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The unstressed vocalism in English

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Aikosha Kain

on 3 March 2014

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Transcript of The unstressed vocalism in English

made by Kainetova A, Dusetova G, Korzhumbaeva T
The unstressed vocalism in English
Vowels of full formation in unstressed positions.
The syllabic structure of English words
Definition of a syllable. Main types of syllables
The accentual structure of English words.
types of word accent
Semi-weak vowels in unstressed positions
Reduced vowels in unstressed positions
Types of reduction in English
The phonemic status of the neutral /a/
Full vowels can often be found in unstressed syllables in compound words, as in bedsheet, moonlit, tentpeg, snowman, and kettledrum. However in some well-established compounds the vowel of the unstressed part may be reduced, as in postman
Many other full unstressed vowels also derive historically from stressed vowels, due to shifts of stress over time (such as stress shifting away from the final syllable of French loan words, likeballet and bureau, in British English), or the loss or change of stress in compound words or phrases (as in óverseas vóyage from overséas or óverséas plus vóyage). There is a tendency, though, for such vowels to become reduced over time, especially in common words.
With vowels represented as /i/ and /u/, it may be hard to ascertain whether they represent a full vowel or a reduced vowel. An example of a word which may be considered to illustrate the contrast is chauvinism, where the first i may be regarded as an instance of the reduced vowel [i], and the second as unreduced /i/.

vowels, lying between strong and neutral vowels

[o] – [ou]

careful style [o] - [o’bei]
colloquial style [a] - [a‘bei]
full style [ou] – [ou’bei]

Reduced vowels in the close unrounded area

In some dialects of English there is a distinction between two vowel heights of reduced vowels: in addition to schwa, there is a distinct near-close central unrounded vowel [i] (or equivalently [i]). In the British phonetic tradition, the latter vowel is represented with the symbol /i/, and in the American tradition /i/. An example of a minimal pair contrasting these two reduced vowels is Rosa’svs. roses: the a in Rosa's is a schwa, while the e in roses (for speakers who make the distinction) is the near-close vowel. Among speakers who make this distinction, the distributions of schwa and [i] are quite variable, and in many cases the two are in free variation: the i in decimal, for example, may be pronounced with either sound. A symbolization convention recently introduced by Oxford University Press for some of their English dictionaries uses the non-IPA "compound" symbol in words that may be pronounced with either [i] or schwa. For example, the word noted may be transcribed ['nautid].
The final vowel of words like happy and coffee is a reduced front close unrounded vowel most commonly represented with [i], although some dialects (including more traditional Received Pronunciation) may have [i]. This [i] used to be identified with the phoneme /iː/, as in FLEECE. See happY-tensing. However, contemporary accounts regard it as a symbol representing a close front vowel that is neither the vowel of KIT nor that of FLEECE; it occurs in contexts where the contrast between these vowels is neutralized; these contexts include unstressed prevocalic position within the word, such as react [ri'ækt]. Strictly speaking, therefore, [i] is not a phoneme but an archiphoneme.
Reduced vowels in the close rounded area
Many dialects also retain rounding in reduced vowels. The vowels /uː/ and /u/ may reduce to [u] (or equivalently [u]), as in into . The diphthong /ou/ may reduce to [o], as in widow : cites a three-way contrast, a mission, emission , and omission . Analogously to the [i] symbol mentioned above, Oxford University Press have devised the non-IPA symbol [u] to represent a vowel which may be either /u/ or /a/, the two being in free variation. For example awful . A rounded vowel [u], corresponding to the [i] happy vowel, is widely used in British works for words such as influence [ɪnfluəns], into [ɪntu].

Three different types of reduction are noticed in English:

1. Quantitative reduction, i.e. shortening of a vowel sound in the unstressed position, affects mainly long vowels, eg [hi: - hiJ - hI]. When does he come?
2. Qualitative reduction, i.e. obscuration of vowels towards
, affects both long and short vowels, eg can [kæn – kən].
You can easily do it. [ju kən → i:zIlI ˛du: It].
Vowels in unstressed form-words in most cases undergo both quantitative and qualitative reduction, eg [tu:tu - tυ].
3. The third type is the elision of vowels in the unstressed position, eg I’m up already [aIm Λp˛ o:lredI].

