Stress and Rhythm

Cantarutti, Marina and Szczepek-Reed, Beatrice (2021). Stress and Rhythm. In: Knight, Rachel-Anne and Setter, Jane eds. The Cambridge Handbook of Phonetics. Cambridge University Press, pp. 159–184.



This chapter covers two related prosodic phenomena: stress, that is, the relative perceived prominence of individual syllables; and speech rhythm, the distributed prominence of syllables across stretches of speech and their perceived regularity in time. Both stress and rhythm can be viewed from the angles of perception and production, and speakers of different languages differ in how stress and rhythm are produced, perceived, and interpreted for linguistic meaning. The chapter explains which articulatory and phonatory factors have been found to play a role in the production of stressed syllables, and distinguishes between stress and accent. The chapter further explores how stress can be described and analysed across different domains, and considers degrees of stress and their representation from different perspectives. The historically-important concepts of rhythm classes and isochrony are presented in the context of current developments and debates. Three recent issues for research are presented in some detail: the analysis of stress in different languages, rhythm metrics, and rhythm and perception. The chapter further explores the role of rhythm for turn taking in everyday talk, showing that conversationalists aim to rhythmically integrate their turns at talk with those of other speakers. Finally, the chapter provides some advice on teaching and learning stress and rhythm, and points towards possibilities for future research.

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