focal stress

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FOCAL STRESS
The ‘music’ of speaking a language.
Basically, CONTENT WORDS are the words in a sentence
which are stressed. These words carry new
information. For example:
• Nouns e.g. kitchen, Peter
• (most) principal verbs e.g. visit, construct
• Adjectives e.g. beautiful, interesting
• Adverbs e.g. often, carefully
Certain words are usually NOT stressed. These
are called FUNCTION WORDS.
Examples of Function Words include:
•
Determiners e.g. the, a, some, a few
• Auxiliary verbs e.g. don't, am, can, were
• Prepositions e.g. before, next to, opposite
• Conjunctions e.g. but, while, as
• Pronouns e.g. they, she, us
What about a sentence with an adjective and a
noun. Which do you stress?
How would you say the following?
“He’s such a nice guy.”
How about the following?
“He’s such a nice guy, but his friend is annoying.”
Well, if it’s a description (with no contrast), then
stress the noun.
Example: “He’s such a nice guy.”
With Contrast:
Example: “He’s such a nice guy, but his friend
isannoying.”
Or
“He’s such a nice guy, but his friend isannoying.”
What if you have two nouns that form a
compound noun?
Stress the first word!
Example:
“She brought her notebook to school.”
“I ate a hot dog for lunch.”
Example:
He lives in a white house.
He lives in the White House.
By changing the intonation in a
sentence, you can considerably
vary the meaning.
Say the following sentence:
Example:
“I didn’t say he stole the money.”
What does this sentence mean?
I didn't say he stole the money.
I didn't say he stole the money,
someone elsesaid it.
What about this sentence?
I didn't say he stole the money.
I didn't say he stole the money, that's not
true atall.
I didn't say he stole the money.
I didn't say he stole the money, I only suggestedthe
possibility.
* ‘the’ versus ‘dhu’ (place your tongue lightly
behind your front teeth, not on the front roof of
your mouth, like when you pronounce ‘d’.
I didn't say he stole the money.
I didn't say he stole the money, I think
someoneelse took it.
I didn't say he stole the money.
I didn't say he stole the money, maybe he
justborrowed it.
*The ‘t’ in just is silent.
I didn't say he stole the money.
I didn't say he stole the money, but
rather someother money.
I didn't say he stole the money.
I didn't say he stole the money,
he may have taken some
jewelry.
Mark the stressed words in the following sentences. After you have
found the stressed words, practice reading the sentences aloud.
• John is coming over tonight. We are going to work on our
homework together.
• Ecstasy is an extremely dangerous drug.
• We should have visited some more castles while we were traveling
through the back roads of France.
• Jack bought a new car last Friday.
• They are looking forward to your visiting them next January.
• Exciting discoveries lie in Tom's future.
• Would you like to come over and play a game of chess?
• They have been having to work hard these last few months on their
challenging experiment.
• Shakespeare wrote passionate, moving poetry.
• As you might have expected, he has just thought of a new approach
to the problem

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