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Phonology: Stress, rhythm and

intonation
Raising awareness of important
aspects of language
Warm-up
• In pairs practise both conversations.
• NB Meaning is totally conveyed by these
words only. Get your acting hats on!
• Do you think learners would find this activity
easy or difficult?
• Most attitudinal features of stress are
universal. Depends how uninhibited the
learners are, though.
Stress
• Read these invented words and try to predict
the way each one is stressed. Count the
syllables first. Can you suggest any rules?
• pawler veddle malmish pandifulloomitive
loomition imbelist imbelistic geon
geonics geonetics geonetology
geonetological
Some general tendencies
• In two-syllable words the stress tends to be on the
first syllable, especially where the second syllable is
a suffix (pawler, veddish, malmer).
• Polysyllabic words tend to be stressed on the third
to last: pandiful, loomitive, imbelist, cosmopolitan.
• However, certain suffixes such as –ic, ition, sort of
‘attract’ the stress: loomition, imbelistic.
• This accounts for stress shift in word families: geon,
geonics, photograph, photographic, photography??
Techniques to highlight word stress
• Provide a model, i.e., drill chorally and
individually.
• Ask learners, where’s the stress?
• Tap or hum the pattern.
• Write the word on the board with a small
indicator of stress, e.g., a small box above the
stressed syllable.
Word stress Practice
• Mark the stress on these words. It helps to
count syllables first.
• Table happy decide overtired notebook
sociablehappily organise exercise
independently
Stress
• Read the short dialogues aloud then answer the questions.

• A: Let’s invite Jack to dinner next Saturday.


• B: No, let’s invite Jack next Friday.

• A: Let’s invite Jack to dinner next Saturday.


• B: Let’s invite Jill to dinner next Saturday.

• A: Let’s invite Jack to dinner next Saturday.


• B: Let’s invite Jack to lunch next Saturday.

• A: Let’s invite Jack to dinner next Saturday.


• B: No, let’s not invite Jack to dinner next Saturday.
Questions
• 1. In what way does the second sentence change?
• 2. Why does the sentence change in this way?
• The sentence stress shifts according to the speaker’s
assessment of what the listener needs to focus on.
Sentence stress (unlike word stress) is variable.
• General rule new information is stressed in English.
Quite a difficult skill since in many languages new
information is signified through word order, for
example.
Rhythm
• Take it in turns to read the sentences given to you.
• There are 3 mains beats. Even the final one has 3 main
beats. So, in English they take more or less the same
time (give or take a microsecond!).
• Tap out the 3 beats on the table as you say the
sentences.
• What happens the individual words (especially the ones
between the beats) as the sentences become longer.
• Why might this be a problem for learners both with
listening and speaking?
Rhythm
• What happens the individual words (especially the ones between
the beats) as the sentences become longer?
• Why might this be a problem for learners both with listening and
speaking?
• The individual words are accommodated by contractions and weak
forms.
• The ‘squeezing’ and ‘swallowing’ of the low-information words
are sometimes difficult for learners to actually hear at all.
• Failure to use weak forms and contractions makes their own
spoken language sound stilted. Failure to stress the high-
information words can make it difficult for listeners to ‘unpack’
what they what to say.
Intonation
• Intonation is also used to ‘package’ meaning.
• This is simply an awareness raising task. Listen
to me say each sentence and then decide
what the difference in meaning is between
each.
• You could, if you like, use a little arrow ( ) to
decide where intonation is falling or rising.