categories useful?

Two-syllable words with identical spellings and identical or

similar phonemic patterns are stressed differently:
• Nouns take stress on the first syllable
• Verbs take stress on the last syllable

 record /rekO:d/ (noun) record /rikO:d/ (verb)

 desert /dez@t/ (noun) desert /diz3:t/(verb)

 contrast /kQntrA:st/ contrast /k@ntrA:st/ (verb)

Compound Words
What is compound word?
 A compound is a lexical unit consisting of more
than one base and functioning both grammatically
and semantically as a single word.
(Quirk, 1985)

Compounds can be:

 single stressed =primary stress on the first
 double stressed =primary stress on the second
element and secondary stress on the first element.
Match the rules with the corresponding compound
words. Don’t forget to use Wells’ notation system.
Answers: Single Stress on Compounds

 walking stick. Verb (-ing) + Noun. Noun does not do

the action itself. The meaning is rather “a stick for
walking”. The noun sometimes represents the place or
time for the action of the verb, as in shopping centre.

 tape recorder. Noun+Noun. The second noun indicates

the performer or doer of the action. The agent usually ends
in –er, -or and can be either human or non-human.
Exceptions: stage manager, school governor
 bookshop. N1 (book) delimits the meaning of N2 (shop)
by stating what type of thing it is. The resulting compound
usually functions as noun.
Answers: Double stress on Compounds

 kitchen sink. Noun + Noun. N1 has specific reference (the sink of

the kitchen). The first noun indicates the position of the second one.

 Buckingham Palace. Noun + Noun. N 1 (and sometimes also N2)

is a proper name; the majority are place names. Exceptions: Oxford
Street, Westgate, Home Office, Lake District, Labour Party.

 apple pie . Noun + Noun. N1 (apple) is frequently a mass noun N2

(pie) is made of. The second noun is made of the first one. Exceptions:
orange juice, chocolate cake, cornflakes, coconut milk, mineral water.

 old- fashioned. Adjective + Noun + Adjectival (ed) combinations

give rise to adjectives with double stress. Other examples: bad-
tempered, high-spirited, blue-eyed, etc.

 good looking. Adjective + Verb (-ing) give rise to adjectives with

double stress. Other examples: easy-going, long-lasting, etc.
Activity 4: Classify the compounds below

 Oxford Road
 English teacher
 police station
 swimming pool
 lemon pie
 back door
 CD player
 home-made
 vanilla cake
 hard working