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Wanshika from SriLanka asks, how to "identify stressed and unstressed vowels without pronouncing them loudly?"

That's a good question, Wanshika, and both Mr. and Mrs. Puzzler have an answer for you.

Mrs. Puzzler says, "Tap your hand on a desk for each stressed syllable." (Or, if you're trying to be extra quiet, tap on your leg!). What you'll find is that it's almost impossible to tap on the unstressed syllables; your brain somehow pushes you into doing the tap whenever your vocal chords are forming a strong syllable.

Mr. Puzzler says, "Tap on your leg with your thumb and your forefinger. If you're like me, you'll find that you gravitate toward tapping with your thumb on the stressed syllables, and the unstressed syllables with your forefinger." Mr. Puzzler's suggestion is really better for checking rhythms of poetry, if you already know where the accents are supposed to be.

If you try to tap this sentence out on thumb and index finger, then you'll find it has a perfect meter from the start to ending syllable.

[Note: the sentence above is written so that the first syllable is accented, and then it alternates between stressed and unstressed].

Related post: How context affects the way we stress syllables.

 

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