Occur only in unstressed position
Can perform distinctive fs only when opposed to other unstressed vowels
Neutral a is a core of unstressed voc. of English. All allophones are known in ling as schwa vowel
Independent phonemic status of neutral vowels provided by lots of mp where schwa is opposed to other neutral vowels. [ə] – [i] \ [ə] – [ou]

Types of vowel gradation in English
Theories of syllabic formation and syllable division
Phonetic and orthographic syllables

Functions of the syllabic structure in English

The syllable is one or more speech sounds forming a single uninterrupted unit of utterance which may be a commonly recognized subdivision of a word or the whole of a word
Expiratory theory
- is based on the assumption that ex piration in speech is a pulsating process and each syllable should correspond to a single expiration so that the number of the syllables in an utterance is determined by the number of expirations made in the production of the utterance. This theory was strongly criticized by linguists. G.P. Torsuev, for exam ple, writes that in a phrase a number of words and consequently syllables can be pronounced with a single expiration. This fact makes the validity of the pulse theory doubtful.
The
sonority theory / the prominence theory
and is based on the concept of sonority. The creator of this theory, the Danish linguist Otto Jespersen, has proved that the least sonorous sounds which have the least carrying power, are those for which the mouth is closed (voiceless oral stops), while the most sonorous sounds are those for which the mouth is wide open (low vowels). All other sounds are ranked in between these two extreme points of the sonority scale. By this theory the syllable is treated as the combination of a more sonorous sound with a less sonorous one. All the sounds with the greatest degree of sonority (vowels and sonorants) are at the peak of the syllable, by which the syllable may be marked as a unit, because the rest of the sounds surrounding the peak cling to it.

The muscular tension theory was put forward by the French linguist Michaelle Grammont and supported and further developed by the Russian linguist Lev V. Scherba. Academician L.V. Scherba explained syllable formation by muscular tension impulses and three types of consonants. In speaking, muscular tension imputes follow one another. Each impulse has its strongest point – the peak of prominence – and its weakest prominence – the valley of prominence. Valleys of prominence correspond to points of syllabic division. The end of one syllable and the beginning of the next one can be ascertained by determining the type of consonants which take part in forming the syllables.
Consonants may be pronounced:
1. initially strong –the beginning of a consonant may be more energetic, while the end may be weaker;
2. finally strong –the beginning of the consonant may be weak, and its end more
energetic;
3. and geminate or double – both the beginning and the end are energetic with a
weakening of muscular tension in the middle, acoustically, they give the impression
of two consonants.
The more energetic part of a consonant is attached to a vowel, so that initially
strong C occurs at the end of a close syllable, while finally strong C occurs at the beginning of a syllable, his theory again does not give a complete explanation of the syllable division mechanism
The linguist and psychologist N.I. Zhinkin has suggested the so-called loudness theory which seems to combine both levels (15). The experiments carried out by N.I. Zhinkin showed that the arc of loudness on perception level is formed due to variations of the volume of pharyngeal passage which is modi fied by contraction of its walls. The narrowing of the passage and the increase in muscular tension which results from it reinforce the actual loudness of a vowel thus forming the peak of the syllable. So according to this theory the syllable could be thought of as the arc of loudness which correlates with the arc of articulatory effort on the speech production level since variations in loudness are due to the work of
all the speech mechanisms.


Phonetic (spoken) syllables must not be confused with orthographic (written) syllables. An orthgraphic syllable is a group of letters in spelling. Syllables in writing are also called syllabographs.
Parts of phonetic and orthographic syllables do not always coincide:
worker CVC-V = two phonetic syllables and one syllabograph
A most GENERAL RULE claims that division of words into syllables in writing is passed on the morphological principle which demands that the part of a word which is separated should be either a prefix, or a suffix or a root (morphograph), e.g. pic- ture ['pik ʧə].

