Primary and Secondary Stress: A note
Discuss primary and secondary stress.
In linguistics, stress refers to the emphasis placed on certain syllables within a word or phrase. It is an essential feature of spoken language. It contributes to the rhythm and intonation patterns of a language. Stress can be categorized into primary stress and secondary stress. Both of them play different roles in word pronunciation.
Primary Stress: Primary stress is the most prominent emphasis placed on a syllable within a word. It is typically marked with a vertical line ( ́ ) above the stressed syllable. In English, primary stress is usually found on one of the syllables in a word. It plays a significant role in determining the word's pronunciation and meaning. For example, in the word "elephant," the primary stress falls on the second syllable: e-LE-phant.
Primary stress is important for distinguishing between words that are spelled similarly but have different meanings. Consider the following examples:
Record (noun) vs. record (verb): The primary stress on the first syllable in ‘RE-cord’ indicates a noun. It refers to a document or an achievement. In contrast, the primary stress on the second syllable in ‘re-CORD’ indicates a verb. Its meaning is to make a recording.
Desert (noun) vs. desert (verb): The primary stress on the first syllable in ‘DE-sert refers to a dry land. In contrast, the primary stress on the second syllable in ‘de-SERT refers to leaving behind.
Secondary Stress: Secondary stress is also known as intermediate stress. It is a less prominent emphasis placed on certain syllables within longer words or phrases. It is represented with a horizontal line ( ̄ ) above the syllable. In English, secondary stress occurs in longer words that contain multiple syllables. It helps to provide a rhythmic pattern within those words.
Unlike primary stress, secondary stress is not as strong or prominent. It falls on syllables that are less stressed than the primary stress. The presence of secondary stress is more common in polysyllabic words, compound words, and phrases.
For example, consider the word ‘understandable.’ The primary stress falls on the third syllable (un-DER-standable), while the second syllable (DER) receives secondary stress. The secondary stress on the second syllable adds a rhythmic element and helps to break up the word into smaller units.
In short, primary stress is the strongest emphasis placed on a syllable within a word. It is significant for determining word meaning and pronunciation. Secondary stress, on the other hand, is a less prominent stress pattern that occurs in longer words and helps establish rhythmic patterns.