CHAPTER ONE Background to the Study

In linguistics, stress is the relative emphasis that may be given to certain syllables in a word, or to certain words in a phrase or sentence. Stress is typically signaled by such properties as increased loudness and vowel length, full articulation of the vowel and changes in pitch.

The term ‘stress’ and ‘accent’ are often used synonymously, but they are sometimes distinguished with certain specific kinds of prominence (such as pitch accent variously defined) being considered to fall under accent but not under stress. For example, when emphasis is produced through pitch alone, it is called pitch accent, and when produced through length alone, it is called quantitative accent. When caused by a combination of various intensified properties, it is called stress accent or dynamic accent. English language uses what is called variable stress accent.

The stress placed on syllables within words is called word stress or lexical stress. Some languages have fixed stress^meaning that the stress on virtually any multi-syllable words falls on a particular syllable, such as the first or the penultimate. Other languages like English have variable stress, where the position of stress in a word is not predictable in that way. Sometimes, more than one level of stress, such as primary stress and secondary stress, may be identified.

However, some languages, such as French and Mandarin are sometimes analyzed as lacking lexical stress entirely.

The stress placed on words within sentences is called ‘sentence stress’ or ‘prosodic stress’. This is one of the three components of prosody, along with rhythm and intonation. It includes phrasal stress (the default emphasis of certain words within phrases or clause) and contrastive stress (used to highlight an item – a word, or occasionally just part of a word that is given particular focus).

The term ‘intonation’ refers to a means of conveying information in speech which is independent of the words and their sounds. Central to intonation is the modulation of pitch, and intonation is often thought of as the use of pitch over the domain of utterances. However, the patterning of pitch in speech is so closely bound to patterns of timing and loudness and sometimes voice quality, that we cannot consider pitch isolation from these other dimensions. The interaction of intonation and stress, the patterns of relative prominence which characterize and utterance is particularly close in many languages including English!’ For those who prefer to reserve ‘intonation’ for pitch effects in speech, the word ‘prosody’ is convenient as a more general term to include patterns of pitch, timing, loudness and sometimes voice quality. In this chapter, however, intonation will be used to refer to the collaboration of all these dimensions, and where necessary, the term ‘melody’ will be used to refer specifically to the pitch based component.

Intonation is used to carry a variety of different kinds of information. It signals grammatical structure, though not in a one-to-one way; whilst the end of a complete intonation pattern will normally coincide with the end of a grammatical structure, such as, a sentence or clause, even quite major grammatical boundaries may lack intonation marking, particularly if the speech is fast.

Intonation can reflect the information structure of an utterance, highlighting constituents of importance. Intonation can indicate discourse function, for instance, most people are aware that saying ‘This is the leeds train’, with one intonation constitutes a statement, but, with another, a question. Intonation can be used by a speaker to convey an attitude such as friendliness, enthusiasm, or hostility and listeners can used intonation

related phenomena in the voice to make inferences about a speaker’s state, including excitement, depression and tiredness.

Intonation can also^for instance help to regulate turn-taking in conversation, since
there are intonational mechanisms speakers can use to indicate that they are in full flow
and don’t want to be interrupted. Intonation is not the only linguistic device for which
pitch is recruited by languages, many languages use pitch to distinguish words. In
languages around the world, as diverse as Thai, Hausa (Nigeria), words are distinguished
not only by vowels and consonants but also by the use of one of a limited set of
distinctive pitch patterns or heights on each syllable. Such languages are called tone

Shehu and Faleke (2013), observe that the appropriate use of English stress and intonation is the final hurdle that the vast majority of speakers of Englishes a second language never manage to cross. Elugbe (2000), Akinjobi (2002 and 2005), Taiwo (2005), Olaniyi (2009), and Osisanwo (2009) all have expressed the same opinion. In particular, that the intonation patterns of standard British English, otherwise known as Received Pronunciation (RP) are: falling intonation, rising intonation, fall-rise intonation, and rise-fall intonation. In trying to find out the reason for the above variations, Tiffen (1999), says that the choice of intonation patterns in British English (Br. E), ‘rise’ and ‘fall’ is more or less, deliberate and conscious, but such a choice in Nigerian English (Nig. E), is more or less accidental and unconscious.

This may not be a view shared by some scholars, but whatever shortcomings Tiffen’s idea may have contained, he has. at least, suggested a reason than can, in some way, explain why the English spoken in Nigeria appears to be in a class of its own, as far as intonation is concerned.

