American English Phonetics

Another American English Faculty Project

Just as languages differ with regard to the sets of vowels and consonants they have and their distribution and realization, so they will differ with respect to rhythm and intonation and in the way words are stressed. If we want to learn to pronounce a foreign language realistically, we must therefore not only pay attention to the segmental aspects, i.e. to the vowels and consonants, but also to the suprasegmental aspects. In this chapter we will deal with word stress.

We will discuss a number of regularities in the position of the stress in English words. We discuss the position of the stress in pairs of words like an insult and to insult, in adjectives that end in suffixes, like /əbl/, (admirable); in words that have two stresses, like association, and in compounds like town hall, dark room. The last section deals with stress shift, a phenomenon that can be observed in, for instance, twenty-one: compare I’m twenty-‘one (with the stress on one with ‘twenty-one ‘years (with the accent on twenty). Words for which no general rule can be given, but which are frequently mispronounced by learners because they place the stress on the wrong syllable, have been included in the Pronunciation List.

Look the following words up in the LPD, and determine the position of the main word stress.

  • also
  • although
  • baptize
  • capsize
  • cigarette
  • cylinder
  • execute
  • Illinois
  • interview
  • magazine
  • mistake
  • pedestal
  • Saskatchewan
  • unrest