4 Ijesha Close, Ilupeju, Lagos
+2348 097 685 118

Word Stress

  1. Every word in isolation must have one primary stress. In longer words, there may be a secondary stress, which usually falls two syllables before the primary stress. For example (italicized are the secondary stresses, while only CAPS are the primary stress):
    1. LEUcoPEnia
    2. INsemiNAtion
    3. MIcroSCOPic
    4. PSYchoLOGical
  2. In general, the stress is on the root of the word. For example:
    1. disORder
    2. biLATeral
    3. conGENital
    4. TUbule
    5. reGULT
    6. inHIBit
    7. exCRETE
    8. MEMbrane
    9. FAILure
    • NOTE: Prefixes are usually weak as are Anglo-saxon endings. For example:
      1. KINGdom
      2. SCHOLarship
      3. HANDsome
      4. HOliness
  3. Certain romance suffixes fix the stress in whatever word the are added to. The most frequent of these stress fixing suffixes are the following:
    1. -ic fixes the stress on the preceding syllable. For example:
      1. pediAtric
      2. orthoPEdic
      3. antibiOTic
      4. nePHRITic
      5. hyperDERmic
      • There are only 8 common exceptions:
        1. CATHolic
        2. HERetic
        3. LUnatic
        4. ARsenic
        5. POLitics
        6. aRITHmetic
        7. ARabic
        8. RHEToric
    2. -ion fixes the stress on the preceding syllable:
      1. contraCEPtion
      2. gesTAtion
      3. reACtion
      4. abLAtion
      5. dimiNUtion
      6. perFUsion
      • But this is only a particular case of a much more general rule: Suffixes of the form ‘i/u + vowel’ fix the stress on the preceding syllable:
        1. -ia: anaesTHEsia, septiCAEmia, claustroPHObia, dysxLEXia
        2. -ian: phySIcian, maGIcian, iTALian
        3. -ial: RAdial, poTENtial, myoCARdial, artiFIcial, differENtial
        4. -ious: susPIcious, unCONscious, amPHIBious, maLARious
        5. -ior: anTErior, inFErior, exTErior
        6. -ient: deFIcient, proFIcient, imPAtient, conVENient
        7. -ual: GRADual, perPETual, conTINual, reSIDual
        8. -uous: amBIGuous, imPETuous, conSPICuous
        9. -ium: poTASsium, bacTErium, epiTHElium, deLIRium
    3. -ity fixes the stress on the preceding syllable. For example:
      1. QUANtity
      2. eQUALity
      3. deFORMity
      • But this is again only a particular case of a general rule: Word stress nouns (mainly abstracts) ending with -y have antepenultimate stress (third syllable from the end):
        • insufFIciency, DYSentery, maLIGnancy, gyneCOLogy, radiOGraphy, acCESsory, vasECtomy, THERapy, osteo-arTHROPathy, lapaROScopy, loBOTomy, coLOStomy
      • A notable exception to this rule is words ending with -plasty, which is stressed:
        • orcheoPLASTY, rhinoPLASTY, mammoPLASTY
    4. -itis, -osis, -esis are also stressed. For example:
      1. dermaTItis
      2. cirRHOsis
      3. amniocenTEsis
  4. These rules fixing the stress according to the suffix cause the position of the stress in a word to change in its derived form. In the table below, the words in column 2 have weak endings and keep the same stress as the root forms of column 1. In the 3rd and 4th columns, the words have stress-fixing suffixes with displacement of stress.