Syllables and Stress, part 2 ~ The Linguistics Zone

Friday, May 25, 2007

Syllables and Stress, part 2

As mentioned in the previous post on stress, syllable stress can present a difficulty when learning a new language.

Is there an easy rule for determining which syllables are stressed in English? Some languages have predictable stress rules. For instance, in Polish, stress is always on the penultimate (second to the last) syllable. In English, stress and syllable accent is unpredictable. When one learns a new English word, the stress patterns that the word has must be memorized in addition to the definition of the word, rhyming with horizon.

Product naming and pronunciation

In product naming and branding, this is a blessing and a curse: Would you know the correct pronunciation of a name you haven't encountered yet? The intuitive thing to do would be to look for names that are similar to it, but even this technique can throw you for a loop.

Here's an example:
If you never saw the name Verizon before, how do you think it would be pronounced? You would probably look for a similar word. But is it more like Amazon or horizon? In both cases the stressed syllables are different! A few years ago, I've met some people that would pronounce Verizon (VER-iz-on) with the accent on the first syllable (like the first syllable in the word "very") so that it would rhyme with Amazon. You would eventually find out (through commercials or whatnot) that the proper pronunciation is (ver-EYE-zin) with the accent on the second syllable.

Stress variation and homographs

A word's meaning can vary depending on which syllable is stressed, these fall into the category of homographs. This was discussed here: homophones/homographs/homonyms.

There are also words that can be pronounced in different ways, with each of them being acceptable (different stressed syllables).

Examples:
kilometer
Caribbean
caramel

These are not considered homographs since the words have the same meaning no matter which way you say them.

387 comments:

Ryan Shamus said...

Interesting!

I have another example for ya:

Pecan

I hear that one pronounced different ways all the time as well.

website copywriter said...

When it comes to most food, I guess stress on the correct syllable isn't so important as how good they actually taste.

Healthy Chocolate said...

"A word's meaning can vary depending on which syllable is stressed, these fall into the category of homographs. This was discussed here:"


Don't you mean the pronunciation, rather than the syllable stressed? Some words have the same stress, but you just pronounce the vowel differently

Play Arcade Games said...

intresting, would not have thought about it that way myself.

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Pecan is a real tough one too!

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This is a very cool blog - probably the most original and fascinating I have come across. Very interesting how language and linguistics work - my Translations Professor got her PHD in linguistics etc, and I am looking into taking a class next semester. Keep up the good work

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Yes, it's good example by ryanshamus. thanks

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Pecan is a real.

Mac @ Motorcycle Fairings said...

Ha ha, yes not stressing the right word may even sound stupid.

Acai Berry Products said...

Tomato, potato ... even aluminum. Many countries pronounce words differently.

Home Decor said...

Agree with website copywriter, the pronunciation is fine as long as food taste good?

Acai said...

These are great tips for people trying to learn the English language. The stress on syllables is one of the toughest parts!

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What exactly do you mean website copywriter?

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RezV said...

Definitely, stress on the correct syllable isn't so important as many people think.

Cheap Checks said...

As a former Speech Pathologist, I studied and took many classes on how to learn languages, phonetics, etc. English is one of the hardest languages to learn because it is unpredictable and is based on memory. Unlike languages that have a foundation on Latin, English is just kind out there by itself.

Melisa said...

Its interesting, an easy way to learn english, Thanks for sharing this!

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alex said...

These are great tips for people trying to learn the English language.

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Electronic Parts said...

Its so important to be able to pronounce something properly otherwise we can make a fool of oursleves in publec....anyways nice article we never think of this stuff usually

Acai Berry said...

Good article and I enjoyed it a lot of about it while reading this.

Acai Berry said...

Syllables is a good topic and its really great. I read both article till published. Both are nice.

Acai Berry said...

I personally think that if you don't pronouce something correct, you look stupid.

Anyways, thanks for the both parts of the articles.

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That was really a great post and information - just bookmarked and keep up the good work

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In English, stress and syllable accent is unpredictable. When one learns a new English word, the stress patterns that the word has must be memorized in addition to the definition of the word, rhyming with horizon.
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Don't you mean the pronunciation, rather than the syllable stressed? Some words have the same stress, but you just pronounce the vowel differently

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Don't you mean the pronunciation, rather than the syllable stressed?

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I'm so glad I don't have to learn English as a second or third language although I have to wonder how many native US-born Americans actually sound like English is their second language. That was a great and very illustrative example to use with the contrast between Verizon and Amazon.

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Anonymous said...

Don't you mean the pronunciation, rather than the syllable stressed? Some words have the same stress, but you just pronounce the vowel differently......
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I have never heard anyone pronounce Verizon like Amazon.. but I can see how someone could mix it up.

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I've met some people that would pronounce Verizon with the accent on the first syllable.

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