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Articulatory correlates of stress in Afrikaans

Stressed syllables are produced with greater physiological effort on the part of the speaker than in the case of unstressed syllables. Such effort involves a number of articulatory actions, described in the next section.


Stressed syllables are produced with greater physiological effort than their unstressed counterparts (e.g. Ladefoged 1993). This greater effort can be exerted at any stage of the speech production process, i.e. by the subglottal mechanism (more air is pushed out of the lungs), by the glottal (laryngeal) system (contraction of laryngeal muscles, generating a change in pitch) and/or by the supraglottal organs (e.g. a larger displacement of lips, tongue and jaw, yielding more clearly articulated vowels and consonants). Also see the topic on articulatory correlates of stress in Dutch, and Wissing (2012).

At the laryngeal level of speech production, the following articulatory factors are relevant during the production of vowel segments in particular. The contraction of specific muscles may influence the speed at which the vocal folds vibrate during phonation. The result may be a rapid increase in the repetition rate of the glottal cycle, causing a rise in vocal pitch. A secondary effect of laryngeal effort may be a tightening of the vocal folds, which will then snap together more forcefully than otherwise.

At the subglottal level of speech production, relatively more air per unit of time can be pushed through the glottis, causing an increase in the intensity of the sound produced by the glottal siren. In effect, a louder sound is produced. By lengthening the articulatory action, clearer and fuller vowels may also result. Conversely, and with respect to unstressed vowels, a decrease of the repetition rate of the glottal cycle may cause a fall in vocal pitch; a lesser degree of tightening of the vocal folds may also result in a shorter and less forceful sound.

See Perceptual correlates of stress in Afrikaans and Acoustic correlates of stress in Afrikaans for more on the relation between the perceptual and acoustic correlates of stress. See (Figure 1) in the latter topic for a demonstration of the presence of the features mentioned in the current topic in the production of the Afrikaans words aanhou /'an.ɦœu/ ['an.ɦəu] continue and aanhoudend /an.'ɦœu.dənd/ [ɑn.'ɦəu.dənt] continuing.

  • Ladefoged, Peter1993A course in phoneticsFort WorthHarcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers
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