In the word-phrase pairs from the Introduction to Rhythm section, counselor has the same stress pattern as Count for her. Both the word and phrase have the same number of syllables (3), with the main stress falling on the first syllable. If you’re familiar with grammar and parts of speech (e.g., verbs, prepositions, and pronouns), you may start to notice what kinds of words get stressed in a sentence. Let’s look at another previous example sentence:
He’s interested in taking economics.
In the above sentence, interested, taking, and economics all receive stress on their strong syllables, while he’s and in do not. That’s because content words (e.g., words that carry the most meaning in sentences, such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs) typically receive stress in phrases, while function words (e.g., words that have very little meaning, such as prepositions, articles, pronouns, and auxiliary verbs) do not.
Listen to the following sentences, and see if you can notice their different rhythmic patterns:
- She wanted to play better.
- His book was lost in the mail.
The first sentence has this pattern: duh-DUH-duh-duh-DUH–DUH-duh
The second sentence has this pattern: duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-duh-DUH
In the following exercise, match the rhythmic patterns of the following sentences with the patterns of sentences A and B above.
|1. The man in the house studied.|
|2. A mother played with her kid.|
|3. Was Jun understood, Rachel?|
|4. It’s easy with good habits.|
|5. My office schedule was changed.|
|6. I made my coffee at home.|
|7. Her management team helped me.|
What do you do now?
First, use your mobile device to record yourself reading the above sentences aloud. Make sure that you place extra emphasis on the stressed syllables of the content words.
Second, come see a speech consultant to practice English rhythm. To prepare for the session, bring an interesting or important paragraph from a course or newspaper article, and identify the content and function words. Practice reading the paragraph aloud, and have the speech consultant monitor your pronunciation.