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VOA单词大师:第17课 Lida Baker

2009-07-28 08:54

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  AA: Im Avi Arditti with Rosanne Skirble, and this week on WORDMASTER -- we take some of the stress out of learning which words to stress in American English.

  RS: We turn to Lida [lee-da] Baker. Shes an instructor at the American Language Center at the University of California at Los Angeles. She says the basic rule when speaking is to put emphasis on what she calls "content words" like nouns and verbs -- the words that convey information.

  TAPE: CUT ONE -- BAKER/ARDITTI

  BAKER: "Words that are part of the grammatical structure of the language tend to be unstressed. So words like articles and prepositions and pronouns. So let me give you an example, if I say something like I have to go to the store, the most prominent word in that sentence is the word store. Its a noun. Its also stressed because it is the last content word of the sentence. One of the normal patterns of American English is that you stress the last content word, the last information-conveying word, of the sentence. Now in contrast to that, lets look at the words that are not stressed. The very first word is a pronoun. I tends to be unstressed. The next two words, have to, if we were to write those words out, we would write have to. In conversation we run them together and we pronounce them very quickly, and we say hafta."

  AA: "Like h-a-f-t-a."

  BAKER: "Exactly."

  AA: "And thats perfectly acceptable."

  BAKER: "Its more than acceptable, its required. This is what native speakers of English do. And by the way, a lot of people all over the world learn English by reading. They memorize lists of vocabulary and theyre tested on their reading skills and so on. Well, when I get them in my classroom and theyre in an English-speaking country for the first time in their lives, and theyre hearing the language all around them, they dont understand a word. And one of the reasons they cant understand the spoken language is that theyre not familiar with this alternating stress and unstressed pattern."

  RS: As Lida Baker explained, the word you choose to stress also lets you change the focus of a sentence in order to convey a specific meaning.

  TAPE: CUT THREE -- BAKER/ARDITTI

  BAKER: "Lets take a simple sentence like this: I put my red hat away. Now what was the focus word in that phrase?"

  AA: "Hat."

  BAKER: "Right, because hat is the last content word of the sentence. So if you were to ask me, what did you put away? I would answer you, I put my red hat away. But what if I say it like this, I put my red hat AWAY. What question is that answering?"

  ARDITT: "What did you do with your red hat?"

  BAKER: "Or where did you put your red hat, right? Now what if I say it like this, EYE put my red hat away. What question is that answering?"

  AA: "Who put your red hat away."

  BAKER: "Thats right. Lets move the focus one more time and say it like this, I put MY red hat away ... I put MY red hat away."

  AA: "As opposed to someone elses."

  BAKER: "Right, so we can voluntarily focus on any word in the sentence that we want to in order to convey a specific meaning."

  AA: "And, in fact, if youre not familiar with the sort of natural patterns and you stress the wrong words, you might end up confusing the listener."

  BAKER: "Thats exactly the point. As a matter of fact, people who are learning English have a tendency, for example, to stress pronouns. For them the normal stress pattern that they employ would be EYE put my red hat away. And to a native speaker of English, as you say, that would be very confusing, because they would be wondering well, why are you stressing the pronoun there?"

  AA: One way Lida Baker helps her students learn normal speech patterns is by listening to music and singing along. She says music also helps people remember things.

  RS: She plays classic songs, like one that Julie Andrews made famous in the movie soundtrack to "My Fair Lady."

  TAPE: CUT THREE -- BAKER

  "The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly in the Plain is a great example of a normal speech pattern. Its divided into two thought groups, the rain in Spain, falls mainly in the plain. Each thought group has a focus word -- in fact it has two focus words, rain/Spain, mainly/plain. And the function words -- the prepositions and the articles and so on -- are not stressed, and so theyre what we call reduced. Theyre pronounced at a lower pitch, theyre pronounced quickly ...

  MUSIC: "The Rain in Spain"

  RS: If you have a question for Lida Baker at UCLAs American Language Center, send it to us -- she might be able to answer it on the air.

  AA: Our e-mail address is word@voanews.com or write to VOA Wordmaster, Washington, DC 20237 USA. With Rosanne Skirble, Im Avi Arditti.

  MUSIC: "The Rain in Spain"

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