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Rhythm in speech may be defined as the regular alternation of stressed and unstressed syllables in a sense group.

The most typical characteristic feature of English rhythm is a tendency to make stressed syllables follow each other at more or less equal intervals of time,

e.g. The ˈweather in ˈEngland can ˈchange very ֻ quickly. ||

The more unstressed syllables there are between the stressed ones, the quicker they are said.

e.g. ˈMary ˈwent to ֻ London.

ˈMary has ˈgone to ֻ London.

ˈMary will be ˈgoing to ֻ London.

group. There are as many rhythmical groups as there are stressed syllables. Unstressed, syllables have a tendency to cling to the preceding stressed syllabic (enclitics). Only initial unstressed syllables always cling to the following stressed syllable (proclitics). Correct reading habits require to attach the unstressed syllables to the preceding stressed one.

The number of unstressed syllables between the stressed ones may be different, and to keep equal intervals of time vowels may become shorter or longer depending on the number of preceding or following unstressed syllables. If there are few adjoining unstressed syllables vowels become longer. If there are many adjoining unstressed syllables vowels become shorter.

There is a strong tendency in connected English speech to avoid stressing two or three syllables in succession. Under the influence of this tendency words normally pronounced with two equally strong stresses or with primary or secondary stress in isolation very often lose one of the stresses in connected speech,

e.g. She is, kind, ∣' jolly and well - ֻ bread.|| She is a 'well-bread ֻ girl.||

He is a 'well-known ֻ poet.|| His name is 'well - ֻ known.||

He is fif''teen years - ֻ old.|| He is 'just fif ֻ teen.||

Under the influence of the same tendency of English rhythm notional words which are usually stressed lose their stress,

e.g. You've 'probably done 'better than you ֻthink.


The word-substitute "one" (not a numeral ! ) as in "good one", "black one", "that one", etc.

is usually unstressed.

e.g. I ˈ don't like the ֻgreen dress,| ˈ show me the ֻblack one.

Rhythm is so typical of an English utterance that the incorrect use of rhythm betrays the non-English origin of a speaker even in case of correct pronunciation. To acquire a good English speech rhythm one should arrange sentences into intonation groups and then into rhythmic groups, link every word beginning with a vowel to the preceding word, weaken unstressed words and syllables, obscuring the vowels in them, making the stressed syllables occur regularly within an intonation group.

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