The syllable is a double-faceted category

Lecture 6 (CJIA ЙД 1)


(C Л A ЙД 2)The syllable is a double-faceted category: segmental and

non-segmental, or suprasegmental, or prosodic. The terms "suprasegmental", "non-segmental" do not describe the phenomenon from the point of view of its structure. The phenomena termed "non-segmental" or suprasegmental are features that do not participate in the differentiation of sounds, i.e. segments. These features are referred to as prosodic and the phenomenon itself is termed speech prosody. A sound of speech is produced not only with the help of articulatory movements, but possesses such characteristics as loudness and pitch; it always lasts over some period of time (i.e. possesses some duration). Generally speaking, speech sounds have the same acoustic properties as any sound produced by a living being or thing. Yet, the prosodic features of a speech signal are studied not for their own sake, but because they play a role in creating speech utterances both from the point of view of their form and their meaning.

(CJIA ЙД 3) The acoustic parameters of the speech signal which do not participate in distinguishing the segmental units — phonemes - are the fundamental frequency of the voice, intensity and duration. They form the physical, acoustic, correlates of the perceptible features of length, loudness and pitch. On the articuiatory level greater loudness is achieved by subglottal muscular adjustment which will create an acoustic effect of increased amplitude. However, our perception of any of the prosodic properties is influenced by all the three parameters because they are always functioning as a structure, i.e. in combination.

Very little has been discovered so far about the articulatory properties of prosody.

(CJIA ЙД 4) When we talk about the supra-segmental features of connected speech, we traditionally talk about speech melody, stress, rhythm, tempo (sometimes + pausation) and about speech timbre. This is the linguistic interpretation of the acoustic and perceptible prosodic features of speech.

The first prosodic phenomenon that will be discussed today is stress, and it is here, within this phenomenon, that the syllable displays its linguistic, phonological, functions. (CJIA ЙД 5) The syllable is the minimal carrier of prosodic contrasts . The distinctive role of the syllable is demonstrated by the possibility of word stress-pattern oppositions such as ['impo:t - im'po:t]. The existence of such oppositions in a language, in English, in particular, is a sufficient proof of the phonological role of the

2010 Lecture 6. The Syllable as a Prosodic Category. Word-Stress

phenomenon of stress and the phonological status of the syllable at the same time. Thus there are all grounds to state that the syllable as a prosodic unit performs a sense-distinctive role, as well as constitutive and identificatory.

In English we can use the word 'stress' to refer generally to the way we emphasize something or give it prominence. So we talk about stressing (or putting particular stress on) a point: 'I would like to stress that'... Here, obviously, we are referring to language at the level of discourse. But we also use the term to refer more specifically to the sounds of speech. If we listen to spoken language we can hear that certain elements seem to be given more prominence or emphasis. Apparently it is our knowledge of the language system that makes us pick out certain cues from the sound stream and ascribe to them the value 'stress'.

We need to be quite clear that the term 'stress' is used in two different ways. (СЛАЙД 6} One use is as a conventional label for the overall

prominence 0f certain syllables over others.

The second, and narrower, use of the term 'stress' is concerned with the way in which speakers actually achieve this impression of prominence, i.e. its physiological cause. (CJIA ЙД . 7) In this narrower sense, stress refers to the muscular energy which goes into the production of a syllable.

In producing the continuous sound stream of speech,. sneakers do not keep up a steady degree of articulatory energy: over some stretches the energy level in the articulatory and respiratory muscles is higher than in others. It is important to keep in mind that stress does not just affect sounds but whole syllables. (CJIA ЙД 8)

Word stress (accentual pattern).

(СЛАЙД 9) The term "stress" is often replaced by the term "accent". While these terms are often used interchangeably, there is also an opposite approach, i.e. to discriminate between the two notions. There is yet another term - "prominence", which is usually attributed to the perceptible effect of stress.

The term "accent" comprises both the production and perception levels. An accented syllable means both stressed by the speaker and prominent for the listener. The term "accentual pattern" has become widely used in phonetic literature.

The common definition of the phenomenon of "word stress" is "the greater prominence of one syllable in relation to the other syllables of the word" (perceptible). What does the speaker do to make a syllable prominent? (What is the nature of prominence?)

