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Sentence Stress                 

In the 3rd week of this term we looked at word-stress, and discussed the different stress-patterns of words such as distance and distinct:
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In the 10th-week class we began to look at stress-patterns within sentences. We saw that in English, stresses occur at fairly regular intervals, no matter how many unstressed syllables there are between them. We say that stress in English is isochronic. Consequently the following two sentences take about the same time to say:
Dogs eat meat
Elephants gobble vegetables
Like this:

(For more examples of isochronic sentence stress, see here )

Languages which behave like this, such as English and Icelandic, are said to be STRESS-TIMED. In contrast, French and Yoruba are SYLLABLE-TIMED - the more syllables in a word, the longer time they take to pronounce.

We also saw that, in English, the stressed syllables all have strong vowels, while the weak syllables are likely to have weak vowels Here are two sentences which demonstrate this:

As we can see, some words in these sentences are stressed, and some are unstressed. When a WHOLE WORD becomes unstressed - always short structural words such as to, from, as, but, was - they are called weak forms

We also have to ask: Which words in a sentence receive full sentence stress?


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If you have any questions mail me at peturk@hi.is.