Stress & Intonation

So far, we’ve been discussing phonetic features that affected individual phones or segments or effects that occur when we produce combinations of them. By looking at stress and intonation, we now move away from this segmental level to the suprasegmental one. At this level, we essentially deal with features that affect larger units, such as syllables, phrases, clauses or ‘sentences’*.

In non-tonal languages, the suprasegmental features we’ll be discussing here are always features that relate to the prominence of certain parts of an utterance, whether it be in terms of accentuation or de-accentuation of certain items. When we employ suprasegmental features in speech in this way, we either try to group (or package) certain bits of information together or emphasise them in order to highlight salient/important items or contrast them with one another. Conversely, de-accentuating certain known or previously mentioned items also helps us to give more salience to the relevant parts of information.