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Usually, to stress a syllable we should say it louder, longer and higher in pitch than the rest syllables of a word. However, the following words in these below sentences such as California, talented, emotional, relationship, lying, traveling and welcome don't seem to follow the rule of rising high in pitch when it comes to the stressed syllable. So What causes them to sound strange like that? Like the speaker want to specially emphasize the word, then they lower the pitch of the stressed syllable and raise the pitch of the unstressed syllable, or they mean something else?

  1. Jill's moving to California next week

"For" goes down instead of rising in pitch to emphasize the stressed syllable. Why?

2.1 "You know, you're so very talented"

"Ta" should've got the highest pitch to emphasize the stressed syllable, but "len" wins. Why?

2.2 "So she was like hyper but also really emotional"

"Mo" goes down instead of rising in pitch to emphasize the stressed syllable. Why?

2.3 "Really it's the relationship between her and her mother" and "And it really is just about those relationships in her life"

"La" goes down instead of rising in pitch to emphasize the stressed syllable. Why?

2.4 "I felt like I was lying to everyone around me"

"Ly" goes down instead of rising in pitch to emphasize the stressed syllable. Why?

  1. "we were traveling up the west coast in a rental car"

"Tra" should've got the highest pitch to emphasize the stressed syllable, but "ve" wins. Why?

  1. "Welcome to Hollywood" and "Welcome to Hollywood"

"Wel" goes down instead of rising in pitch to emphasize the stressed syllable. Why?

closed as unclear what you're asking by Jason Bassford Supports Monica, Bee, Chenmunka, RubioRic, Lambie Sep 12 at 15:37

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  • After reading your previous question about stress, I think you are trying WAY to hard to find nuances of stress where there is none. I listened to your second clip, and Ellen merely says "You're so very talented." When speakers speak at a fast rate in front of a live audience, they are thinking about a lot of things all at once. Not every word gets enunciated with precision; not every sentence gets formed with perfection. I had to listen to Ellen thrice to convince myself there was anything odd at all, and I still don't think len "wins". – J.R. Sep 13 at 10:39
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To stress a syllable we should say it louder, longer and higher in pitch

Actually, no. The rule is:

  • louder - yes;
  • longer - maybe;
  • higher in pitch - definitely no.

Why not higher in pitch? The pitch is given by the letters / sounds in the syllable. Compare top and tip. The are equally stressed, but the pitch has to be different, unless special pronunciation tricks are employed.


Referring to your example, analyze "Ca-li-for-ni-a". It fits with my example. You claim that "-for-" needs to have a higher pitch than "-li-" and "-ni-". That is pretty much impossible in normal speech.

  • Some syllables do change pitch when the emphasis is stressed, but in general, sharper, naturally higher-pitched vowels ("i", etc) will go up in pitch and rounder, lower-pitched vowels will go down in pitch when emphasized. This is natural, since the point of emphasis is basically to "make it more of what it already is" and make it more distinct from the surrounding sounds. (as noted, it's also quite common to not change the pitch at all when emphasizing) – Foogod Sep 7 at 2:09
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The words might sound different in normal conversations only if the listener is not paying careful attention. Word stress and sentence stress are two aspects of pronunciation, and word stress should never be affected by sentence stress.

So, study the pronunciation of the words you have mentioned here and learn the correct way of pronouncing those words.

E.g. /rɪˈleɪʃ(ə)nʃɪp/ for "relationship"

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