What Is The Stressed Syllable In The Word Photography

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English Intonation: Stressed and Unstressed Syllables

Letters coming from person's mouth showing English intonation

English intonation is fundamentally linked with
stressed and unstressed syllables.

Click beneath to listen to a recording of this passage.


Students who speak English every bit a 2d language oft desire to sound like native English speakers. In fact, this is a common goal in many English classrooms.

While there’southward nothing incorrect with sounding like a non-native speaker, sounding similar a native English language speaker is about a lot more than than fitting in.
Proper English intonation
can make the divergence between agreement and misunderstanding what someone says.

Yet, figuring out when certain syllables should be stressed or unstressed can exist challenging for non-native speakers. In order to understand these two concepts better, nosotros’ll need to take a look at what English intonation means.

What is English Intonation?

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Intonation in English language refers to the style in which the voice rises and falls when speaking or singing.

Y’all might have noticed that, when a native English language speaker says something, certain words or phrases accept a higher pitch, while others take a lower pitch. This is what intonation ways.

Voice intonation in English language matters because information technology can govern meaning and mood.

There are substantially 3 types of intonation: falling intonation, ascension intonation, and apartment or unchanging intonation. Falling intonation refers to speech that goes from a loftier pitch to a depression pitch, ascent intonation refers to speech that goes from a low pitch to a high pitch, and flat intonation refers to speech that has no alter in pitch.

All iii of these take different functions based on the mood and intention of the words. Notwithstanding, falling and rise are the about common patterns of English intonation. Falling and rising intonation are both denoted by arrows. A downwards arrow (↘) signifies falling intonation, while an upwardly arrow (↗) signifies rising intonation.

Falling Intonation (↘)

In English, falling intonation is the most common pattern. Many statements, commands, and Wh- questions make use of falling intonation. Typically, the intonation falls on the last word or syllable in a sentence. In the intonation examples below, the pitch falls on the underlined word or syllable:

  • Statements
    • I like your (↘) haircut.
    • We moved to New (↘)
      York.
    • They take 3 (↘)
      cats.
    • He was born in (↘)
      September.
  • Commands
    • Get to your (↘)
      room.
    • Bring me my (↘)
      keys.
    • Open the (↘)
      door.
    • Assistance me behave this (↘) upstairs.
  • Wh- Questions
    • Who is that (↘)
      human being?
    • What is your (↘)
      name?
    • When volition you be (↘)
      home?
    • Where are you (↘) going?
    • Why does he look (↘)
      sad?
    • How are you (↘)
      feeling?

As you lot can see, these are all pretty standard sentences and questions that i might hear in an English conversation. Falling intonation is common because it denotes a neutral tone. And so, during coincidental conversation, you will hear it ofttimes at the end of many sentences.

Ascension Intonation (↗)

Rising intonation is not as mutual as falling intonation, simply it is equally important for certain situations. Using rising intonation at the end of a question encourages the other person to fill in the missing information. It is most commonly used in yep/no questions and tag questions. For example:

  • Yes/No Questions

    • Are yous a (↗)
      Gemini?
    • Exercise yous want to lookout man a (↗)
      flick?
    • Is he your (↗)
      friend?
    • May I use the (↗) bathroom?
  • Tag Questions
    • We studied English together, (↗)
      didn’t we?
    • You want to get to the park, (↗)
      don’t you?
    • The weather condition is so overnice, (↗)
      isn’t it?
    • He likes bowling, (↗)
      doesn’t he?

Flat or Unchanging Intonation

Unlike falling or rising intonation, unchanging intonation is not common in English.

This type of intonation design is frequently referred to as “monotone.” People don’t utilise unchanging intonation in normal conversations because information technology can sound unnatural or robotic.

