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Word Accent Made Easy

Have you ever heard a native British speak. Next time you hear them, listen carefully to what they say. Notice how they gobble up some sounds and give more importance to some other sounds. That is what makes a native speakers speech different from ESL learners from other countries.

Consider the word “frequent”. You just hear the first part of the word (also known as a syllable) and the rest is left unstressed. Now, the problem is that we do not have fixed rules for word accent in English. We got to learn it the hard way. But I can provide here some basic tips that usually (but not always) work.

Tip1:Some sounds are almost always given stress. The vowel sound “ee” for example is stressed in words like “frequent”, “street”, “naughty” etc. Other such sounds are “aa” as in “carpet”.

Tip 2: Some consonant sounds are so prominent that we cannot simply gobble them up. Sounds like “d” (just try to say “digest”) and “g” (just say  “gauge”). Other such sounds are “t” and “k”, “b” etc.

Tip 3: Some sounds are almost always left unstressed. Meek sounding “h”, “y”, “w”, “v”, “s”, “f” etc fall into this category.

Tip 4: The stress pattern of a word may change if a suffix or prefix is added to the word. For example the “photo” is stressed in the beginning, whereas “photograph” has stress nearer to “-graph”. Even here the stress patterns are generally governed by the rules given above.

Try This: Try to form a hierarchy of sounds with the most prominent sounds on the top and the least prominent sounds at the bottom of the pyramid. Make a chart of this.

These are very same basic rules. Try if these rules work in compound or very long words. The best way to learn word accent is to go through each word individually through a pronunciation software.

Last Words: I have found that writing blogs is not an easy thing, especially when you want to use the phonetic alphabets. Pro-bloggers please advise. In the near future I will be showing a chart like the one that I have described above.

Author: Jims Varkey
-English Quick Tips Page


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