Function/ Role of Accent in English Language – A Short Note

This topic is very important for the English Language/ English Literature Students/ NET examinees. They can get a bit of information from this Short Note. Here we assume that you know about Syllables.

What are functions of Word Accent in English Language ?

Answer – The word consists of one or more syllables. This word of more than one syllable is not just a simple addition of syllables that constitute it. It combines them in to a certain relationship of interdependence.

In other words, the syllables so combined are said with varying degrees of prominence. In English, for example, in words of more than one syllable, one syllable or two syllables stand out from the rest of the syllables. The syllable or syllables which stand out, or are prominent, are said to be accented.

For example, in the English Words ” ‘Prominent” and Per ‘ceive” – the first and the second syllables respectively are accented. Thus, word accent is the relative degree of prominence with which the different syllables of a word are pronounced.

Word accent is an essential part of the word shape. Every word in English has certain characteristic accentual pattern shared by the speaker and the listener alike. Any arbitrary change in this pattern may deform the word beyond recognition.

Functions of Word Accent in English –

Word accent sometimes contributes to the word function in the sense that it tends to determine whether a particular word is a noun/adjective or a verb. First of all, word accent underlines grammatical relation between words.

There are a number of words in English which function as noun/adj and also verbs. In these cases, the noun/adj is always stressed on the first syllable and the verb on the second one. For example – ‘increase ( noun) and in ‘crease ( verb) and ‘absent ( n) and ab ‘sent ( v).

Sometimes variation in word accent in English are associated with the morphological structure of words i.e. the way words are constituted from their stems, prefixes and suffixes. Accent shifts from the first syllable to second, the third or the fourth one or they shift  when the longer words derived from the smaller words or to put differently, words change their grammatical forms. For Example –

  • ‘Democrat – De ‘mocracy – Demo ‘cratic
  • ‘Politics – Po ‘litical – Poli ‘tician

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