4. PROMINENCE AT WORD LEVEL.
What makes a syllable more prominent than another?
Make a syllable PROMINENT
( Vowel length )
Prominence is produced by four main factors: (i) loudness, (ii) length, (iii) pitch and (iv)
vowel quality. Generally these four factors work together in combination, although syllables
may sometimes be made prominent by means of only one or two of them. The strongest
effect is produced by pitch, and length is also a powerful factor. Loudness and quality have
much less effect.( P.Roach, 2000, p.95)
Prominence: is primarily achieved by pitch change, sometimes assisted by extra loudness.
Insult (noun) Insult (verb)
PITCH: is simply the rate at which vibrations are produced. This is usually expressed as the number of Hz
(hertz, or cycles per second). The number of Hz is the frequency of the tone. The higher the frequency of a
tone, the higher its pitch is.
LOUDNESS: Loudness is a component of prominence. It involves greater breath effort, greater amount of
air from our lungs and muscular energy in the production of on the articulation of a sound. A loud sound is
characterized by high volume and intensity reinforcing resonance in the supraglottal cavities as when we
VOWEL QUALITY: A syllable will tend to be prominent if it contains a vowel that is different in quality
from neighbouring vowels. Among UNACCENTED syllables, some will be more prominent than others
owing to the quality and quantity of the vowel.
VOWEL QUANTITY ( or Vowel length):There is a quite strong tendency for long vowels to be heard as
stress. LONG VOWELS and DIPHTHONGS are MORE PROMINENT than short vowels, while among
short vowels, the short vowels / I, U, @ / (when unaccented) are LESS PROMINENT to the other short
vowels. These short vowels are referred to as REDUCED or UNPROTECTED VOWELS as opposed to
other FULL VOWELS ( / Q, 9, V, e, / )
4.2 Primary and Secondary stress.
What makes a syllable strong or weak?
Strong and weak syllables are closely related to stress, vowel quality and vowel quantity.
The main stress marks the most prominent syllable in a word. In the example below the word
“abbreviation” consists of 5 syllables. The forth syllable / eI / is the most prominent as it is the
one which bears the main stress or PRIMARY stress (the biggest circle ). However, the second
syllable / i / is also prominent , to a lesser degree, determined by the vowel quantity and quality
its long vowel ( a medium-sized circle). This is called SECONDARY stress. Some phoneticians
may go even further to state that the third syllable is prominent to a third degree owing to the
vowel quality of [ i ]. In our course, it will be just enough to distinguish between primary and
secondary stress. Primary stress is marked by the uppercase bar ( ) and secondary stress marked
by a subscript diacritic ( ).
To conclude, we may distinguish three levels of prominence:
a) Primary stress: marked by the last major pitch change in a word.
b) Secondary stress: non-final pitch change in a word.
c) Non-prominent syllable: syllables with no pitch change, often containing reduced vowels /
I, U, @ / or syllabic consonants.
/@bri: vieI Sn /