Whatexactly is word stress and how it influences the way we speak and thelistener’s understanding of our utterances is considered in thisstudy. Word stress is also called word accent. It is the stressdistributed over syllables in a word. Stressedor accented syllables will be higher in pitch, longer induration, and generally a little louder than unstressed or unaccentedsyllables.A syllable is a word, or fraction of a word, which contains a singlevowel sound.
It is one unit of speech. Each word contains onesyllable, or more. In many languages such as in English, all thesyllables in multi-syllabic words are not equally stressed. There isa kind of force given to say that part of a word where the syllableis stressed. In English, we do not say each syllable with the sameforce or strength. This means that one part of a certain word is saidlouder and longer than other parts of the same word.
In one word, weaccentuate ONE syllable. We say one syllable very loudly (big,strong, important) and all the other syllables very quietly. Thesyllable which is pronounced with greater force is called thestressed syllable. “Accent” in this case means “emphasis”.It is this emphasis given to a particular syllable that conveysmeaning to the sentence. WordStress is natural for those who are trained in speaking English sincechildhood, but it does not come that easily to other speakers ofEnglish language. A word can only have one stress. In a very longword you can have a secondary stress but it is always a much smallerstress.
A word can only have one stress. In a very long word you canhave a secondary stress but it is always a much smaller stress. Onlyvowels, a, e, i, o, and u, are stressed, not consonants. Englishis very much a musical language. Spoken English is almost music.There is intonation, stressed and unstressed sounds, rhythm and tonalvariations. Malayalam on the other hand is rather flat in the mannerof speech.
Malayalam is spoken in mono tone. There are some dialectsof Malayalam that speak in a rather “sing-song” way, like peoplefrom Trivandrum, Kozhikode and Trissur. But otherwise there is norhythmical intonation in Malayalam.
Malayalam is also a phoneticlanguage. In fact Malayalam has the largest number of letters amongIndian languages. Because of its Sanskrit and Tamil origins Malayalamalphabet can represent most of the sounds in Indian languages. Inspite of the Indo European family bonds Malayalam does not have allthe sounds in English. Sounds like ‘th’ and ‘r’ are examples.All the syllables are stressed in Malayalam making it sound flat. Butit is read exactly how it is written.
English differs in this as theway we pronounce knife is different from how we actually say it,/n??f/Methodology:Agroup of non- native speakers (four each, eight in total) of Englishwere organized into two groups based on generation gap, one groupbelonging to the age group of 55-70, and the other from 20-25 andasked to read out words with similar sound combination. Given beloware the sound combinations considered for this study. 1.
Wordsthat have the Long A+T sound2.Words that have the Long E+R sound3.Wordsthat have the Long A+R sound4.Words that have the Schwa + R sound5.Words with the letter S sounds and Z6.
TheLong U sound in English words(Thegroup was divided into two, four members in each. One group consistedof Malayali students educated from English medium schools sincekindergarten and the other group had members who were educated inMalayalam medium schools until junior college and then later went onto study in English medium colleges. The second group was a ratherelderly crowd and the other was youngsters below the age of 30yrs.
After recording the readings, a study was done and then it wasobserved that most of the members in the one group pronounced theword in a similar manner. And that pronunciation was taken for thestudying of word stress and jotted down in the column below)Observation: Criteria of words Words Phonetic transcription Received pronunciation Malayali English (20-25 yrs.) Malayali English (55-70 yrs.) Words with Long A+T sound a)Plate b)wait c)straight d)weight e)debate ple?t we?t stre?t we?t d?`be?t `ple?t `we?t `stre?t `we?t d??be?t `plæt v`e?t Str`e?t w`eh?t d`?b`e?t pl`æt? `we?t? St`re?t w`eh?t? d?b?t? Words with the Schwa +R and one Schwa word a)bird b)burn c)jury d)turn e)ago b??d b??n d???.
ri t??n ?.??? `b??d `b??n `d???.ri ?t??n ?.
???? `b??d `b??n J??.`ri `t??n æ.??o? b`??rd ?be?rn J??`ri `t??rn `æ.
