A2 Basic UK 17 Folder Collection
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So I'm making this video for Mariano Garcia who subscribes to this YouTube channel and
follows my weekly videos at www.englishpronunciationroadmap.com. And he posted a comment on one of my videos
a couple of weeks ago on intonation and said you know 'great video but which word in
a sentence do I stress?'.
He understands that content words versus structural words like grammatical words are more important
and to stress so: verbs and nouns and adjectives. But in a typical sentence is there anything
I can do to help me know which word i should be putting most of the emphasis on.
And you know i'm sure some of you that are watching this video now it sort of asking
yourself the same question. There are all of these rules about how to stress a syllable
and how to stress a word which are quite useful, but when I got a sentence or a question or
a comment or statement or exclamation which word in that sentence or that phrase should
I stress.
And there are scores and scores of ideas about this and how you should do it in English and
in British English. I guess a really simple and straightforward way of thinking about
it would be to ask which word in your phrase or in your sentence carries the most important
bit of information.
And of course that can change depending on the circumstances in which are talking, depending
on the person you're talking to, depending on the content of your conversation. And so
it's a very flexible thing and I guess requires you to be really specific about what you want
the listener to take away: what's the most important piece of information.
And so if you have a look at this question: “did you know that she crashed the car?”
just listen to the way in which the meaning of this sentence changes when I stress a different
word in the question. So have a listen to this:
“DID you know that she crashed the car?” questions whether the other person knew about
the event at all.
“did YOU know that she crashed the car?” questions in a sort of accusatory way as to
whether the other person knew.
“did you KNOW that she crashed the car?” questions whether the other person knew for
certain.
“did you know that SHE crashed the car?” questions whether the other person is sure
of who is responsible.
“did you know that she CRASHED the cars?” questions whether the other person knew the
state of the car.
“did you know that she crashed THE car?” questions whether the listener knows that
it's the best one.
“did you know that she crashed the CAR?” questions whether the other person knew that
it was the car that she crashed as opposed to something else.
Another way to think about word stress in sentences is to think about tone units. Take
a look at this sentence.
You can see how the sentence is broken up into units with forward slashes. It's broken
up into these little tone units or what I tend to refer to as phrases. And the main
stressed word in each of those tone units or those phrases is often called the tonic
syllable. And the word stress rule is that in a typical sentence it tends to be that
the tonic syllable/the main stressed word in that unit tends to be the last content
word in that sentence.
And it certainly holds true in this little example, so have a listen to this:
'I was WONDERING / whether you might be INTERESTED / in coming to a PLAY that I'm
going to. / It's at the ROYALl / this coming FRIDAY. / It's about a GUY / who loses EVERYTHING
/ and DISCOVERS himself. / It's got really great REVIEWS / and I THOUGHT / that we could
go to that Italian PIZZA place / close to the TUBE station. / Their DOUGH-balls / are
AMAZING!'
So you can hear how it's the last content word in those phrases that tends to get the
main stress or we would say that that's the main stressed word in that tone unit or in
that phrase. And that might be another way of thinking about which word should I stress
in my sentences.
And just two extra things to think about that might be useful is to know that new information
in a conversation is always worth stressing so for instance: “have you read the new
Dot Hutchison book? No, but have you read the new Matthew Norman book?”.
So then you piece of information and in that example it was the new author that gets the
stress in the sentence because it's the new piece of information.
And the same thing goes for contrasting information in an exchange. So for instance: “I haven't
SEEN the new car but I've HEARD about it”, “do you prefer ROSES or LILLIES?”
So one way of thinking about word stress in sentences is to think about which word carries
the most importance, the most important information in what it is that you're saying, and that
gets the most stress; and the second way is to think about these tone units and to think
about the tonic syllable which tends to be the last content word in each phrase that
you're using within the whole sentence; the third way is to think about new information,
what new information comes up in your exchange in conversation; and the last thing is to
think about contrasting information and how that helps both of you to understand how the
conversation moves forward and how you interact with one another.
So Mariano I hope you found that useful and everyone else I hope you found that useful.
If you're watching this on youtube and you're a subscriber great. Go down, leave a thumbs
up or thumbs down, make a comment. Who knows I might make a video in response to one of
your replies but if you're not a subscriber, subscribe now. I post weekly videos here so
hit subscribe and I can speak to you next week.
You may want to go over to my website www.englishpronunciationroadmap.com there is a lot of free videos, a load of free
downloads and there's some courses that you can download, an e-book that I wrote last
year that has been helping many, many of the people that I work with and I'll speak to
you soon.
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Word Stress Rules

17 Folder Collection
BryceLam published on April 2, 2020
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