What are not equally stressed. There is a

What
exactly is word stress and how it influences the way we speak and the
listener’s understanding of our utterances is considered in this
study. Word stress is also called word accent. It is the stress
distributed over syllables in a word. Stressed
or accented syllables will be higher in pitch, longer in
duration, and generally a little louder than unstressed or unaccented
syllables.
A syllable is a word, or fraction of a word, which contains a single
vowel sound. It is one unit of speech. Each word contains one
syllable, or more. In many languages such as in English, all the
syllables in multi-syllabic words are not equally stressed. There is
a kind of force given to say that part of a word where the syllable
is stressed. In English, we do not say each syllable with the same
force or strength. This means that one part of a certain word is said
louder and longer than other parts of the same word. In one word, we
accentuate ONE syllable. We say one syllable very loudly (big,
strong, important) and all the other syllables very quietly. The
syllable which is pronounced with greater force is called the
stressed syllable. “Accent” in this case means “emphasis”.
It is this emphasis given to a particular syllable that conveys
meaning to the sentence.

Word
Stress is natural for those who are trained in speaking English since
childhood, but it does not come that easily to other speakers of
English language. A word can only have one stress. In a very long
word you can have a secondary stress but it is always a much smaller
stress. A word can only have one stress. In a very long word you can
have a secondary stress but it is always a much smaller stress. Only
vowels, a, e, i, o, and u, are stressed, not consonants.

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English
is very much a musical language. Spoken English is almost music.
There is intonation, stressed and unstressed sounds, rhythm and tonal
variations. Malayalam on the other hand is rather flat in the manner
of speech. Malayalam is spoken in mono tone. There are some dialects
of Malayalam that speak in a rather “sing-song” way, like people
from Trivandrum, Kozhikode and Trissur. But otherwise there is no
rhythmical intonation in Malayalam. Malayalam is also a phonetic
language. In fact Malayalam has the largest number of letters among
Indian languages. Because of its Sanskrit and Tamil origins Malayalam
alphabet can represent most of the sounds in Indian languages. In
spite of the Indo European family bonds Malayalam does not have all
the sounds in English. Sounds like ‘th’ and ‘r’ are examples.
All the syllables are stressed in Malayalam making it sound flat. But
it is read exactly how it is written. English differs in this as the
way we pronounce knife is different from how we actually say it,
/n??f/

Methodology:
A
group of non- native speakers (four each, eight in total) of English
were organized into two groups based on generation gap, one group
belonging to the age group of 55-70, and the other from 20-25 and
asked to read out words with similar sound combination. Given below
are the sound combinations considered for this study.

1.
Words
that have the Long A+T sound
2.
Words that have the Long E+R sound
3.
Words
that have the Long A+R sound

4.
Words that have the Schwa + R sound

5.
Words with the letter S sounds and Z

6. The
Long U sound in English words
(The
group was divided into two, four members in each. One group consisted
of Malayali students educated from English medium schools since
kindergarten and the other group had members who were educated in
Malayalam medium schools until junior college and then later went on
to study in English medium colleges. The second group was a rather
elderly crowd and the other was youngsters below the age of 30yrs.
After recording the readings, a study was done and then it was
observed that most of the members in the one group pronounced the
word in a similar manner. And that pronunciation was taken for the
studying 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

ANALYSIS
After
a close
observation
on the words and the way it was spoken, one can understand the impact
of spelling on the pronunciation and accent given to a word. Since
Malayalam is spoken in a flat way and all the letters stressed
equally among each other, it is difficult for a speaker of Malayalam
to suddenly shift and place importance to one syllable in particular.
Some even though they do place importance to a syllable, seem to
confuse between primary and secondary stress. For example, when both
the groups were asked to say the word religion /r??l?d?(?)n/
they
tended to
give
stress to the second I than the first as it would ideally be
pronounced. In everyday conversation they also read out silent
letters of the words like honest and silent ‘d’ in debt, and
words like
cupboard
?k?pb.o:d
and receipt had the silent p’s pronounced. Some of the words in
English
which are nouns and verbs have different stresses functioning on its
usage 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 is
plainly read as /re?kord/
by most malayalis.
Words
such as Hotel, is given stress to the first syllable instead of the
second e sound, making it sound like HOtel. In the groups of words
selected above for the study the following observations were made.

For easy
understanding the group of adults’ ages 20-30 years shall be called
group 1 and those who belong to the age group of 50 plus shall be
group 2.

1. Words with long
A+T sound example, plate and weight, the younger generation
pronounced it with a little error in the end confusing the “ate”
sound of plate to the literal sound used in the word. The older
generation tended to add an unwanted schwa sound to the end of these
words to show emphasis. In words like Weight, both categories tended
to emphasis because of the meaning of the words and stressed on the h
although it is silent. Debate which has stress on the second syllable
was pronounced with a primary stress on the first syllable and by the
other group again with an additional schwa.

2.
Words with Schwa+R sound with words bird and burn were pronounced
with accented r sound. The stress was on the silent R sound in this
group of words by the older group and the others read it with the
sound of
??
in bird instead of schwa. Both groups had problem pronouncing the d?
sound in ‘jury’ as there is no equivalent of it in Malayalam
language and hence they read as they saw it with a J sound. Ago, with
just a schwa sound, was read in a similar manner with the A sound
fused with o?. The younger group, stressed on the go part whereas
the other group stressed on the æ.

