Intonation In English: Nouns And Adjectives Are Stressed Differently Than Verbs
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Chinese has "tones" but all languages have their own
special intonation. The "music" of a language is its intonation and it is perhaps the most important
element of a correct accent.
A "ggod" accent is not only a question of good pronunciation.
Many people think that pronunciation is what
makes up an accent. It may be that pronunciation is
very important for an understandable accent.
But it is intonation that gives the final touch that
makes an accent correct or native. Often we
hear someone speaking with perfect grammar, and perfect
formation of the sounds of English but with a little
something that gives her away as not being a native
Therefore, it is necessary to realize that there are
three components to an accent, pronunciation,
intonation, and linking. In other places we will examine
pronunciation, the proper formation of vowels and
consonants, and linking, the way that syllables within
a word, and the beginning and ending of words come
But what interests us now is the issue of intonation,
and in particular the difference in intonation of
nouns and adjusctives on the one hand, and the intonation
of verbs on the other. A review of this gives us a
perfect example of how meaning affects intonation.
Noun/Adjective and Verb
In other articles, we saw: that verbs of two syllables
often have the stress on the second syllable, while
the related noun has the stress on the first syllable.
We also saw that expressiones of two words are stressed
differently according to their meaning.
This article, along with the others, is an example
of the effect that meaning has on intonation in English.
Many native speakers do not realize that the "rule" of this section is pretty rigorous. To know it can
help you in building your vocabulary at the same time
that you perfect your intonation. Even native speakers
can profit from being more precise in the intonation
of their English.
This is another intonation pattern that you must master.
Verbs ending in the letters "ate" pronounce
the letter "a" of the last syllable with the "long
a" sound (the name of the letter "a", the sound of
the words steak and make). Related nouns
or adjectives pronounce the letter "a" of the
last syllable with the indefinite schwa sound (the
sound of the "a" of the word about, or the
second "e" in the word elephant)
For each word, indicate that you know the difference
between the two uses of the same word (by "same" we
mean having the same spelling.)
First, give a brief meaning of the word used as noun
or adjective and put the letter "I" to indicate that
the final letter "a" is the indefinite sound of the
"a" in about.
Next, give a brief meaning of the word used as a verb
and put the letter "A" to indicate that the final
letter "a" is the sound of the "long a" of the word make.
I start the exercise with two examples, the words
alternate and appropriate. I have indicated
the stress with CAPITAL LETTERS. You underline the
syllable that is stressed, and write a brief explanation
to indicate that you understand the difference. You
do the rest of the table. And make sure you pronounce
the words OUT LOUD.
Noun: A substitute
Verb: To take turns.
Adjective: correct or suitable
Verb: To take over.
Now, you do the rest of the table, underlinging
the accented syllable and defining the word to emphasize
your understanding that the accent goes with the meaning.
approximate, to approximate
articulate, to articulate
associate, to associate
deliberate, to deliberate
duplicate, to duplicate
laminate, to laminate
graduate, to graduate
intimate, to intimate
moderate, to moderate
predicate, to predicate
precipate, to precipate
Practice on the following sentences that contain
some of the words of the list used buth as noun or
adjective, and as verb. Underline the accent and read
the sentences out loud
The facilitator wanted to separate the general
topic into separate categories
Would you care to elaborate on his elaborate explanation?
Have you heard that your associate is known to associate
How much do you estimate that the estimate will be?
Look for other articles on this same subject by searching
for the word "intonation"!
the Author: Frank Gerace Ph.D has worked in Latin
America on UN and national Educational and Communication
Projects, and has taught in Bolivian and Peruvian
Universities. He currently teaches English in New
York City at La Guardia College/CUNY. He provides
resources on accent reduction and the proper American
English accent at http://www.GoodAccent.com
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