?o? Words with letter S and Z sound a)watches b)classes c)wise d)sings e)angels ?w?t??z kl??.s?z wa?z s??z e?nd?(?)lz ?w?t??z ?kl??.s?z `wa?z `s??z `e?nd?(?)lz ?w?t??s ?kl??s?s `va?z `s??s `e?nd?lz ?w?t??z k`l?.ss?z v`a?s s`??z e`?nd??ls The long U sound words in English a)shampoo b)amuse c)truth d)recruit e)coupon ?æmpu ?mju?z tru?? r?kru?t ku?p?n ?æm?pu ??mju?z `tru?? r??kru?t ?ku?p?n ??m?pu ?mj`u?s tr`?? re??kru? ku?p`?n ??mp`u: ??mju?s ?r`?? ri:?kru?t k`u?p?n Words with the A+R sound a)apparel b)department c)err d)darling e)compare ?pær?l d?p??tm?nt ?? d??l?? k?mpe? ??pær?l d??p??tm?nt `?? ?d??l?? k?m?pe? æ?pær?l d`i:p??tm?nt `??r ?d?rl?? k?m?pe?r `æp?r?l d??p??rtm?nt ??`r d`? rl?? k`?mpe?r Words with long E+R sound a)interfere b)yearly c)sincere d)career e)beer ?nt?f?? ?j??li s?ns?? k?r?? b?? ??nt??f?? ?j??li s?n?s?? k??r?? ?b?? `?nt??f??r ?ji?rl?i s?n?s???r k??r??r ?bi:r `?nt?r?f??r ?ij??rli s?n?sjr `kj??r??r ?bi??r ANALYSISAftera closeobservationon the words and the way it was spoken, one can understand the impactof spelling on the pronunciation and accent given to a word. SinceMalayalam is spoken in a flat way and all the letters stressedequally among each other, it is difficult for a speaker of Malayalamto suddenly shift and place importance to one syllable in particular.
Some even though they do place importance to a syllable, seem toconfuse between primary and secondary stress. For example, when boththe groups were asked to say the word religion /r??l?d?(?)n/theytended togivestress to the second I than the first as it would ideally bepronounced. In everyday conversation they also read out silentletters of the words like honest and silent ‘d’ in debt, andwords likecupboard?k?pb.o:d and receipt had the silent p’s pronounced. Some of the words inEnglishwhich are nouns and verbs have different stresses functioning on itsusage on a sentence. Words like `record` as a noun, is read as/?rek.??d/and as a verb / r??k??d/ but no matter what its function, it isplainly read as /re?kord/by most malayalis.Wordssuch as Hotel, is given stress to the first syllable instead of thesecond e sound, making it sound like HOtel.
In the groups of wordsselected above for the study the following observations were made.For easyunderstanding the group of adults’ ages 20-30 years shall be calledgroup 1 and those who belong to the age group of 50 plus shall begroup 2. 1. Words with longA+T sound example, plate and weight, the younger generationpronounced it with a little error in the end confusing the “ate”sound of plate to the literal sound used in the word.
The oldergeneration tended to add an unwanted schwa sound to the end of thesewords to show emphasis. In words like Weight, both categories tendedto emphasis because of the meaning of the words and stressed on the halthough it is silent. Debate which has stress on the second syllablewas pronounced with a primary stress on the first syllable and by theother group again with an additional schwa. 2.Words with Schwa+R sound with words bird and burn were pronouncedwith accented r sound. The stress was on the silent R sound in thisgroup of words by the older group and the others read it with thesound of??in bird instead of schwa.
Both groups had problem pronouncing the d?sound in ‘jury’ as there is no equivalent of it in Malayalamlanguage and hence they read as they saw it with a J sound. Ago, withjust a schwa sound, was read in a similar manner with the A soundfused with o?. The younger group, stressed on the go part whereasthe other group stressed on the æ.3.Words with letter S and Z sound were watches, classes, wise, singsand angels. The common rule for the pronunciation of z and s inEnglish language are /s/ comes after words ending in voiceless sounds( sounds when produced, the vocal chords are held apart and do notvibrate). Whereas /z/ comes after words ending in voiced sounds(sounds in which when produced the vocal chords vibrate). BecauseMalayalam language do not have a disparity as such all words thatending in voiced sounds also are pronounced with /s/ instead of /z/.
The word stress also given was different as they tended to stress onthe /s/ because of the letter doubling. In English it need not bethat because of letter doubling that part may be stressed, butMalayalam speakers of this language due to the lack of basic grammarrules, tend to stress there where lies double letters even if neededor not. There also seems to be a confusion about the ‘a and e’sound in the word angels. The stress is also placed on the I insteadof e / e`?nd??ls/by the elderly crowd, who were used to reading and writing inMalayalam than English.
4.The long U sound words in English. Shampoo was one of the examplestaken for analysis. The older generation tended to stress on the lastvowel of the word whereas the others stressed p+u but with the æchanged to ?.In ‘amuse’ both the category of people stressed the secondsyllable as primary stress and and the /z/ sound was pronounced as/s/. In the words truth and recruit the stress was placed correctlybut the way it was pronounced was different RP.
In the word ‘coupon’especially the word was read as /ku?p`?n/,with the primary stress on the?sound by the 1stgroup and /k`u?p?n/by the second group with stress given to the accented U. 5.Words with the A+R sound combination. The word ‘department’ wasstressed correctly by the second group but the silent r waspronounced. The first group stressed on the ‘I’ instead of afterit. In the word ‘apparel’, the first group stressed correctly butpronounced it with a starting /æ/which is incorrect. The second group too used /æ/ instead of /?/and stressed the first vowel.
