AskDefine | Define accent

Dictionary Definition

accent

Noun

1 distinctive manner of oral expression; "he couldn't suppress his contemptuous accent"; "she had a very clear speech pattern" [syn: speech pattern]
2 special importance or significance; "the red light gave the central figure increased emphasis"; "the room was decorated in shades of gray with distinctive red accents" [syn: emphasis]
3 the usage or vocabulary that is characteristic of a specific group of people; "the immigrants spoke an odd dialect of English"; "he has a strong German accent" [syn: dialect, idiom]
4 the relative prominence of a syllable or musical note (especially with regard to stress or pitch); "he put the stress on the wrong syllable" [syn: stress, emphasis]
5 a diacritical mark used to indicate stress or placed above a vowel to indicate a special pronunciation [syn: accent mark]

Verb

1 to stress, single out as important; "Dr. Jones emphasizes exercise in addition to a change in diet" [syn: stress, emphasize, emphasise, punctuate, accentuate]
2 put stress on; utter with an accent; "In Farsi, you accent the last syllable of each word" [syn: stress, accentuate]

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Etymology 1

From accent, or from accentus, formed from ad- + cantus "song".

Pronunciation

  • RP:
    • /ˈæksənt/

Noun

  1. A higher or stronger articulation of a particular syllable of a word or phrase in order to distinguish it from the others or to emphasize it.
  2. A mark or character used in writing, in order to indicate the place of the spoken accent, or to indicate the nature or quality of the vowel marked.
  3. Modulation of the voice in speaking; the manner of speaking or pronouncing; a peculiar or characteristic modification of the voice, expressing emotion; tone; as, a foreign accent; a French or a German accent.
    • Beguiled you in a plain accent. - Shakespeare, King Lear, II-ii
    • The tender accent of a woman's cry. - Prior
  4. A nonstandard way of pronouncing.
    The nonnative English speaker has an accent.
  5. A word; a significant tone or sound.
  6. Expressions in general; speech.
  7. Stress laid on certain syllables of a verse.
  8. A regularly recurring stress upon the tone to mark the beginning, and, more feebly, the third part of the measure.
  9. A special emphasis of a tone, even in the weaker part of the measure.
  10. The rhythmical accent, which marks phrases and sections of a period.
  11. The expressive emphasis and shading of a passage.
  12. A mark placed at the right hand of a letter, and a little above it, to distinguish magnitudes of a similar kind expressed by the same letter, but differing in value, as y, y.
  13. A mark at the right hand of a number, indicating minutes of a degree, seconds, etc., as in "12' 27", meaning twelve minutes and twenty-seven seconds.
  14. A mark used to denote feet and inches, as in "6' 10''", meaning six feet ten inches.
  15. Paint, wallpaper, or similar coating that contrasts with the surroundings.
Translations
a stronger articulation
a mark used in writing
modulation of the voice
a word
expressions
stress on syllables of a verse
a recurring stress on a tone
an emphasis on a tone
the rhythmical accent
the expressive emphasis of a passage
a mathematical mark
a mark to denote feet or inches
a coating that contrasts with the surroundings
Translations to be checked

See also

Etymology 2

From Old French accenter.

Pronunciation

  • RP:
    • /əkˈsent/

Verb

  1. To express the accent of (either by the voice or by a mark); to utter or to mark with accent.
  2. To mark emphatically; to emphasize; to accentuate.
  3. To mark with written accents.
Translations
to express the accent of
to emphasize
to mark with written accents

French

Noun

fr-noun m
  1. Accent (one's manner of speaking)
  2. Accent (the symbol on a character)

Derived terms

Extensive Definition

In linguistics, stress is the relative emphasis that may be given to certain syllables in a word. The term is also used for similar patterns of phonetic prominence inside syllables. The word accent is sometimes also used with this sense.

