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USAGE: Stress in English

From:Mark J. Reed <markjreed@...>
Date:Tuesday, February 24, 2004, 15:11
It's well-known that stress in English is not regular; in fact, it
cannot be, as it is technically phonemic - although there are relatively
few minimal pairs and they aren't universal.

But there are some interesting patterns nevertheless.

The default rule for polysyllabic words seems to place the emphasis on
the antepenultimate syllable.

However, there are many categories of polysyllabic words, and one of the
largest, which includes the word "polysyllabic" itself, is an exception to
that rule: words formed with productive monosyllabic Latinate suffixes
such as -ic, -ant, -tion, etc, have the stress on the penult.

There are also several rules governing stress in more specific
situations.  For instance, even when the verb suffix -ed forms a new
syllable, it doesn't affect the stress: 'stagnate -> 'stag,na.ted
(which coincidentally fits the antepenult rule) but in'flate -> in'fla.ted.

What other patterns have folks noticed?



Shreyas Sampat <shreyas@...>