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Variation in the Stress of Quadrisyllables

English stress rules deal with quadrisyllables in a variety of ways, including the distribution of reduced vowels in post-tonic syllables, and in some cases, moreover, exploiting differences between American and British English. A word like saxophonist in British English is pronounced with stress on the second syllable and a reduced vowel (schwa) in the third, but never in American, where the primary stress invariably falls on the initial, and a secondary stress is heard on the third syllable. Cf. the stress contróversy, at least as one of two contemporary variants in British but never in American English. The frequent word innovative has primary stress on the initial and secondary stress on the third syllable in American English, whereas in British English there is no secondary stress, all unstressed syllables being reduced, i.e., with a schwa for orthographic o and a where American English has the diphthongs [oʋ] and [eɪ], respectively. [Personal Note: The potential stress pattern in this word corresponding to that of saxóphonist has not been exploited in any variety of English known to me––with the exception of idiosyncratic usage, namely in the speech of my late wife, Marianne Shapiro. עליו השלום aleha ha-shalom.]

MICHAEL SHAPIRO

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