Unit 4 Phonemic Transcription Stressed and unstressed words in texts

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Unit 4

Phonemic Transcription

Stressed and unstressed words in texts.

Some words have strong or weak realizations according to their syntactic function or the prominence the speaker gives them in the text.

  • Those are /ə/ my clothes (weak form)

  • Yes, you are /ɑ:/ (strong form)

  • I would /wəd/ say so (weak form)

  • If I could, I would /wʊd/ (strong form)

  • There was /wəz/ a huge noise (weak form)

  • Do you know who it was? /wɒz/ (strong form)

Location may also influence the form we use:

  • Who are you talking to?  “stranded” /tu/

  • I’m going to change  unstressed /tə/ (before consonants)

  • I’m going to eat  unstressed /tu/ (before vowels)

There may be different degrees of weakening:

  • Have  /hæv/  /həv/  /əv/  /v/

  • Some  /s˄m/  /səm/  /sm/

  • Because  /bɪ’kɔ:z/  /bɪkəz/  /kəz/  /kz/

Syntactic words, usually weak:

  • Articles (a, an, the)

  • Auxiliaries (be, do, have, will, can, must…)

  • Conjunctions (and, as, but, because…)

  • Prepositions (for, of, from, at, to…)

  • Pronouns (you, he, she, hum, us, her…)

  • Possessive adjectives (my, his, your…)

  • Relative pronouns (that, who, which…)

  • Indefinite adjectives and adverbs (some, there…)

  • Some titles (sir, mister, miss, saint…)

Words with strong and weak forms:
A, an, are, at, be, can, do, for, had, have, he, him, am, and, as, but, been, could, does, from, has, had, her, his, is, our, me, shall, should, than, the, there, us, were, will, you, must, your, of, she, some, that, them, to, was, we, should, sir, saint.
Assimilation (Coarticulation)
Thinking /'θɪŋkɪŋ/ (within the same word)
In connected speech:
Progressive / anticipatory / leading assimilation.

  • Green card /ɡri:ŋ ‘kɑ:d/

  • Bright colour /’braik ‘k˄lə/

Regressive / perseverative / lagging assimilation.

  • Forget them /fə’ɡet təm/

Coalescence (reciprocal):

  • Would you…? /’wʊdʒu/


  • Asked - /ɑ:s(k)t/ (isolated word)

  • Policeman /p(ə)’li:smən/ (isolated word)

  • Lots of money /’lɒts ə(v) m˄ni/

  • Best friend /‘bes(t) fren(d)/ (connected speech)

  • Want to, going to /'wɒnə/ /'ɡɒnə/ (informal)

  • Smoothing: towel, desire /tɑ:l/ /dɪ’zɑ:/

Liaison / Linking / Shandhi /r/


RP & non-rhotic accents: /keə/

GenAm & rhotic accents: [kɛ:r - keər - keɚ]

All accents, including RP: /’keərɪŋ/

RP four /fɔ:/ - four eyes /fɔ:r ‘aɪz/ (all accents)

RP there /ðeə/ - there is /ðeərɪz/

*The idea is fine /ði aɪ’dɪərɪz ‘faɪn/ (intrusive /r/)
Is English isochronous? (I.e. the time between stresses tends to be the same, no matter how many syllables there are in between). However, not all scholars agree.
Stress, prominence and accent are intertwined concepts. Accent is more accurately used for intonation and social and geographical variation.
Stress is perceived or produced through changes in loudness (traditional approach), pitch (more often linked to tone), length and quality.
There are different types of stress:

/faɪə/ /ðerɪz ə ‘faɪə/

A two-level analysis of stress (strong-weak syllables) is not realistic. Words with more than one syllable after the main peak of prominence usually feature secondary and even tertiary stress.


