The syllable or syllables which are uttered with more prominence than the other
syllables of the word are stressed oraccented. Word stress can be defined as
the singling out of one or more syllables in a word, which is accompanied by the change of the force of utterance, pitch of the voice, qualitative and quantitative characteristics of the sound which is usually a vowel [Леонтьева 1988: 179]. The following types of word stress are distinguished in different languages:
1. dynamic or force stress if special prominence in a stressed syllable(syllables) is achieved mainly through the intensity of articulation;
2. musical or tonic stress if special prominence is achieved mainly through the
range of pitch, or musical tone.
3. quantitative stress if special prominence is achieved through the changes in the quantity of the vowels, which are longer in the stressed syllables than in the unstressed ones.
4. qualitative stress if special prominence is achieved through the changes in the quality of the vowel under stress. Vowel reduction is often used as manipulation of quality in unstressed syllables.
According to A.C. Gimson, the effect of prominence is achieved by any or all of
four factors: force, tone, length and vowel colour . The dynamic stress includes
greater force with which the syllable is pronounced. In other words in the articulation
of the stressed syllable greater muscular energy is produced by the speaker. European
languages such as English, German, French possess dynamic word stress. In Scandinavian languages the word stress is considered to be both dynamic and musical. The musical (or tonic) word stress is observed in Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese. It is effected by the variations of voice pitch in relation to neighboring syllables.
The English linguists (D.
word stress or accent is a complex phenomenon, marked by the variations inforce, pitch,
quantity andquality. The dynamic and the tonic features of English word stress prevail
over the others. It should be noted that when the tonic or musical component of word
stress is involved it is the change of pitch level that is significant in making the syllable
prominent, but not the type of tone direction.
As to the quantitative and qualitative components of word stress they are also
significant. The vowel of the stressed syllable is perceived as never
reduced and longer than the same vowel in the unstressed syllables.
Languages are also differentiated according tothe placement of word stress.
The traditional classification of languages concerning place of stress in a word is into
those with a fixed stress and those with a free stress.. For instance, in French the stress falls on the last syllable of the word (if pronounced in isolation), in Finnish and Czech it is fixed on the first syllable, in Polish on the one but last syllable.
In languages with a free stress its place is not confined to a specific position in the
word. In one word it may fall on the first syllable, in another on the second syllable, in the
third word on the last syllable, etc.
The word stress in English is not only free but it may also be shifting, performing the semantic function of differentiating lexical units, parts of speech, grammatical forms. It is worth noting that in English word stress is used as a means of word-building.
The stress in a word may be on the last syllable; on the next-to-last (the second from the end); on the third syllable from the end and a few words are stressed on the fourth syllable from the end.
The accentual structure of English words is liable to instability due to the different
origin of several layers in the Modern English word stock. In Germanic languages the word
stress originally fell on the initial syllable or the second syllable, the root syllable in the
English words with prefixes. This tendency was calledrecessive.
Vassilyev writes that "this function makes word accent a separate supra segmental, or prosodic, phonological unit which may be called accenteme." He distinguishes three word accentemes in English:
primary —equal to the primary stress,
secondary — equal to the secondary stress,
weak — equal to unstressed syllables.
In the examples: 'insult— in'suit we have a form-distinctive accenteme. In the examples: billow /'bilou/ (морской вал) — below /bi'lou/ (вниз) we have a word-distinctive accenteme which differentiates the meaning of two words.
There are word and form distinctive accentemes in the Russian language as well. In мука —мука the meaning of the words is differentiated by the word-distinctive accenteme and in рука — руки the singular and plural forms are differentiated by the form-distinctive accenteme.
Stress difficulties peculiar to the accentual structure of the English language are connected with two factors: inherent prominence of sounds and their special prominence.
Inherent prominence manifests itself in the fact, that the quantity of long vowels and diphthongs may be preserved in (a) pretonic and (b) post-tonic position.
Special prominence is connected with the following difficulties of the English accentual structure:
(1) Presence of secondary stress in a great number of words, where it may fall on the first or on the second syllable, e. g. modification, administration.
(2) Absence of secondary stress in a number of words with the initial /i/, the single stress is placed on the third syllable: electricity, elasticity. When such words are pronounced with the initial /i:, e/ they have a secondary stress.
(3) Single stress in compounds due to the manifestation of the semantic factor:
(a) when compound nouns denote a single idea, e. g. 'blacksmith (кузнец), 'walking stick (палка, трость);
(b) when the first element of the compound is most important, e.
(c) when the first element of the compound is contrasted with some other word, e. g. 'flute player (флейтист), cf. banjo player.
(d) when a compound is very common and frequently used it may have a single stress, e. g. 'midsummer (середина лета), 'midnight (полночь); exceptions: 'down'hill (покатый), 'up'hill (в гору), 'down'stairs (вниз), 'up'stairs (вверх), 'passer'by (случайный прохожий), 'point'blank (перен. решительный);
(e) compounds of three elements have a single stress on the second element due to the rhythmic tendency, e. g. hot 'water bottle (грелка), waste 'paper basket (корзина для (ненужных) бумаг);
(f) nouns compounded of a verb and an adverb have one single stress, on the first element, e. g. a 'make up, a 'set up, a 'setback.
Since words are not pronounced separately but joined into phrases and sentences, word accent is determined by different factors, that are connected with sentence stress, semantic importance of the word in the sentence, rhythm, emotional coloring and even the mood of the speaker. For example, the word 'thir'teen has two equal stresses but under the influence of rhythm it may be pronounced with one single stress on the first syllable: Her number is 'thirteen hundred. The same is observed in adjectives ending in the suffix -ese and denoting nationality, e. g. Burmese, Chinese, Japanese, etc., but a 'Burmese book, etc.
In conclusion we may state, that the interpretation of the nature of word accent given by Soviet phoneticians is thorough and profound, because they do not reduce the problem of accent to different degrees of loudness and discriminate between word, phrase, and sentence stresses.