Stressing in Spoken English
It is generally accepted that correct stressing is very important in communication in English. As is well known, spoken words do not have the equal value that they seem to have in print. So, in spoken English, some words that are deemed important, are given more weight than others.Basically, the stressing of the important words is "the speaker's method of saving the listener the effort of picking out the essential words, and the intended idea, for himself." However, one should not "over-do"it. Over-emphasis can make a speech very difficult to understand, besides making it boring to listen to. To illustrate, let us analyse one sentence, to see what correct stressing normally means. In this sentence:
I'm going to the post office to send a telegram", the essential words are usually made to stand out from the others - Post office; telegram. And of these essential words, only the essential syllables usually receive the full weight, that is, … POST office… TELE-GRAM.
Another general rule to go by is that when a word is used twice in the same sentence or the next, it generally loses its stress when repeated.In other words,the weight is usually taken off this word the second time, and is laid on some adjacent word. And there are many instances in Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address, in which this device is carried to a fine art and helps to give the speech some of its growth and momentum. Let us take the following passage to practise stressing:
"We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that the nation might live. It is altogether fit and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground."
Notice how the word "consecrate" in the last sentence quoted above has to be given more weight than "dedicate" because of the repetition of the word "cannot";and "hallow" is given more weight than "consecrate" by the use of "connot" a third time.