Using Praat to analyse suprasegmental aspects of speech
Primary word stress
Using Praat to identify the stressed syllable in a multisyllabic word in English
Syllables are the largest units of speech.
For words with two or more syllables in English, one syllable will be more prominent than the other syllables. This is called 'stress' and is often confused with loudness.
Stress is usually characterised by:
- Higher fundamental frequency for the vowels of the stressed syllable
- The stressed syllable tends to be longer in duration
- the stressed syllable are produced with greater intensity
- Unstressed syllables often have vowels reduced to a schwa
Record / Record
record (noun, audio vinyl disc) versus (to) record (verb, as in 'the band recorded a new album')
For the noun 'record' (the 12" or 7" disc for analogue sound reproduction popular before Compact Discs and now popular again), as in the utterance 'I bought a new RECORD by Charli XCX to play on my RECORD player', the first syllable is stressed. Clues that confirm this are:
- Most English nouns have primary stress on the FIRST syllable
- The first syllable has a higher pitch than the second syllable
- The first syllable vowel is more intense than the second syllable vowel
For the verb '(to) record (sound)', as in the utterance 'The band RECORDed a new record in the RECORDing studio', the SECOND syllable is stressed. Clues that confirm this are:
- Many English verbs have the primary stress on the second syllable. Consider 'deVElop', 'conSIder', and 'eVALuate'
- The second syllable has a higher pitch
- The second syllable is more intense
- The second syllable has a longer duration.
Present / Present
present (noun, synonym 'gift') versus (to) present (verb, as in 'to present an award')
The noun 'present', in common with many English nouns has the primary stress on the first syllable.
Note the giver pitch and intensity on the first syllable.
The verb 'to present' (an award) has the primary stress on the second syllable, differentiating it from the noun. Note that although both syllables have a high pitch and intensity, the second syllable maintains a higher pitch and is longer in duration.
Conduct / Conduct
conduct (noun, synonym 'behaviour') versus (to) conduct (verb, as in 'to conduct the orchestra')
'Conduct' (noun) like other English nouns has the primary stress on the first syllable.
Note the higher pitch and intensity on syllable one.
'(to) conduct' (the orchestra).
The verb has the primary stress on the second syllable.
Note the higher frequency and longer duration.
McMahon, A. M. S. (2002). An introduction to English phonology. Edinburgh University Press.