Tonic Syllable

Discussion in 'English Only' started by bobine, Feb 6, 2008.

  1. bobine New Member

    I'm an English student and I have some problems in finding the tonic syllable.

    When I listen to the sentences there are many words that seem to be stressed and I don't know how to find the one that has the tonic syllable.

    For instance : "I haven't seen you around for a couple of weeks."

    I was going to underline "seen" because I thought it had the tonic syllable but when I listen to the tape, it seems to me that "couple" is even more stressed.

    Thanks for you help
  2. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London but from Yorkshire
    English - England
    I would put the main stress on have, round and weeks, and maybe a secondary stress on seen and coup. Le and of may be elided into a single syllable, as may you and a.

    I am sure different people do it in different ways, though.
  3. bobine New Member

    Thank you se16teddy,

    My teacher says that there is only a tonic syllable. According to her, it is on the word that carries the main intonation movement.

    I think in your main stressed syllables you have the prominent and the tonic(nuclear). Is it right?

    It is not very easy to find out (for me in particular)
  4. nzfauna

    nzfauna Senior Member

    Wellington, New Zealand
    New Zealand, English
    It depends on the context as to which word a person might choose to emphasise in any sentence.
  5. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London but from Yorkshire
    English - England
    NZfauna is of course right. It depends which word is most important in the given context.

    Having said that, without context I guess that the syllable most likely to bear most stress is weeks, with have perhaps in second position. Couple is possible, implying perhaps It isn't very long since I last saw you. Stressing seen would imply something like I haven't seen you but I have heard you.
  6. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    Hello Bobine, welcome to the forum.

    Oh dear. No matter how many times I read your sentence my heaviest stress always falls on -round.
  7. bobine New Member

    Thank you all,

    It really seems not to be easy.

    In fact it is an audio file where a man is speaking to a woman. here is his speech

    Hello there!
    I haven't seen you around for a couple of weeks.

    Have you been away on holiday?

    But I understood from your answers that it really depends on the way it is pronounced so I will try to listen to it again and again in order to discover where the tonic syllable is in each sentence.
  8. Lexiphile Senior Member

    England English
    Although I usually make a point of disagreeing with nzfauna whenever I can :D, this time he is right.

    I can say this sentence with any one of the red words stressed, giving it in each case a slightly different implication.
  9. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    I don't agree with your teacher, bobine. What she told you is at variance with everything I have read about this subject.

    In I haven't seen you around for a couple of weeks there is more than one stressed syllable.

    In every polysyllabic word, one syllable is stressed more than the others.

    Thus, the rules for phrase stress are not the same as the rules for word stress.
  10. bobine New Member

    I agree with you sound shift about the stress of each word but she told us that the tonic syllable is about the tone of the sentence.
    According to my course, the main intonation movement usually occurs on the stressed syllable of the last content word of the tone unit. This syllable is called the nuclear or tonic syllable. (in each tone unit there are many prominent syllables and only one nuclear, they said)
    My problem is that I found in some other courses that it may be as well on other words depending on the meaning of your sentence and what you decide to emphasize.
    So I hesitate between prominent syllables and the nuclear syllable, unable to say where is the tonic one.

    I have courses this afternoon I'll try to see with other students whether they understood like I did.

    I'm back and the ones I asked understood in the same way. Maybe I'll understand more within a few weeks and more lessons.

    Thanks for all the answers you gave. I really want to speak English in a fluent way so I try to understand everything in order to reproduce the same.
  11. Wynn Mathieson

    Wynn Mathieson Senior Member

    Castell-nedd Port Talbot
    English - United Kingdom
    No, bobine's teacher is quite right. In any clause there is only one tonic stress -- tonic stress, notice, not syllable stress.

    Compare the position of the tonic stress in each of these sentences:
    1. I'm going.
    2. I'm going to London.
    3. I'm going to London for a holiday.

    Of course go in sentence 2 and both go and Lon in sentences 2 and 3 still have syllable stress, but they do not bear either sentence's tonic stress.

    The tonic stress can be shifted in order to convey a particular emphasis:
    I'm going to London for a holiday [so don't try to stop me].
    I'm going to London for a holiday [not Paris].

    This kind of tonic-stress shift is usually indicated in writing by the use of italics (just as I used them in the clause "The tonic stress can be shifted" above).

    I also agree with what ewie wrote above:
    That is my reading of the sentence too: in ordinary, unemphatic intonation the tonic stress falls on -round.

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