2010 Lecture 6. The Syllable as a Prosodic Category. Word-Stress

Physically, stress means more energy applied to a syllable. But is it longer? Higher? Louder? The phonetic nature of stress in different languages has much in common, yet there are still specific peculiarities. The acoustic nature of stress is complex and includes all the prosodic parameters (fundamental frequency, intensity and duration). At the same time their role is not equal. Some parameters may predominate. Word stress in different languages is defined differently depending on the predominate parameter in the creation of prominence. (CJIA ЙД 10) It can be

- quantitative (when the predominant parameter is length)

- musical (when it is pitch)

- dynamic (intensity, force of articulation)

- qualitative (sound quality, spectral characteristics of a sound).

It has always been taken for granted that vowels in a stressed syllable are not reduced. This is why the qualitative parameter has not always been taken into consideration. Obviously, for French or Spanish, where there is reduction of vowels, practically, this parameter does not play a significant role. But for the treatment of English or Russian and Byelorussian word-stress it is important to emphasise the role of vowel quality for the creation of the effect of prominence. The English word stress therefore is defined as dynamic and qualitative. Some authors argue that it is also quantitative, because stressed syllables tend to be longer as well, but this is not a consistent feature, e.g. in ['pitid] the unstressed [i] is longer than the stressed

[i]. Even if this or that 'label' is used to specify word stress in a particular

language, it does not deny the fact that in reality all acoustic parameters interact, they are all involved. A -disputable point in the analysis of the phonetic nature of word-stress is the role of fundamental frequency of the voice. Some phoneticians regard it as one of the key features of word stress. At the same time, there exists another point of view: FF is not relevant for word stress recognition. This viewpoint seems to be more consistent if we claim that word-stress and utterance stress should be analyzed and treated as two different phenomena, although they certainly have a common core.

(CJIA ЙД 11) The only really constant feature of word stress, a feature that is always there, is vowel quality. David Brasil uses the term "protected" for the stressed syllables. The quality of a vowel in a stressed syllable is said to be "protected". In unstressed syllables vowels are unprotected. The full quality of a vowel in a stressed syllable is an obligatory feature. It is connected to greater muscular effort, but we do not necessarily need to raise the pitch of the voice although in reality we do this.

In actual speech word stress is realised through utterance stress. Word stress, strictly speaking, is a potential, an abstraction which is manifested in speech by various forms, yet if we want to talk about word stress as a

2010 Lecture 6. The Syllable as a Prosodic Category. Word-Stress 3

phenomenon in its own right, it must be eliminated from utterance stress features analysis.

Distribution of prominence. Location of stress within a word. (CJIA ЙД 12)


The syllable is a double-faceted categoryLanguages differ in this respect. There is fixed and free (variable) word stress. Languages of the fixed stress type have stress predominantly on a given location in a word. Languages with variable stress enjoy more freedom for stress placement.

( Слайд 14) French, e.g., is a language where word stress is normally

fixed on the last syllable. The final syllable stress is an areal characteristic of Turkic languages, Iranian languages and the Armenian language. Other examples of fixed stress are Finnish and Czech, both with initial syllable stress, and Polish and Swahili, both with penultimate syllable stress.

(CJIA ЙД 15) A relatively small proportion of the languages of the world allow a range of different locations of stress: Dutch, English, Greek, Italian, Rumanian, Russian, Spanish etc. Here are some examples: English contact, re act, Russian правда, д opo г a, ca мовар

Some authors say that in English word stress is free and fixed at the same time. It is fixed in the sense that you cannot change the position of syllable prominence in any given word at will. We have to observe the patterns that already exist. We cannot choose them according to the situation, style, etc. It is free in the sense that it can fall on any syllable.

(C ЛАЙД 16) Although word-stress in English is free, it is possible to talk about basic types of accentual patterns and about basic accentual tendencies. These two aspects are closely related, but should be kept separate. When we talk about tendencies, we are trying to discover the reasons why this or that accentual pattern has emerged into existence. There are semantic (recessive), retentive and rhythmic tendencies.

The semantic (recessive) tendency chooses the stressed syllable in the semantically predominant morpheme. This is usually the root morpheme of a word, e.g. decide, practical, etc.

The retentive tendency accounts for preserving stress on the same syllable in derivative words as in beauty-beautiful-beautufy; wonder- wonderfully.

