Syllables and Stress of American English

1/8/2020

 

 

Clear English pronunciation is not only about pronouncing consonants and vowels correctly. I can pronounce the word computer with each sound correctly articulated - computer - but what if I say it like this: COM-pu-ter. COM-pu-ter. Something sounds...off…

 

So what did I change? I changed the stress pattern in the word computer. That word is usually said with the stress pattern da-DA-da. Computer. But I changed it to DA-da-da. COM-pu-ter. And it sounded incorrect.

 

In order to learn how to pronounce English clearly and naturally, you need to master the stress patterns of spoken English as well as the pronunciation of English sounds.

 

But before you can master the stress patterns of English, you need to learn about syllables.

 

Syllables are the beat, or the rhythm, of a word. Let’s go back to the word computer, and I’ll clap to the beat to identify how many syllables it has. Com-pu-ter. Com-pu-ter. Computer has three syllables.

 

Here are more examples of syllable counting: Chocolate; House; Engineer.

How many syllables are in each word? Let’s clap to the beat: chocolate - 2; house - 1; engineer - 3.

 

Once you can hear the syllables in a word, you should begin to identify that some syllables are longer, or stressed more, than other syllables. This is because English is a stress-timed language. Some syllables are longer, or stressed, and some syllables are shorter, or unstressed.

 

Let’s go back to the word computer, and I’m going to use the syllables “DA - da” to help identify the syllable and stress pattern. DA is for a stressed syllable, and da is for an unstressed syllable.

 

In the word computer, can you hear that one syllable is stressed the most? It’s the second syllable, PU:  com - PU - ter. da-DA-da. And to show that PU is the stressed syllable, it is pronounced longer, louder, and at a higher pitch than the other syllables in the word. Listen again: com - PU - ter. com-PU-ter. da-DA-da.

 

As you listen to spoken English, you should be able to hear the rhythm of stressed syllables and unstressed syllables, stressed syllables and unstressed, throughout the spoken message. This is the rhythm of spoken English.

 

Here are some practice words to help you identify syllables and syllable stress. Try to count the number of syllables and identify which syllable receives the most stress.

 

Hello

da-DA

2nd syllable is stressed

 

Paper

DA-da

1st syllable is stressed

 

Vacation

da-DA-da

2nd syllable is stressed

 

Radio

DA-da-da

1st syllable is stressed

 

Anyone

DA-da-da

1st syllable is stressed

 

Afternoon

da-da-DA

3rd syllable is stressed

 

Understand

da-da-DA

3rd syllable is stressed

 

Education

da-da-DA-da

3rd syllable is stressed

 

Absolutely

da-da-DA-da

3rd syllable is stressed

 

Thanks for watching, and let me know if you would like some help with syllables and stress.



Go Back