Rise-Fall Intonation (↗↘)

In add-on to the three English intonation patterns listed higher up, there are as well two combination patterns: Rise-Fall and Fall-Ascension Intonation. We commonly use the ascent-fall pattern for “either/or” questions, lists, and provisional statements. For case:

  • “Either/Or” Questions or Statements
    • You can have either (↗)
      the fish
      or (↘)
      the beef.
    • Exercise y’all desire to go (↗)
      hiking
      or (↘)
      fishing?
    • Is she (↗)
      a educatee
      or (↘)
      a teacher?
    • Is the football on (↗)
      Sat
      or (↘)
      Lord’s day?
  • Lists
    • I have (↗)
      3 books, ii pencils, ane ruler, and (↘)
      1 eraser.
    • I similar (↗)
      swimming, dancing, and (↘)
      play tennis.
    • The apartment includes (↗)
      two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and (↘)
      a kitchen.
    • He ate (↗)
      breakfast, lunch, and (↘)
      dinner.
  • Conditional Statements
    • If you accept any (↗)
      questions, experience free to requite me a (↘)
      phone call.
    • If you continue having (↗)
      hurting, put water ice on (↘)
      it.
    • If you’re (↗)
      happy, I’grand (↘)
      happy.
    • If he wants to (↗)
      come, he needs to start (↘)
      packing.

What are stressed and unstressed syllables?

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A stressed syllable is the part of a discussion that you say with greater accent than the other syllables. Alternatively, an unstressed syllable is a part of a word that you say with less emphasis than the stressed syllable(due south). However, y’all don’t emphasize or deemphasize syllables using volume; instead, yous utilise pitch.

You’re probably wondering how stressed and unstressed syllables are related to English intonation. Though emphasis (stress) and pitch (intonation) are different, they are connected. How nosotros stress certain syllables or words changes the pitch. Similarly, the pitch we utilize in sure contexts tin can also bear on which syllables become stressed.

Rules for Stressed and Unstressed Syllables

Figuring out which syllables to stress is not always easy in English language. Nonetheless, there are a few rules that tin assistance you:

  • If the word is a two-syllable noun or adjective, the stress usually falls on the commencement syllable. For instance: PIzza, LAzy, Bottle, Tranquillity.
  • If a give-and-take ends in -al, -cy, -ty, -phy, or -gy, the stress falls on the 3rd from the last syllable. For example: geneOLogy, LOgical, phoTOGraphy.
  • If a word ends in -ic, -sion, or -tion, the stress usually falls on the next to last syllable. For example: attraction, FUsion, BASic.
  • If a word is a two-syllable verb or preposition, the stress usually falls on the second syllable. For example: beSIDE, aDAPT, reCEIVE.

Naturally, these rules don’t embrace every discussion in the English language (not even close!) and most of these rules have exceptions. With many words, yous volition just have to memorize which syllables are stressed or unstressed.

That said, if you’re stuck on a certain give-and-take, try saying information technology several times, stressing a different syllable each time. In well-nigh cases, y’all can figure out how it should exist stressed through the process of elimination. Some syllables merely audio unnatural when you effort to stress them. Let’southward use the discussion “memorize” to practise. For example:

  • ME-mo-rize
  • Me-MO-rize
  • Me-mo-RIZE

If you say the word out loud, you will probably realize that the second option is definitely wrong. Additionally, while the tertiary option doesn’t sound completely incorrect, it doesn’t audio as natural equally the first choice.

English Intonation and Stressed Syllable Resources

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Though learning the rules for intonation and stressed or unstressed syllables is important, the best way to larn is to listen and practice with native English speakers. Actually hearing the manner that pitch and stress alter in natural conversation will help you implement right intonation and syllable stress in your own spoken language. So, here are a few free resource to help go you started:

  • English Intonation Practice Video
  • Introduction to Stress and Intonation
  • Stressed Syllables Lesson
  • Stressed and Unstressed Syllables Symbols
  • Practice Stressed and Unstressed Syllables

In natural English conversations, stresses and intonations are far more than nuanced. For example, a stressed syllable often sounds rounder and higher-pitched than the rest of the discussion, and changing the syllable stress could change the meaning of the word itself. Let’due south tune into a brusque tutorial from our atomic number 82 instructor, Anita.

  • Matthew Jones

    Matthew Jones is a freelance writer with a B.A. in Motion picture and Philosophy from the University of Georgia. It was during his time in school that he published his kickoff written work. After serving every bit a casting director in the Atlanta film industry for two years, Matthew acquired TEFL certification and began educational activity English abroad. In 2022, Matthew started writing for dozens of different brands across diverse industries. During this time, Matthew also congenital an online following through his film weblog. If yous’d like to learn more about Matthew, you can connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or his personal website!

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