Types of stress

The ways stress manifests itself in the speech stream are highly language dependent. In some languages, stressed syllables have a higher or lower pitch than non-stressed syllables — so-called pitch accent (or musical accent). In other languages, they may bear either higher or lower pitch than surrounding syllables (a pitch excursion), depending on the sentence type. There are also dynamic accent (loudness), qualitative accent (full vowels), and quantitative accent (length, known in music theory as agogic accent). Stress may be characterized by more than one of these characteristics. Further, stress may be realized to varying degrees on different words in a sentence; sometimes the difference between the acoustic signals of stressed and unstressed syllables may be minimal.
In English, stress is most dramatically realized on focussed or accented words. For instance, consider the dialogue
"Is it brunch tomorrow?"
"No, it's dinner tomorrow."
In it, the stress-related acoustic differences between the syllables of "tomorrow" would be small compared to the differences between the syllables of "dinner", the emphasized word. In these emphasized words, stressed syllables such as "din" in "dinner" are louder and longer. They may also have a different fundamental frequency, or other properties. Unstressed syllables typically have a vowel which is closer to a neutral position (the schwa), while stressed vowels are more fully realized. In contrast, stressed and unstressed vowels in Spanish share the same quality—unlike English, the language has no reduced vowels.
(Much literature emphasizes the importance of pitch changes and pitch motions on stressed syllables, but experimental support for this idea is weak. Nevertheless, most experiments do not directly address the pitch of speech, which is a subjective perceived quantity. Experiments typically measure the speech fundamental frequency which is objectively measurable, and strongly correlated with pitch, but not quite the same thing.)
The possibilities for stress in tone languages is an area of ongoing research, but stress-like patterns have been observed in Mandarin Chinese. They are realized as alternations between syllables where the tones are carefully realized with a relatively large swing in fundamental frequency, and syllables where they are realized "sloppily" with typically a small swing.
Stressed syllables are often perceived as being more forceful than non-stressed syllables. Research has shown, however, that although dynamic stress is accompanied by greater respiratory force, it does not mean a more forceful articulation in the vocal tract.

Timing and placement

English is a stress-timed language; that is, stressed syllables appear at a roughly constant rate, and non-stressed syllables are shortened to accommodate this. Other languages have syllable timing (e.g. Spanish) or mora timing (e.g. Japanese), where syllables or morae are spoken at a roughly constant rate regardless of stress.
Some languages have fixed stress. That is, stress is placed always on a given syllable, as in Finnish and Hungarian (stress always on the first syllable) or Quechua and Polish (stress always on the penult: one syllable before the last) or on third syllable counting backwards (the antepenult), as in Macedonian (see: Stress in Macedonian language). Other languages have stress placed on different syllables but in a predictable way, as in Classical Arabic and Latin (where stress is conditioned by the structure of the penultimate syllable). They are said to have a regular stress rule.
French words are sometimes said to be stressed on the final syllable, but actually French has no word stress at all. Rather, it has a prosody whereby the final or next-to-final syllable of a string of words is stressed. This string may be equivalent to a clause or a phrase. However, when a word is said alone, it receives the full prosody and therefore the stress as well.
There are also languages like English, Italian and Spanish, where stress is (at least partly) unpredictable. Rather, it is lexical: it comes as part of the word and must be memorized, although orthography can make stress unambiguous for a reader, as is the case in Spanish and Portuguese. In such languages, otherwise homophonous words may differ only by the position of the stress (e.g. incite and insight in English), and therefore it is possible to use stress as a grammatical device.
English does this to some extent with noun-verb pairs such as a récord vs. to recórd, where the verb is stressed on the last syllable and the related noun is stressed on the first; record also hyphenates differently: a réc-ord vs. to re-córd. The German language does this with certain prefixes — for example úm-schrei-ben (to rewrite) vs. um-schréi-ben (to paraphrase, outline) — and in Russian this phenomenon often occurs with different cases of certain nouns (земли́/zemli (genitive case of the Earth, land or soil) and зе́мли (soils or lands — plural form)).
It is common for dialects to differ in their stress placement, as in British English and American English.

