Talking about Stress and Pronunciation

Stress and Pronunciation are amazing concepts and they make a big difference when you speak. The difference between life and death, actually. If you stress a sentence differently, it can mean something else entirely. “Let’s eat grandpa” and “Let’s eat, grandpa” are great examples of that. Of course, the comma helps here when you read but in your head, you’d have to stress it a bit differently to make sure that people understand what you mean. Again, life and death. Similarly, in German, it’s quite similar, although I never really had to deal with “stress” (as in… stressing a syllable) all that much in German before. Generally speaking, you’re allowed to stress syllables or not as you please. It sometimes sounds odd if you do it in a weird way but generally, there aren’t many words in the German language where a difference in stress makes a difference in meaning. In fact, a lot of times, a difference in stress may just make you sound like someone from the boonies. Right off the bat, I can only think of two words that are different when you stress them differently, actually, although there are probably other words in the German language whose meaning changes.

There is a verb called “freisprechen” and it’s a homonym of “frei sprechen”. Do you notice that there’s a space in the latter? Yeah, that’s because “frei” (“free”) is an adverb in this case. When you speak, however, there are no spaces. Germans talk very fast after all. (That’s a joke, you may laugh!) The point here is that “freisprechen” [ˈfʁaɪ̯ˌʃpʁɛçn̩] means that you declare someone “not guilty” or “innocent”. The stress here is on “frei”. On the other hand, “frei sprechen” [fʁaɪ̯ ˈʃpʁɛçn̩] is stressed on the first syllable of “sprechen” because “frei” is just an adverb here. This combination means to “speak freely” aka without any notes or restrictions.

The other example I’ve got, though, is even better because the two meanings are contradictory. “Umfahren” is quite funny and also shows you how stress is important because people may die if you don’t stress correctly. On the one hand, you’ve got “umfahren” [ʊmˈfaːʁən] which means “(to) drive around (something/someone)”. It’s quite straightforward apart from the fact that you kind of have to not drive in a straight line in order to accomplish it. On the other hand, you’ve got “umfahren” [ˈʊmfaːʁən] or [ʊmfaːʁən] which means “(to) drive through/over (something/someone)” and, while it’s arguably informal, it’s quite funny that it’s the opposite of “umfahren”. This means that the opposite of “umfahren” is “umfahren” and that’s it’s a homophone… maybe even a phonograph since the pronunciation is slightly different depending on whether or not you stress the first syllable.

So, as you can tell stress is somewhat important. I mean, it can literally mean life or death – and I’d be pretty stressed if I ran someone over.

English has a lot more of that though with many words being written differently but sounding similar and it kind of makes learning the English language a bit tricky at times but once you got the hang of it, it’s incredibly great. I love the English language. The reason why I wanted to talk about this is that I got back into “EPP” again for one of my upcoming exams. I already passed the oral exam last semester but I failed the written exam and hence I’ll need to take it again, which isn’t much of a biggie. I didn’t have to take the class again and I already have all the notes on the class right here (given that I participated already last semester), and while studying about stress and transcriptions I not only got the idea of writing about this topic but I also figured I might try myself at transcribing German words. My actual transcriptions aren’t that great and were very faulted given that I only practised the IPA with English words, but it wasn’t too far off. Either way,…

Drive safely.

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.

One thought on “Talking about Stress and Pronunciation

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  1. I love languages, I want to get into learning more languages but it can get time consuming and I currently don’t have the time to do it well. I hope to get into it eventually though.

    Liked by 1 person

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