Shehu and Faleke (2013), remarks that in a second language learning situation, where a spoken from is required learning situation, where a spoken form is required with a view to an extensive social contract in that language, intonation assumes a major importance. He goes on to draw an analogy of a second language learner who may not be able to pronounce the velar nasal consonant sound ( rj ) properly such that he always says (n) for ( rj ). Now, if the word appears in a context where the speaker says: What is that thin over there? The fact that thin is an adjective and can hardly appear after that, the overall semantic input of the sentence and the gestures and other paralinguistic features that may follow the utterance will make it very clear to the listener that the word intended by the speaker is ‘thing’ not ‘thin’. Here, the hearer may not even be aware that the wrong word is sued in that context and thus, communication is in no way impeded or disrupted, simply because a single word is pronounced wrongly. In contrast, he goes on to say, if the same mistake is made in case of intonation, the position will appear to be quite different. For example, where a Hausa, Yoruba or an Igbo speaker of English transplants his first language tonal features on the language, there can be one or two of the following consequences: the hearer will fail to understand the intended meaning, or he/she may interpret the message according to the pattern of his/her own language (if such a pattern exists) and when this happens, the tendency is that one may arrive at a wrong meaning.

As to whether or not the teaching and learning of accent/stress should take precedence over that of intonation, Jone (1967) remarks that a second language learner can usually acquire a pronunciation recognizable as normal English by learning the intonation only and ignoring the stress. Also, at the level of discourse, Keith (1986), states that intonation is the most important prosodic category for the interpretation of utterance meaning in the English lancmaap

the importance of intonation in a second language teaching and learning environment. Het, for some seemingly unexplainable reasons, Nigerian scholars appear to give it very not enough attention.

Jowitt (1991), state that intonation plays an essential role in the encoding and decoding of the meaning of English utterances but laments that, until recently, it has not been given its due weight in Nigeria English (Nig. E) compared to the overwhelming attention given to the proper articulation of vowels and consonants sounds. With this last remark we have, perhaps, come to a stage where a logical question to be asked will be. If intonation is discovered to be the area in which there is a great variation between two English, Nig. E and Br. E, why is it then that intonation study appears to attract less attention from Nigerian scholars?

There are many reasons for that and we shall come to a discussion of them later in the research work. Statement of the Problems

The English language has affected students in the learning of various aspects of English skills, most especially the area of written and spoken skills which leads to their poor grammatical expressions with and outside the school environment. Also, the way students pronounce English words call for attention, therefore, there is, need for teachers in secondary schools to teach the students how they can stress words correctly in English language. Also, students who have trouble using the right stress and intonation speak native languages with different rules. English is a stressed language, and this means that more attention should be paid to where you put the stress in a word or sentence, rather than the number of syllables.

There are plenty of words in English language that have different meaning when they, are stressed differently. This is a case of ‘rebel and re’bel, the students may become impatient or confused, and this is not good for communication. Sometimes, students place stress on the wrong word in a sentence, which may lead to confusion or the speaker’s inability to convey exactly what he/she means. Teachers should explain to the students that word stress and sentence stress is important to convey the right meaning. And the teachers should go over some basic rules of word stress. For example, when the same word can be both a noun and a verb, teachers should explain that the first syllable is stressed in noun and the second syllable is stressed in the verb. Purpose of the Study

The major purpose of this research work is to study how inappropriate use of stress and. Intonation in English Eanguage affect learners’ spoken English in some selected,Secondary Schools in Ado Local Government Area of Ekiti State.

The purpose of the study specifically is:; -»’v i. to investigate how the inappropriate use of stress in English Language affect

learners, ii.        to determine to an extent if intonation has any effect in spoken form of English

Language, iii.       to investigate the factors affecting appropriate use of stress and intonation in

English Language.

  1. to find out if the use of mother tongue has effects on the use of stress. ‘Research Question
  2. To what extent does inappropriate use of stress affect students spoken English?
  3. Does intonation have effects on spoken English?
  4. What are the factors that lead to inappropriate use of stress and intonation in English Language?




  1. Does mother tongue have effect on stress and intonation? Significance of the Study

The study could be useful to students, teachers, educational agencies and the society as a whole. It will help them to know the importance of stress and intonation. The outcome of this study could be useful in convincing various schools, authorities and educational agencies. Also, it will enable teachers to encourage students to communicate often in English language and not to be shy while they want to say anything. This study is significant to the extent that it will help to elevate the current status of spoken English among learners which must have been responsible for the students having interest in studying oral English. In English language, students undergo courses both at the primary and secondary school levels and still get out only to speak bad English. This study hopes to unveils some of the teaching problems surrounding the aspect of spoken English by trying to understand the teachers’ indepth knowledge about oral English, as well as the students. Thus, the teaching and learning of English language should enable students to think for themselves and express ideas clearly and secondly, in realistic situations. Scope of the Study

This study is aimed at investigating the inappropriate use of stress and intonation in English language in some selected secondary schools in Ado Eocal Government Area of Ekiti State.   The study comprises of five selected Secondary Schools in Ado Local Government Area of Ekiti State.

Definition of Terms

Appropriate: – According to Cambridge Advanced Eearner’s Dictionary, appropriate is anything suitable or right for a particular situation or occasion. Appropriate is defined as something that is right for the purpose.

Wiktionary Online Dictionary define appropriate as anything suitable to the social situation or to social respect or social discreetness.

Inappropriate according to Oxford Advanced Eearner’s Dictionary something not suitable or appropriate in a particular situation. Something not suitable or proper in a circumstances. Inappropriate is the opposite of appropriate.



You may like these posts

Post a Comment