Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rules of English Word Stress

Though most English words are stressed on the first syllable, English stress is invariable. It can fall on any syllable in a word. With the knowledge of a few rules, however, it is easier to predict stress in English.

In a number of cases, disyllabic nouns and verbs are stressed differently. The nouns are stressed on the first syllable but the verbs are stressed on the second. This is all that serves to distinguish them. Examples include "decrease," "increase," "import," and "export."

Words which end in the suffixes -ic and -tion have penultimate stress. Examples include "historic," "economic," "acidic," "situation," "organization" and "civilization."

Words which end in the suffix -al have antepenultimate stress. Examples include "geographical," "philosophical," and "biological."

Compound nouns are usually stressed on the first syllable. Examples include "greenhouse," "airport" and "newspaper."

Compound verbs are usually stressed on the final syllable. Examples include "overlook," "disagree" and "underrate."

English word stress is not as irregular as many think. It is true that stress can fall on any syllable in an English word, but the majority of words are stressed on the first syllable. In addition, a number of rules are useful for predicting stress in an English word.

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