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Terms in this set (100)

lexical stress. An example of this is civilization, in which the first and fourth syllables carry stress, and the other syllables are unstressed.[78] The position of stress in English words is not predictable. English has strong prosodic stress: typically the last stressed syllable of a phrase receives extra emphasis, but this may also occur on words to which a speaker wishes to draw attention. As regards rhythm, English is classed as a stress-timed language: one in which there is a tendency for the time intervals between stressed syllables to become equal, and therefore to shorten unstressed syllables. It is uncertain when English became stress-timed, but as most other surviving Germanic languages are it may date to before the break-up of proto-West Germanic.

Stress in English is sometimes phonemic; that is, capable of distinguishing words. In particular, many words used as verbs and nouns have developed different stress patterns for each use: for example, increase is stressed on the first syllable as a noun, giving increase, but on the second syllable as a verb, giving increase; see also Initial-stress-derived noun. Closely related to stress in English is the process of vowel reduction; for example, in the noun contract the first syllable is stressed and contains the vowel /ɒ/ (in RP), whereas in the verb contract the first syllable is unstressed and its vowel is reduced to /ə/ (schwa).[79] The same process applies to certain common function words like of, which are pronounced with different vowels depending on whether or not they are stressed within the sentence. For more details, see Reduced vowels in English. Despite these practices, phonemic stress in English is generally a convention rather than essential to distinguish homophones: in both these examples, whether the word is being used as a noun or verb should normally be clear from context.

As concerns intonation, the pitch of the voice is used syntactically in English; for example, to convey whether the speaker is certain or uncertain about the polarity: most varieties of English use falling pitch for definite statements, and rising pitch to express uncertainty, as in yes-no questions. There is also a characteristic change of pitch on strongly stressed syllables, particularly on the "nuclear" (most strongly stressed) syllable in a sentence or intonation group. For more details see Intonation (linguistics): Intonation in English.