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Word Stress in American English

WORD STRESS in American English

Word stress plays a very important role in the correct pronunciation of American Accent as in any other accent.

Stress in American Accent

In American English Stress the underlying pattern of English rhythm is that the stressed syllables of stressed words occur on relatively evenly spaced “beats.”

This concept is called the Rhythm Rule.

This pattern of “Rhythm Rule” is possible because words and sentences have three levels of stress:

Secondarily stressed
Stressed Syllables and Words
Within words, a single stressed syllable is given emphasis
by any combination of being pronounced louder,
for more time, and/or at a different pitch than
surrounding syllables.
Stressed syllable Stressed syllable ↓ ↓ vo- lun-teer in-spi-ra-tion

Stress in a Sentence

Sentence stress is more flexible than syllable stress. Which word is stressed can change to fit the speaker’s intended meaning.
Stressed syllable ↓ Are you coming?
Stressed syllable
↓ Are you coming?
Or ..
Stressed syllable ↓ Are you coming?
In short, the stressed syllable of a word rarely changes, but stressed words of a sentence are greatly flexible.
Unstressed Syllables and Words
Equally important to the rhythm of English is the reduction of unstressed syllables and unstressed words.
Syllables and even entire words can be reduced by any
combination of using a more neutral vowel sound (schwa),
decreasing the length of the vowel sound, and omitting sounds
(possibly entire syllables).

In both words and sentences, unstressed syllables often occur next to stressed syllables.

Unstressed syllable Unstressed syllables ↓ ↓ ↓ vol-un-teer in-spi-ra-tion
Unstressed syllables ↓ Are you coming?
Secondarily Stressed Syllables and Words
Secondarily stressed syllables create a beat of less prominence than a stressed syllable and are not reduced.
Their primary purpose is in maintaining the rhythm of English.
Secondarily stressed syllables are usually separated from stressed syllables by at least one unstressed syllable.

Secondary stress Secondary stress

↓ ↓ vol–un-teer in-spi-ra-tion
Within sentences, words can also be given a secondary stress, either to highlight important information or even merely to maintain rhythm.
Secondary stress
↓ Are you coming?

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