3.
Words with letter S and Z sound were watches, classes, wise, sings
and angels. The common rule for the pronunciation of z and s in
English language are /s/ comes after words ending in voiceless sounds
( sounds when produced, the vocal chords are held apart and do not
vibrate). Whereas /z/ comes after words ending in voiced sounds
(sounds in which when produced the vocal chords vibrate). Because
Malayalam language do not have a disparity as such all words that
ending in voiced sounds also are pronounced with /s/ instead of /z/.
The word stress also given was different as they tended to stress on
the /s/ because of the letter doubling. In English it need not be
that because of letter doubling that part may be stressed, but
Malayalam speakers of this language due to the lack of basic grammar
rules, tend to stress there where lies double letters even if needed
or 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 instead
of e / e`?nd??ls/
by the elderly crowd, who were used to reading and writing in
Malayalam than English.

4.
The long U sound words in English. Shampoo was one of the examples
taken for analysis. The older generation tended to stress on the last
vowel of the word whereas the others stressed p+u but with the æ
changed to ?.
In ‘amuse’ both the category of people stressed the second
syllable as primary stress and and the /z/ sound was pronounced as
/s/. In the words truth and recruit the stress was placed correctly
but 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 1st
group 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’ was
stressed correctly by the second group but the silent r was
pronounced. The first group stressed on the ‘I’ instead of after
it. In the word ‘apparel’, the first group stressed correctly but
pronounced 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 group
stressed it correctly the second group tended to stress the r
instead.

6.
Words
with long E+R sound in all the words selected the R was pronounced
and 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:
Primary
stress in Malayalam words is fixed on the first syllable of a word,
unless it contains a short vowel followed by a long vowel in the
second syllable. Like other Dravidian languages, Malayalam is
agglutinative, i.e., it adds suffixes, one after another, to stems to
form words and to express grammatical functions. There is no absolute
limit on the length and extent of agglutination in Malayalam,
sometimes resulting in very long words. Hayes’ (1995) description
of Malayalam stress in terms of moraic trochees, for instance, takes
for granted that vowel length is the sole determinant of syllable
weight in Malayalam. In a much-cited experimental study by Broselow
et al. (1997), Malayalam was chosen to represent languages in which
codas are weightless without exception (although under K.P. Mohanan’s
analysis Malayalam has no codas at all).
In
Malayali English, weakly articulated function class words in the R.P.
are spoken intheir
strong 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 offunction
class words is due to the absence of weak articulation markers in
spelling.English
is a complex language with its stress changing based on the function
of the word. For example in the word Photograph /?f??
t? gr?:f/ the stress lies on the first syllable. In the word
Photographer / f? ?t? gr?f ??/ the stress is upon the
second syllable. And in the word photographic / f?? t? ?græf
?k / the stress is on the third syllable. In words like dessert
and record the changing of the stress will end up changing the
meaning of the word.

In
Malayalam
word itself is a palindrome and words like Amma, Appa all belong to
this category of words where the stress is always on the first
syllable. Malayali
English also lacks some diphthongs (sounds formed by the combination
of two vowels in a single syllable). As a result, for a Malayali
both got and goat sound
similar. The same is the case
with bought and boat; cot, caught and coat; rod and road; roll and role;
so, saw and sow .There
is no equivalent to
the English vowel sound æ (the sound of ‘a’ in cat) in
Malayalam. The speakers deal with the English words with æ in them
in a different way. For example, cat is
pronounced as kyat while captain
is kyaptain and
his 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 native
language.

Conclusion:
Most
of the schools in Kerala from an early age teach the children in a
method that’s different from the conventional method of learning
English. The students are trained to think in their native language
first. This leads to mispronunciation while learning any new
language, as anything learnt later will be first, a translated
version of the native language. The sentence order in English is
Subject Verb Object, whereas that of Malayalam is Subject Object
Verb, which causes problems when both the languages are intermixed in
learning process. Example, “njan innu varate” which literally
translates to “I today come”, although it makes sense it is
grammatically wrong in English language. Grammar also has an
important role to play in the speech of a person. Due to the
prescribed method of teaching grammar for exam purposes, the students
in the south who do not have access to communicating in English with
others, will not be confident in their speech. The same students grow
up learning the language incorrectly and end up becoming teachers to
other students which affects another generation and this cycle goes
on. In order to understand the correct usage of English language with
its word stress and pronunciation it is highly necessary that along
with the English subject, Phonetics also be taught since younger
days. Only then can one rid of the disparities found between an
English speaker and a “Mallu English speaker.”
Through
the study conducted above one can conclude to the idea of how
importance of the process of learning a language. From the group
interviewed, although all were educated in English in the college
level, they too claimed that it was through experience and through
interactions with other speakers did they inculcate the right method
of speaking English and not through the textbook method. In order to
break the divide and the stereotype of “mallu accent” schools
must engage children in activities that enable them to speak better
and above all proper English with use visual and listening aids.
Kerala has always been at the helm of education in fields such as
technology and science. Academic excellence is something they have
flourished in all stages but the language divide is what makes the
world 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 can
we uplift any sector of society be it in language or life. In a
country with hundreds of languages each having innumerable dialects
based on region, the influence of these upon English is bound to
occur. One at this point can only do few things in a place rich with
culture either help and change it or else blindly celebrate its
uniqueness.