The second component of the phonic structure of language is the syllabic structure of its words both in citation forms and in utterances. The syllabic structure of words has two inseparable aspects :
1. syllable formation
2. syllable division/separation
Syllable formation in English is based on the phonological opposition vowel – consonant.
In English the syllable is formed:
1. by any vowel alone or in combination with one or more consonants – not more than 3 preceding and not more than 4 following it, e.g. are [a:], we [wi:], it [it], sixths [siksθs].
2. by a word final sonorants [n], [1], [m] immediately preceded by a consonant: e.g. rhythm ['rIðEm], garden ['ga:dEn].The English sonorants [w], [j] are never syllabic as they are always syllable-initial.
Thus vowels and sonorants are syllable-forming elements and every word, phrase or sentence has as many syllables as it has syllabic elements.
Every English syllable has a center or peak – a vowel or a sonorant. The peak may be preceded by one or more non-syllabic elements which constitute the onset of the syllable, and it may be followed by one or more non-syllabic elements which constitute the coda, e.g. cat [kæt], tree [tri:], ice [ais]


degree of word accent according to british and american phoneticians
the distinction between secondary and tertiary stresses
position of word accent in disyllabic and polysyllabic words
tendencies in the english word accentuation structure
functions of the accentual structure of english
The greater degree of special prominence given to one or more syllables as compared with that of the other syllable or syllables in one and the same word is known as word accent. For instance, in the word /instiŋkt/ both [i]-sounds have equal inherent prominence but the actual, accentual prominence of the first [i] is greater than that of the second. Therefore this word is said to be accented on the first syllable.
Types of word accent are distinguished first of all according to the articulatory means by which it is effected.
 One of such means is the pronunciation of a syllable in a word with that of the other syllables of the same word. Word accent effected by this means is called dynamic, or force, stress.
 A syllable can be made specially prominent by uttering it on a different pitch level or with a different pitch direction than the other syllable or syllables of the word. Word accent effected by this means is called musical, or pitch, or tonic.
 A syllable becomes more prominent when its vowel is pronounced longer than another vowel or other vowels of the same tamber or historical length in the unstressed position in the same word or in other words of the language. Word accent by this means is called quantitative.
 Qualitative accent is effected by preserving unobscured the quality of the vowel phoneme in the accented syllable.

There are actually as many degrees of stress in a word as there are syllables. The opinions of phoneticians differ as to how many degrees of stress are linguistically relevant in a word. The British linguists usually distinguish three degrees of stress in the word. A.C. Gimson, for example, shows the distribution of the degrees of stress in the word examination. The primary stress is the strongest, it is marked by number 1, the secondary stress is the second strongest marked by 2. All the other degrees are termed weak stress. Unstressed syllables are supposed to have weak stress. The American scholars B. Bloch and G. Trager find four contrastive degrees of word stress, namely: loud, reduced loud, medial and weak stresses. Other American linguists also distinguish four degrees of word stress but term them: primary stress, secondary stress, tertiary stress and weak stress. The difference between the secondary and tertiary stresses is very subtle and seems subjective. The criteria of their difference are very vague. The second pretonic syllables of such words as libe'ration, recog'nition are marked by secondary stress in BrE, in AmE they are said to have tertiary stress. In AmE tertiary stress also affects the suffixes -ory, -ary, -ony of nouns and the suffixes –ate, -ize, -y of verbs, which are considered unstressed in BrE, e.g. 'territory, 'ceremony, 'dictionary; 'demonstrate, 'organize, 'simplify.

British linguists do not always deny the existence of tertiary stress as a tendency to use a tertiary stress on a post-tonic syllable in RP is also traced.

