Sentence stress can be challenging. Making sure to stress the correct words can make the difference between listeners tuning in or tuning out. So it’s important to know which words are important and how to make them noticeable. In this video, I explore the building blocks of sentence stress by looking at one simple statement.
We anglophones rarely listen to every word you say. Don’t be insulted. We rarely listen to every word anyone says. Unconsciously, we’re always listening for musical rhythms: high notes, loud notes, and longer notes. We expect our ears to be drawn to the words that provide the meaning. We don’t bother with the other words that just stick the important words together. In fact, they practically disappear because we tend to say them as quickly and quietly as we can. We strip them of vowels and consonants, run them together, insert the unstressed unwritten vowel “schwa,” and generally do anything it takes to make them unrecognizable mumbles. That’s why ESL speakers often have so much difficulty understanding anglophones. You’re listening for every word rather than the important words.
When it comes to simple statements, we begin by listening for nouns, main verbs, adjectives, adverbs, negatives and negative contractions (“content” words). We don’t worry about the unimportant (“function”) words. They’re just filler. Even when we can barely hear them, our brains work like a computer and we “autofill” the pronouns, articles, prepositions, conjunctions, helping verbs, the verb “be” and the word “to.”
But “function” words can be just as important as content words depending on intention. Are you asking a question, answering a question, expressing preferences, emotions? Changing the word we stress in a sentence can totally change the meaning. It’s a big subject and sometimes complicated. Nonetheless, it all begins with the basic building blocks of simple statements.
So download the transcript of my video here [English Sentence Stress – Building Blocks] to familiarize yourself with the building blocks of simple statements.
And if you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you.