The rhythmic tendency accounts for the appearance of a second stress in many English polysyllabic words. There is a tendency towards alternation between strong and weak syllables in speech and, in particular, within a word. This is why it is not common of English to have polysyllabic words with one stress only. Nevertheless, such words do exist: e.g. beautifully.

2010 Lecture 6. The Syllable as a Prosodic Category. Word-Stress

Rules for predicting stress are based on the morphological structure of words, i.e. they presuppose a classification of prefixes and suffixes into strong and weak according to their stress potential and it is also based on the classification of compound words according to the principles of their formation.

The attempts to work out rules that would enable a learner to predict a word stress pattern are very popular in the current phonetic science. It is part of generative phonology.

Degrees of stress

(CJIA ЙД 17) Phonetic prominence of a syllable in a word is relative, i.e. compared with the preceding one. But the speaker of a particular language is capable of categorizing the actual phonetic differences and distinguishing the phonologically relevant ones while ignoring those which are not relevant for word recognition. Much of stress perception is done as expected, that is in anticipation of regular rhythmic beats or in analogy with other similar words.

(CJIA ЙД 18) The English word indivisibility illustrates different degrees of syllable prominence with an identical vowel [i]. Phonetically,

there are, in fact, as many degrees of prominence as there are syllables in the word, namely, seven. However, phonologically, there are only three degrees: only one primary stress on bi, two secondary stresses - in, vi — and the rest of the syllables are termed as having a weak stress, which might also be called unstressed.

(CJIAЙД 19, 20) Some authors also distinguish tertiary stress, which is as weak as secondary but has a different distribution: it follows the primary stress, while the secondary stress precedes it. LPD defines tertiary stress as the location of a potential rhythmic beat either after the primary stress, or between the secondary and the primary (as in indivisibility). Tertiary stress is usually associated with American English words like laboratory ['l], territory ['t]'.

However, there are two generally accepted degrees of stress: primary and secondary. Is secondary stress relevant? Perhaps, it is only a phonetic feature significant only for observing the pronunciation norm. Perhaps it doesn't matter as far as the meaning of a word is concerned. It is difficult to provide examples of words where secondary stress alone would lead to a difference in meaning (e.g. to 'undertake - to under'take). All dictionaries

use the indication of secondary and primary stress which shows, obviously, that this is a constant and compulsory feature of English stress.

Primary and secondary stress are functionally different. We can see the difference clearly as soon as we touch upon the issue of the relationship between word stress and utterance stress. It will be seen that it is only the syllable carrying primary stress that is capable of becoming nuclear syllable on utterance level. We will see that it is not the pitch level that indicates the syllable as secondary or primary but its potential of becoming nuclear.

2010 Lecture 6. The Syllable as a Prosodic Category. Word-Stress 5

Functions of word-stress

(CJIAЙД 21) Word stress builds up the sound image of a word; it shapes a word by making one (or more) syllable(s) more prominent than the others. This organizing function of word stress is called (1) constitutive. To emphasize the idea that the stressed syllable (which is particularly true of Russian) constitutes the centre, the culmination point in a word, the function is called (2) culminaiive. The recurrent stress pattern of the word helps the listener to recognize (identify) it in the flow of speech, and the function is called (3) recognitive (identifying). And, finally, the data on fixed stress locations suggest that stress most commonly marks off the end or the beginning of a word, and therefore signals the end of a word; the function is called (4) demarcative.

Less common but still significant is the role of English word stress in signifying the morphological class of a word: there are over 300 minimal pairs (noun vs. verb) which are distinguished by stress placement: 'insult to in'suit. Compound words also show the tendency for nouns to bear the primary stress on the first element and for the verbs and adjectives to have it on the second element: 'ballet-dancer, fair-'haired, to down'step. This function may be called (5) morphological. Stress also has a (6) syntactic function in distinguishing between a compound noun, such as a 'hot dog (a form of food), and an adjective followed by a noun, as in the phrase a 'hot 'dog (an overheated animal). Compound nouns have a single stress on the first element, and the adjective plus noun phrases have stresses on both elements.

Peculiarities of English word-stress as compared to Russian and


The overall impression of greater stress in English is due to a greater contrast between stressed and unstressed syllables in pitch and duration. It is the presence of secondary stress that distinguishes the rhythm of an English polysyllabic word from a Russian word of the same length.

2010 Lecture 6. The Syllable as a Prosodic Category. Word-Stress


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