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We can only stress vowels, not consonants.
Here are some more, rather complicated, rules that can help you understand where to put the stress. But do not rely on them too much, because there are many exceptions. It is better to try to "feel" the music of the language and to add the stress naturally.
1 Stress on the first syllable
2 Stress on the last syllable
There are many two-syllable words in English whose meaning and class change with a change in stress. The word present, for example is a two-syllable word. If we stress the first syllable, it is a noun (gift) or an adjective (opposite of absent). But if we stress the second syllable, it becomes a verb (to offer). More examples: the words export, import, contract and object can all be nouns or verbs depending on whether the stress is on the first or second syllable.
3 Stress on penultimate syllable (penultimate = second from end)
For a few words, native English speakers don't always "agree" on where to put the stress. For example, some people say teleVIsion and others say TELevision. Another example is: CONtroversy and conTROversy.
4 Stress on ante-penultimate syllable (ante-penultimate = third from end)
5 Compound words (words with two parts)
ПЗ7 Stress in the utterances
Sentence stress is the governing stress in connected speech. All words have their individual stress in isolation. When words are connected into thought groups, and thought groups into sentences, content words keep their stress and function words lose their stress. The most important words in the sentence receive stronger stress. The last stressed word in the sentence receives the strongest stress with the help of falling or rising intonation. If it is necessary for keeping the rhythm, the stress in some words can be shifted or weakened in a certain way, for example:
New YORK - NEW York CITy
in the afterNOON - AFternoon SLEEP
Note: Capital letters show stressed syllables, the backslash shows falling intonation. Emphatic stress may be used in a sentence, usually to compare, correct or clarify things. Emphatic stress singles out the word that the speaker considers the most important and in this case even a function word may be stressed strongly, for example:
Tom gave the book to \ ANN.- Том дал книгу Анне.
\ HE gave her the book. - ОН дал ей книгу.
I said that \ MAX gave the book to Ann. - Я сказал, что МАКС дал книгу Анне.
Sentence stress is not just a phonetic peculiarity of English. Sentence stress has a very important function of marking the words that are necessary for understanding the utterance. When the English listen to their conversation partners, they listen for the stressed words, because the stressed words provide important information. It is often difficult to understand the meaning of the sentence in which even one content word is missing. It is also difficult to understand the sentence in which an important word is not stressed or a function word is stressed.
The unstressed function words make the sentence grammatically correct. They are not that important in terms of the information they provide and anyway, their meaning is understandable from the context and from their immediate surrounding in the sentence. Even if you don’t get some of the quickly pronounced function words, the meaning of the whole sentence will be clear to you.
For example, a message from your friend says, “Missed train back Sunday.” You will understand that it means “I missed my train and will be back on Sunday”, right? Only the content words are given in the message, but the meaning is clear. In the same way you should listen for the stressed content words in speech to understand the meaning of the whole utterance, and stress the content words yourself for the others to understand you.
ПЗ8 Connected speech
In English as well as in Russian vowels in unstressed syllables are usually reduced. The law of reduction is not the same. Reduction is a historical process of weakening, shortening or disappearance of vowel sounds in unstressed position. This phonetic phenomenon, as well as assimilation, is closely connected with the general development of the language system. Reduction reflects the process of lexical and grammatical changes.
The neutral sound represents the reduced form of almost any vowel or diphtong in the unstressed position: combine [`kסmbain] – combine [kəm`bain]. The vowel sounds of the two related words are in contrast because of different stress positions. The sound [i] and also [ύ] in the suffix –ful are very frequent realization of the unstressed positions, for example possibility [,pסsi`biliti], beautiful [`bju:tifύl].
There is also tendency to retain the quality of the unstressed vowel sound, for example in retreat, programme, situate.
Non-reduced unstressed sounds are often retained in:
- compound words: blackboard, oilfield
- borrowings from the French and other languages: bourgeoisie, kolkhoz.
Reduction is closely connected not only with word stress, but also with rhythm and sentence stress. Stressed words are pronounced with great energy of breath. Regular loss of sentence stress of certain words is connected with partial or complete loss of their lexical significance. These words play the part of form-words in a sentence.
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