Word stress and suffixes 2

In words with the following suffixes, main stress is usually on the syllable immediately before the suffix: -ial, -ic, -ion, -ive, and -ity.


For example:
‘editor – edi’tor-ial
‘atmosphere – atmos’pher-ic
ac’celerate – accele’rat-ion
‘instinct – in’stinct-ive
‘generous – .gene’ros-ity
di’verse – di’vers-ity

Note: In words ending -ative, stress is usually on the same syllable as in the root word.
For example:
in’vestigate – in’vestig-ative
‘speculate – ‘specul-ative

Many words with these suffixes can have stress shift.
For example:
He faces proseCUtion.   but:   He’s a PROSecution WITness.

When a word ends with one of the consonants t or s and the suffix –ion, this is how it is pronounced:

-tion is pronounced

  • /tʃ ə n/ after the letter s:  suggestion, digestion
  •  /ʃ ə n/ after other letters:  education, adoption

-sion is pronounced

  • /ʃ ə n/ after a consonant: extension, comprehension
  • /ʒ ə n/ after a vowel: decision, persuasion

-ssion is pronounced /ʃ ə n/:  admission, expression

In nouns and adjectives ending with the suffixes –ant, –ent, –ance, or –ence, stress placement depends on the spelling of the syllable before the suffix (the pre-suffix syllable).

  • If the pre-suffix syllable ends with a single vowel letter (V) or a single vowel letter plus a single consonant letter (V-C), stress usually goes on the syllable before the pre-suffix syllable if there is one:
  • ‘ignorant (V-C)        ‘variant (V)             ‘fraudulent (V-C)
    con’tinuance (V)     ‘reference (V-C)    ‘ambience (V)
  • If the pre-suffix syllable has any other spelling, then stress is usually on the pre-suffix syllable itself:
    ap’pearance (V-V-C)  corre’spondent (V-C-C)   con’vergence (V-C-C)
  • If the pre-suffix syllable ends with the letter i and the root word ends with the letter y in a stressed syllable, the stress is usually on the pre-suffix syllable:
    com’ply – com’pliance     re’ly – re’liant

Some of these words ending with the suffixes –ant, –ent, –ance or –ence have a different stress placement from the root:
ig’nore – ‘ignorant             re’fer – ‘reference

while others have the same stress placement:
con’tinue – con’tinuance          ap’pear – ap’pearance

Notice that the suffix -ment doesn’t usually change the stress pattern in the root:


a’gree – a’greement        ‘govern – ‘government
although a common exception is: ‘advertise – ad’vertisement

Exercises
Exercise 1
You will hear some short definitions. After each definition press ‘pause’, choose from the box and write the word that it relates to. When you press ‘play’ again you will hear the correct answer.
Repeat it and then continue in the same way.

cooperative      prosecution      allergic      hostility
photographic    impulsive          editorial    speculation
familiarity

EXAMPLE:
Having an allergy.       __allergic__

1. __________
2. __________
3. __________
4. __________
5. __________
6. __________
7. __________
8. __________

Key

(Canada)
1.  (being hostile to something) hostility
2.   (when someone is prosecuted) prosecution
3.   (being willing to cooperate) cooperative
4.   (a newspaper article giving the editor’s opinion) editorial
5.   (when people speculate to make a profit) speculation
6.   (acting on impulse) impulsive
7.   (being familiar with something) familiarity
8.   (to do with photography) photographic

The word with a suffix which is an exception to the rule given above is ‘co’operative’. (It doesn’t have stress on the syllable immediately before -ive.)

Exercise 2

Write the words from the box in the correct column according to the pronunciation of -tion, -sion, or -ssion.

accommodation    celebration    combustion    comprehension
congestion    depression    digestion    erosion    exhaustion
explosion    expression    invasion    revision    suspension

/tʃ ə n/(e.g. suggestion) /ʃ ə n/ (e.g. education) /ʒ ə n/ (e.g. decision)
accomodation

Now listen and check your answers. Then say the words aloud.

/tʃ ə n/(e.g. suggestion) /ʃ ə n/ (e.g. education) /ʒ ə n/ (e.g. decision)
combustion
congestion
digestion
exhaustion
accommodation
celebration
comprehension
depression
expression
suspension
erosion
explosion
invasion
revision

Exercise 3

Underline the syllable which you think has the main stress in the following words.

resident    performance    defiant    convergence
excellence    correspondent    assistant    maintenance
coincidence    informant    acceptance    insistence
reference    applicant    significance

Now listen and check your answers. Then say the words aloud.


One of these words is an exception to the rules given above. Which is it?

resident
performance
defiant
convergence
reference
excellence
correspondent
assistant
maintenance
applicant
coincidence
informant
acceptance
insistence
significance

The exception is “excellence’. The syllable before the suffix –ence ends in ‘ell’ (V-C-C) and so stress would be on this syllable if the second rule were followed. (Note that “excellent’ is
also an exception.)

Exercise 4

Decide whether the words in exercise 3 have the same stress pattern as their root word (write S) or a different stress pattern (write D).

EXAMPLES:
resident (D) – (‘resident – re’side)
performance (S) – (per’formance – per’form)

Now listen to the root words and check your answers.

Key

re’side
per’form

/> de’fy
con’verge
re’fer
ex’cel
corre’spond
a’ssist
main’tain
ap’ply
coin’cide
in’form
ac’cept
in’sist
‘signify

The words with the same (S) stress pattern as their root are:
de’fiant (de’fy)
con’vergence (con’verge)
as’sistant (as’sist)
in’formant (in’form)
in’sistence (in’sist)
corre’spondent (corre’spond)
ac’ceptance (ac’cept)

The words with a different (D) stress pattern from their root are:
‘reference (re’fer)
‘excellence (ex’cel)
‘maintenance (main’tain)
‘applicant (ap’ply)
co’incidence (coin’cide)
sig’nificance (‘signify)