Word Stress and Three Syllable Words – American English
August 15, 2019
In this American English pronunciation video,
we’re going to go over word stress and three-syllable words. In American English, any word can have only
one syllable with primary stress. That means there are three possible stress patterns for
a three syllable word: first syllable: DA-da-da, second syllable: da-DA-da, or third syllable:
da-da-DA. Let’s talk about what’s happening with these
patterns. Basically, it’s a mix of long and short. The stressed syllables are long, and
the unstressed syllables are short. I’ve noticed that my students that are Spanish speakers
need to work on making their long syllables longer: DA. Pretty much everyone else needs
to work making their short syllables shorter: da. Let’s look at a couple of words for each category.
Stress on the first syllable: rational, DA-da-da. One way to practice as you’re working on word
stress is to break up the syllables. Practice stressed and unstressed syllables separately.
So, Rational. Ra-, ra-, the stressed syllable. Notice how the voice goes up then down in
pitch. That’s the shape of a stressed syllable. Click here to see that video, or look for
the link in the description. The unstressed syllables: da-da, tional. Ra-tional. Notice
how it’s much quieter, lower in pitch, very fast. Maybe it even sounds a little muddled.
-tional. As you practice unstressed syllables separately, see just how short you can get
these syllables. Try to make them extremely fast. -tional. Rational.
Another word with this stress pattern: popular. DA-da-da, Popular. The stressed syllable,
pop-, pop-. Unstressed: -ular. Again, very fast, low in pitch, quieter. -ular. Pop-ular.
Popular. Stress on the second syllable: da-DA-da. For
example, the word ‘decided’. da-DA-da. De-ci-ded. The stressed syllable, -CI-. Unstressed first
syllable: de-. Unstressed last syllable: -ded. Make them as short as possible. da-DA-da.
Decided. Another word: Example, da-DA-da, example. Stressed syllable: -xam. Unstressed:
ex-, and -ple. Example. da-DA-da. Example. And finally, stressed on the last syllable,
da-da-DA. Everyday. da-da-DA. The stressed syllable: -DAY. Unstressed syllables: every-,
da-da, every-, da-da-DA, everyday. Another word: eighty-one: da-da-DA. Stressed
syllable: -ONE. Unstressed syllables: da-da, eighty. Eighty-one. da-da-DA. Eighty-one. This concept of long and short, of rhythmic
contrast, is part of the foundation of the character of American English. Why not practice
on rhythm as you learn a new word? When you look a word up in the dictionary, this symbol
means primary stress. Let’s say you’ve just learned the word ‘sensation’. You’ll look
it up in the dictionary and see this. Stress on the middle syllable, sensation. So practice it
on just rhythm a few times. da-DA-da, sensation. Paying attention to rhythmic contrast will
definitely help you sound more American. Practice now, choose a three-syllable word, and record
yourself saying the rhythmic pattern, then the word. For example, da-DA-da, example.
Post it as a video response to this video on YouTube. I can’t wait to see your rhythmic
contrast. That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s