Stressed and unstressed and number of syllables

One another thing that determines pronunciation and which are highlighted in dictionaries are syllables.

It is important to know the number of syllables and their being stressed or unstressed.


Syllable is explained in previous chapter of adjectives too, but here we define it once again. Syllable is one sound. See the chart below.

Number of sounds
Tall 1 sound (tall)
Happy 2 sounds (ha-ppy)
Hebrides 3 sounds (he-bri-des)
Sophisticate 4 sounds (so-phis-ti-cate)
Sophisticated 5 sounds (so-phis-ti-ca-ted)

Now you got to know what is syllable. Syllable is one of the most important things in pronunciation because of two factors;

     Number of syllables in a word
     Stressed and unstressed syllables

Number of syllables in a word

It is important to know how many syllables are there in a word. Suppose you are talking about the Greek philosopher Socrates. And you can never pronounce it correctly unless you know that there are three syllables in it. If you pronounce it with two syllables it will be wrong like [Soc-rates] but if you pronounce it with three syllables it will be a correct pronunciation, like, [Soc-ra-tes]. Similarly there is the word Hebrides with three syllables [he-bri-des] and that can be mispronounced like, [ha-brides].

Stressed and unstressed syllables

Stress and unstress is related to syllables. The symbol [`] is used for stressed syllable in dictionaries. Stress, as it is self explanatory, is pronounced with emphasis whereas unstressed syllable is unemphasized. Now look at the word Beaumont which is of two syllables and first one is stressed, like, [`bea-mont]. Sometimes words in derivation (derivation explained in parts of speech section) shift stressed and unstressed syllables. Look at following examples;

     Photograph: First syllable is stressed like, [`photo-graph].
     Photographer: Second syllable is stressed like, [pho-`tog-ra-pher].
     Philosophy: Second syllable is stressed like, [phi-`los-o-phy].
     Philosophical: Third syllable is stressed like, [phi-lo-`soph-i-cal].

Now you might have analyzed that the great difference is made because of stressed and unstressed syllables. And if you read philosophy like [phi-lo-`so-phy] then how ridiculous it will seem. Therefore it is very important to take into account the stressed and unstressed syllables.

Now use dictionary and do concentrate on the transcription in two slashes after an entry. Just concentrate on it with respect to phonemes and syllables as defined in this brief pronunciation guide.

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