Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.
a stress within a word that emphasizes one of the word’s syllables, as distinct from sentence, rhythmic (breath-group), or syllabic stress. Word stress may be free, as in Russian, or fixed, as in Czech, Hungarian, and Polish. Free stress may perform distinguishing, culminative (maintaining the unity of the word), or delimitative (boundary-marking) functions. Examples are zamók (“lock”)-zámok (“castle”) and rukí (genitive singular of “hand”)-rúki (nominative plural of “hand”). In the first example, word stress distinguishes different words; in the second, different grammatical forms of a word.
Word stress has a correlation with the word’s morphological structure (stem stress and inflectional stress) and is an important element of the grammatical paradigm. Fixed word stress serves only as a word-boundary marker, and in languages without vowel harmony it also has a culminative function. It has a correlation with the word’s syllabic structure and is nonparadigmatic.
Not all languages have word stress. In French, a stress in the spoken chain is not related to a word but to a rhythmic (breath) group. There is also no word stress in the usual sense of the word in a number of tone languages of West Africa. In some languages word stress may combine with syllabic stress within a word, as in Chinese. When this occurs, the two stresses are phonetically distinct: the syllabic stress is musical, and the word stress, dynamic (expiratory).
V. A. VINOGRADOV