In words like ‘darling’ and ‘err’, both groups pronounced the silent ‘r’, though the first groupstressed it correctly the second group tended to stress the rinstead. 6.Wordswith long E+R sound in all the words selected the R was pronouncedand stressed, eg, beer and career. Words like ‘sincere’ and’interfere’ had the primary and secondary stresses interchanged.The word ‘yearly’ was stressed correctly by both the groups. Report: Primarystress in Malayalam words is fixed on the first syllable of a word,unless it contains a short vowel followed by a long vowel in thesecond syllable. Like other Dravidian languages, Malayalam isagglutinative, i.
e., it adds suffixes, one after another, to stems toform words and to express grammatical functions. There is no absolutelimit on the length and extent of agglutination in Malayalam,sometimes resulting in very long words. Hayes’ (1995) descriptionof Malayalam stress in terms of moraic trochees, for instance, takesfor granted that vowel length is the sole determinant of syllableweight in Malayalam. In a much-cited experimental study by Broselowet al. (1997), Malayalam was chosen to represent languages in whichcodas are weightless without exception (although under K.P.
Mohanan’sanalysis Malayalam has no codas at all). InMalayali English, weakly articulated function class words in the R.P.are spoken intheirstrong forms. Eg: the sentence ‘I am coming’ – /aim ?k?mi?/is pronounced as ai am?k?mi?.
Similarly ‘can I go’? – / k?nai?g??/- kjan ai go:. This strong articulation offunctionclass words is due to the absence of weak articulation markers inspelling.Englishis a complex language with its stress changing based on the functionof the word. For example in the word Photograph /?f??t? gr?:f/ the stress lies on the first syllable.
In the wordPhotographer / f? ?t? gr?f ??/ the stress is upon thesecond syllable. And in the word photographic / f?? t? ?græf?k / the stress is on the third syllable. In words like dessertand record the changing of the stress will end up changing themeaning of the word. InMalayalamword itself is a palindrome and words like Amma, Appa all belong tothis category of words where the stress is always on the firstsyllable. MalayaliEnglish also lacks some diphthongs (sounds formed by the combinationof two vowels in a single syllable).
As a result, for a Malayaliboth got and goat soundsimilar. The same is the casewith bought and boat; cot, caught and coat; rod and road; roll and role;so, saw and sow .Thereis no equivalent tothe English vowel sound æ (the sound of ‘a’ in cat) inMalayalam.
The speakers deal with the English words with æ in themin a different way. For example, cat ispronounced as kyat while captainis kyaptain andhis cap is kyaap.The sound ‘z’ is one that Malayalis are still struggling with.For a Malayali, zoo is soo and zebra is sebra,due to the lack of sound producing the same tone in the nativelanguage.Conclusion: Mostof the schools in Kerala from an early age teach the children in amethod that’s different from the conventional method of learningEnglish. The students are trained to think in their native languagefirst. This leads to mispronunciation while learning any newlanguage, as anything learnt later will be first, a translatedversion of the native language.
The sentence order in English isSubject Verb Object, whereas that of Malayalam is Subject ObjectVerb, which causes problems when both the languages are intermixed inlearning process. Example, “njan innu varate” which literallytranslates to “I today come”, although it makes sense it isgrammatically wrong in English language. Grammar also has animportant role to play in the speech of a person. Due to theprescribed method of teaching grammar for exam purposes, the studentsin the south who do not have access to communicating in English withothers, will not be confident in their speech.
The same students growup learning the language incorrectly and end up becoming teachers toother students which affects another generation and this cycle goeson. In order to understand the correct usage of English language withits word stress and pronunciation it is highly necessary that alongwith the English subject, Phonetics also be taught since youngerdays. Only then can one rid of the disparities found between anEnglish speaker and a “Mallu English speaker.” Throughthe study conducted above one can conclude to the idea of howimportance of the process of learning a language. From the groupinterviewed, although all were educated in English in the collegelevel, they too claimed that it was through experience and throughinteractions with other speakers did they inculcate the right methodof speaking English and not through the textbook method. In order tobreak the divide and the stereotype of “mallu accent” schoolsmust engage children in activities that enable them to speak betterand above all proper English with use visual and listening aids.
Kerala has always been at the helm of education in fields such astechnology and science. Academic excellence is something they haveflourished in all stages but the language divide is what makes theworld look down upon them and it is not them who are to be blamed.The change must come from the core aspects of learning, only then canwe uplift any sector of society be it in language or life. In acountry with hundreds of languages each having innumerable dialectsbased on region, the influence of these upon English is bound tooccur.
One at this point can only do few things in a place rich withculture either help and change it or else blindly celebrate itsuniqueness.