Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Stress, syllabification: tense and lax vowels

To help her successfully, you need to make your student aware of Russian syllabification and stress. And also teach her syllabification in English and how stress dictates the syllabification. Most if not all accent reduction courses don’t focus on the foundations of stress.For instance, there is a productive heuristic for the -ic prefix: just stress the penultimate syllable. Another heuristic: there exists at least one unstressed syllable between the primary stressed syllable and a secondary stressed one.So far, so good. There is a greater point that L2 speakers should know: stress dictates the quality of underlying vowel. Let me illustrate with the following example.algebraic: ,al-ge-’BRA-icHere, the first and the third are stressed. Even though the underlying graphemes are same (“a”) and stressed, the quality of vowels is difference: one being tense, the other being lax.Imagine another word: ,al-ge-BRAT-ic . Here, the primary stressed vowel is lax (and the syllable is closed).The moral of the story: one can predict whether stressed vowels (syllables) are lax (closed syl) or tense (open syl).Compare the stress of the following words: compulsive, elusive. Also check the stress of the words “compusive (no l) and eluxive (x instead of s).The other part is: American accent reduction courses and specialists are not aware of the theories of Intonation. For instance, Pierrehumbert’s theory of intonation developed from Bolingers theory of pitch accent. There are five to six pitch accents in American English. The more knowledge the leaner possess, the better he/she can perceive vowel qualities, pitch accents, cadence (phrasal accent, phrasal accent + boundary tone), etc.Mere knowledge of phonemes and allophones in American English is like learning very very basics, which don’t help perceive other features.

Posted at: http://englishwithjennifer.wordpress.com/2012/01/05/where-do-we-begin-to-teach-beginners/#comments

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