Historical effects of stress

It is common for stressed and unstressed syllables to behave differently as a language evolves. For example, in the Romance languages, the original Latin short vowels /e/ and /o/ have generally become diphthongs when stressed. Since stress takes part in verb conjugation, this has produced verbs with vowel alternation in the Romance languages. For example, the Spanish verb volver has the form volví in the past but vuelvo in the present (see Spanish irregular verbs). Italian shows the same phenomenon, but with /o/ alternating with /uo/ instead. This behaviour is not confined to verbs; for example, Spanish viento "wind" vs. ventilación "ventilation", from Latin ventum.

Degrees of stress

'Primary' and 'secondary' stress are distinguished in some languages. English is commonly believed to have two levels of stress, as in the words cóunterfòil [ˈkaʊntɚˌfɔɪl] and còunterintélligence [ˌkaʊntɚ.ɪnˈtɛlɪdʒəns], and in some treatments has even been described as having four levels, primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary, but these treatments often disagree with each other. It is possible to describe English with only one degree of stress, as long as unstressed syllables may occur without vowel reduction.

Stress and vowel reduction

In many languages, such as Russian and English, vowel reduction may occur when a vowel changes from a stressed to an unstressed position. In English, many unstressed vowels reduce to schwa-like vowels, though the details vary with dialect. Other languages, such as Finnish, have no unstressed vowel reduction.

Notation

Different systems exist for indicating syllabification and stress.
  • In IPA, primary stress is indicated by a high vertical line before the syllable, secondary stress by a low vertical line. Example: [sɪˌlæbəfɪˈkeɪʃən] or /sɪˌlæbəfɪˈkeɪʃən/.
  • In English dictionaries which do not use IPA, stress is typically marked with a prime mark placed after the stressed syllable: /si-lab′-ə-fi-kay′-shən/.
  • In ad hoc pronunciation guides, stress is often indicated using a combination of bold text and capital letters. Example: si-lab-if-i-KAY-shun or si-LAB-if-i-KAY-shun
  • In Russian and Ukrainian dictionaries, stress is indicated with an acute accent on a syllable's vowel. Example: вимовля́ння.
  • In Dutch, ad hoc indication of stress is usually marked by an acute accent on the vowel (or, in the case of a diphthong, the first two vowels) of the stressed syllable. Compare achterúítgang (deterioration) and áchteruitgang (back exit).
  • In Modern Greek, all polysyllables are written with an acute accent over the vowel in the stressed syllable. (The acute accent is also used to distinguish some monosyllables in order to distinguish homographs (e.g., η ("the") and ή ("or")); here the stress of the two words is the same).
  • In Portuguese, stress is sometimes indicated explicitly with an acute accent (for i, u, and open a, e, o), or circumflex (for close a, e, o). In diphthongs, when marked, the semivowel (or the semivowels) never receives the accent mark. Stress is not marked with diacritics when it can be otherwise predicted from spelling, i.e., it is only marked on uncommon pronunciation of pattern of letters.
  • In the Spanish language writing system, stress is explicitly indicated with an acute accent on one vowel of a word. For those words which have no written accent, the stressed syllable is predictable with three simple orthographic rules according with the word pattern: Antepenultima syllables (as in árabe) are always accentuated. The last syllable is accentuated if the word ends with n, s or a vowel (as in está). Finally, penultima syllables are accentuated if the word ends with any word except n, s or a vowel, as in cárcel.
accent in Breton: Taol-mouezh
accent in Bulgarian: Ударение
accent in Czech: Přízvuk
accent in Danish: Accent (tryk)
accent in German: Akzent (Linguistik)
accent in Modern Greek (1453-): Τόνος (γραφή)
accent in Spanish: Acento prosódico
accent in French: Accent tonique
accent in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Accento
accent in Italian: Accento (linguistica)
accent in Hebrew: הטעמה
accent in Kazakh: Екпін
accent in Dutch: Klemtoon
accent in Japanese: 強勢
accent in Norwegian Nynorsk: fonologisk trykk
accent in Polish: Akcent wyrazowy
accent in Portuguese: Acento tônico
accent in Russian: Ударение
accent in Slovenian: Naglas
accent in Swedish: Betoning (språk)
accent in Ukrainian: Наголос
accent in Võro: Rasõhus
accent in Chinese: 重音

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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