Suffixes may affect word stress:

  1. With primary stress themselves: trainee /treɪ'ni:/, Portuguese /pɔ:tjʊ'gi:z/

  2. Influencing stress in the stem: perfection /pə'fekʃən/, courageous /kə'reɪdʒəs/

  3. Not affecting stress: comfortable /'kʌmftəbəl/, wonderful /'wʌndəfəl/

Prefixes do not normally affect word stress: preoccupied /pri:'ɒkjʊpaɪd/, unbelievable /ʌnbɪ'li:vəbəl/

Compounds may vary depending on the category of the words they include:

  1. Noun+noun: tablecloth

  2. Adj.+-ed: heavy-handed, bad-mannered

  3. Adv.+verb: backfire, upgrade.

Variation in stress may be due to rhythm: bad-mannered boy or other reasons: controversy, kilometer.

Many words with the same spelling have different stress patterns, depending on their function or word class (noun, adjective, verb…): desert, export, object, protest, torment, contract, insult, present, record, transport, escort, permit, produce, subject, survey.
The syllable
A minimum syllable is one single vowel (no onset and no coda) or even a syllabic consonant: arrive rock and roll
The peak of a syllable is a vowel, diphthong, triphthong or a syllabic consonant which is the nucleus of the syllable. It is the essential part of it.
The onset of the syllable is the consonant or cluster preceding the peak of a syllable. It may be absent: splinter /’splɪntə/. The consonants in the onset may be pre-initial, initial and postinitial. The only sound in English that can be pre-initial is /s/.
The coda of a syllable is the consonant or cluster following the peak of a syllable. It may be absent: prompts/prɒmpts/ (pre-final, final, post-final 1, post-final 2). There is post-final 3 and no pre-final in texts /teksts/.
Rhyme is the combination of peak and coda (if any).
Maximum onsets principle: words should be broken down into syllables with as many consonants as possible in their onsets: extreme /ɪk’stri:m/, human /’hju:mən/. There are ambisyllabic words.
Juncture is the relationship between two sounds in contact (coarticulation): ice cream /’aɪs kri:m/ or I scream /aɪ ‘skri:m/, my turn /maɪ ‘tɜ:n/ or might earn /maɪt ‘ɜ:n/. The juncture can be external open, internal open or close.
Intonation is basically given by variations of pitch. It can be defined as the melody of speech. Loudness, length, quality, etc. are also involved in the production and perception of intonation.
Tone languages (e.g. Chinese) use contours affecting the lexical level of meaning.
The 3 Ts:

  • Tonality. The speech chain is divided into units called IPS (Intonation Phrases or Tone Units)

  • Tonicity. In addition to other rhythmically stressed and unstressed syllables, in each IP there is a prominent or tonic syllable (the nucleus) carrying the nuclear tone.

  • Tone. The pitch can rise, fall, remain level, etc. producing a wide range of possibilities.

Tonality: the intonation phrase (IP).
As a unit of speech, it may consist of one or more syllables or feet, as long as there is one contour or change of tone.
E’nough (1 IP)

I wonder if you can ‘help me (1 IP)

Have you been to that ‘pub? (1 IP)

If she ‘calls me | tell her I’ll be away for two ‘days (2 IPs)
Tonicity: locating the nucleus.
The nucleus tends to be on the stressed syllable of the last meaningful word of the IP:

  • She was trying to lose ‘weight (broad focus)

A shift happens when we make the focus contrastive:

  • She was trying to ‘lose weight (not gain it).

  • She was ‘trying to lose weight (but she couldn’t).

  • She ‘was trying to lose weight (but not any more).

  • She was trying to lose weight (not me).

Tones and meaning.

  • High fall: conclusive, final, used for statements, wh- questions, etc.

  • Low fall: also conclusive; less emotionally involved.

  • Fall-rise: doubt, uncertainty, hesitating request, limited agreement.

  • Low rise: used when something is to follow, or there is an invitation to reply.

  • Full rise: disbelief or shock.

  • High rise: mild puzzlement at what we have just heard.

  • Level: enumerations. Also expresses routine, boredom, etc.

  • Rise + fall: surprise, strong approval.

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