We change the direction, pressure, and volume of air in our vocal tracts to make letter and word sounds. Stress is the amount of energy or effort that we use to make these changes. American English is a stress language. More stress, or more energy, is used to pronounce words that are more important in a sentence.
Have you ever tapped your foot when listening to music? You tap your foot to the rhythm or beat of the musical sounds. Sometimes the rhythm of the music is fast and sometimes it is slow. Spoken language also has rhythm. The rhythm of spoken words and sentences change as the amount of energy used to pronounce them changes.
We change the pitch, or music, of our voice, to put emotion and meaning into our words and sentences. The intonation or pitch of our voice can go up or down or stay flat. Often, we change the intonation of our voice before (intonation goes up) and after (intonation goes down) we pronounce stressed words. More pronunciation energy is used when intonation is going up an less is used when intonation is going down.
We can add a pause, or a moment of silence, between words to add meaning and emotion to what we say. Pause = No pronunciation energy.
There is a relationship, there is a connection, between stress, rhythm, intonation, and pause. Basic prosody is the study of these relationships and how they are used to add emotion and meaning to words and sentences.
Next: Word Stress
Program content & web design by Chris Opall © 2011. Page last updated July 28, 2012