Word Stress

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word stress

Word stress, also called lexical stress, is the emphasis a speaker places on a specific syllable in a multi-syllable word.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Word Stress


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).


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Gutslaff acute was the word stress itself while circumflex denoted long vowels in writing, opposed to short vowels.
From the early stages of modern phonological theory, serious theoretical work has been devoted to Arabic word stress, within different theoretical approaches: the pregenerative approach, with reference to the nature of the syllable (Mitchell 1956, 1960; Harrell 1957; Wright 1971); the generative approach, where stress is distinctively represented by the feature [+/-stress] (Abdo 1969; Brame 1970, 1973, 1974; Broselow 1976; Johnson 1979; Weldon 1980); the metrical approach, where the syllable is weight based, rather than segment-based (McCarthy 1979a, 1980; Angoujard 1990; Hayes 1981, 1995; Watson 2002; Huneety & Mashaqba 2016); and the constraint-based approach of Optimality Theory (Kager 1999; McCarthy 2008; Rakheia 2009; Al-Jarrah 2002, 2011).
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