English Suprasegmentals

The suprasegmental symbols are called that because they apply to more than one segment (vowel or consonant). In English, the relevant suprasegmentals are the markings for primary and secondary stress.
  • Primary stress: '
  • Secondary stress: ,
Primary stress is indicated by the symbol " ' " before the stressed syllable; secondary stress by the symbol " , " before the syllable, for example: battleship .

English does not actually have a distinction between primary and secondary stress. The apparent difference is due to intonation: When making a statement, the last stressed syllable will be more strongly stressed than the other stressed syllables. However, as soon as you move a word out of final position, the extra stress is lost. It moves to whichever word is now final, so it doesn't really belong to the word itself, but to the statement. Consider the isolated word Arachnophobia, with stronger stress on the syllable pho than on the rach, versus Arachnophobia's playing at the Bijou, where the stress on rach and pho is equal. Because people usually say a word in isolation when transcribing it, they tend to mark primary and secondary stress, but this is not necessary for English.



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