Tertiary stresses are used for long words between the secondary stress and a primary stressed usually imposed by a strong ending. More often than not, the secondary is itself a prefix such as de- or in-. ( eg photosensitization or incapacitation or inadvisability)
Disyllabic words may have the stress on the first syllable or on the second syllable.
Stress on the first syllable :’visit, ’city, ’recent, ’knowledge, ’solar.
Stress on the second syllable : to’day, a’wake, a’round, re’port, de’mand, su’pport.
Polysyllabic words gave the stress on any one of the syllables
Stress on the first syllable : ’popular, ’telegram, ’atmosphere, ’mechanism, ’grandfather.
Stress on second syllable : in’volvement, la’boratory, a’rrangement, ex’periment, in’terpreet.
Stress on the third syllable : availa’bility, communi’cation, under’stand, integ’ration.
Some polysyllabic words may have two stress marks. The one which is more forcible is called Primary Stress and it is marked by [’]. The other stress is less forcible. It is called Secondary Stress and it is marked by [,]. e.g: ex,ami’nation - ,civili’zation - res,ponsi’bility.

Though word stress in English is called free, it is not really free of any accentual tendencies. There are certain tendencies in English which regulate the accentuation of words to a certain extent.
According to the recessive tendency stress falls on the first syllable which is generally the root syllable (e.g. “ˈmother, ˈfather, ˈsister, ˈbrother, ˈready, ˈwindow”) or on the second syllable in words which have a prefix of no special meaning (e.g. , “beˈcome, inˈdeed, forˈgive, beˈhind”). The recessive tendency in stressing words is characteristic of words of Anglo-Saxon origin, and the recessive tendency has influenced many borrowings (e.g. “ˈexcellent, ˈgarage”).
The second tendency in word stress is the so-called rhythmic tendency. In the English language a considerable part of the vocabulary consists of monosyllabic words, some of which are stressed, others not.” This created the rhythmic tendency to alternate stressed and unstressed syllables. According to the rhythmic tendency, stress is on the 3rd syllable from the end in a great number of words (e.g. “ˈrecognize, ˈpossible, possiˈbitity”). It is the usual way of stressing four-syllabled words. E.G., “poˈlitical, deˈmocracy, iˈdentify, comˈparison”. In word with more than four syllables we very often find the influence of both the rhythmic and the recessive tendencies. E.g., “ˌindiˈvisible, ˌinefˈficiency, ˌphysiˈology, ˌphonoˈlogical”
Analyzing the accentuation structures of derivatives and their parent words, I. Wolfson noticed that the stress of the parent word is often retained in the derivatives. Cf. ˈsimilar - assimiˈlation, simiˈlarity ˈpersonal - ˌpersoˈnality, ˈnation -ˌnatioˈnality. Wolfson calls it the retentive tendency in English.
There is one more accentuation tendency in English: the tendency to stress the most important elements in words. Such meaningful prominence is given to negative prefixes (as in “ˈunˈknown, ˈinarˈtistic, ˈmisbeˈhave”), meaningful prefixes (as in “ˈex-ˈpresident, ˈvice-ˈpresident, ˈsub-ˈeditor, ˈunderˈmine”), suffix “-teen” (as in ˈthirˈteen, ˈfourˈteen”), semantically important element in compound words (as in “ˈwell-ˈknown, ˈred-ˈhot, ˈbad-ˈtempered”).
These are the numerous tendencies that to some extent regulate the accentuation of words in English.

Word stress in a language performs three functions.

1. Word stress constitutes a word, it organizes the syllables of a word into a language unit having a definite accentual structure, that is a pattern of relationship among the syllables; a word does not exist without the word stress Thus the word stress performs the constitutive function. Sound continuum becomes a phrase when it is divided into units organized by word stress into words.
2. Word stress enables a person to identify a succession of syllables as a definite accentual pattern of a word. This function of word stress is known as identificatoiy(у него так в лекции) (or recognitive). Correct accentuation helps the listener to make the process of communication easier, whereas the distorted accentual pattern of words, misplaced word stresses prevent normal understanding.
3. Word stress alone is capable of differentiating the meaning of words or their forms, thus performing its distinctive function. The accentual patterns of words or the degrees of word stress and their positions form oppositions, e.g. 'import — im'port, 'billow — below.
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