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Understanding its accenting rules (though they've changed to worse very recently), it's quite rare to not know how is a given written word is stressed in Spanish.

In French or Italian, the tonic syllable is always the last one, so issues should be infrequent as well (can't assure it though).

English has no one of either assets so as a non-native speaker, it seems very likely to me that there are differences between social or regional groups in this regard.

Is this true or not really?

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closed as not constructive by simchona, Daniel, Thursagen, Alenanno, kiamlaluno Sep 13 '11 at 23:59

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It is false that in Italian the tonic syllable is the last one. –  CesarGon Sep 13 '11 at 18:40
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Apologies Cesar, that's just what it seems to so many people including myself. ps - An explanation for the downvote would be much appreciated. –  vemv Sep 13 '11 at 18:45
    
It's not true that in Italian the tonic syllable is always the last one. It's very different from the French language. What about macchina, carro, palazzo, giardino, corno, tavolo, etc? –  Alenanno Sep 13 '11 at 19:08
    
Now I think it I didn't even meant that, but "the intonation seems to be the same for most of its words". Aside from French, another language that works that way is Catalonian. –  vemv Sep 13 '11 at 19:59
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@Lohoris: please, can you post some reference for that? If you do a quick search, you'll find out, the typically stressed syllable in Italian is the penultimate. When it's the last one, the accent is adopted. –  Alenanno Sep 13 '11 at 20:17
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3 Answers 3

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One type of mistake sometimes made among non-native speakers (and indeed sometimes native speakers) is to not know which syllable the stress lies on when seeing the written form of a word.

And yes, there are a handful of cases of stress position being subject to variation (possibly more ideolectal than sociolinguistic). For example, the word "television" can be pronounced with the stress lying on either the first or last syllable; the word "cervical" can have the stress on either the first or second syllable, etc.

But, by and large, your underlying premise isn't true. Which syllable the stress falls on in an English word is generally determined by a fairly small number of factors (certain suffixes attract the stress in a particular position; certain vowels in certain positions tend to attract the stress over other vowels in other positions). The situation is a little more complex than, say, in Spanish. But it's by no means random or arbitrary.

Note that even in Spanish, there are cases of variation. Ask a group of people from different regions where they put the stress on "video", "periodo", or ask them how many syllables there are in the word "biólogo", and you're unlikely to get a consensus...

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This is the best answer so far. I reckon that I'll figure out those factors you talk about as I speak with natives. As for the quirks in the Spanish language, they really don't exist in written form (you can type both "video" or "vídeo"). There's the possibility your interlocutor will 'disagree' with your pronuntiation, but you can be sure that it won't be incorrect by no means. –  vemv Sep 13 '11 at 20:19
    
Yes, so equally, if you listen to English natives, some will accentuate "TElevision", others "teleVIsion", but both are widely accepted pronunciations used by native English speakers (indeed, the same speaker could use either pronunciation on a given occasion). –  Neil Coffey Sep 13 '11 at 20:47
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English has no one of either assets so as a non-native speaker, it seems very likely to me that there are differences between social or regional groups in this regard.

How a word is pronounced in English is essentially random. You could if you knew the origin make a decent guess, but there is no guarantee that it's current usage follows that original source.

Then there are both class and regional accents.

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Note that intuitive patterns does not mean "random"... –  Neil Coffey Sep 13 '11 at 19:24
    
Just to make sure, we are talking about the same thing - tonic syllables and not accent in general right? –  vemv Sep 13 '11 at 20:00
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You're probably already aware that where a noun and a verb of two syllables are spelt the same way, the noun has the stress on the first syllable and the verb has the stress on the second syllable. So, RECord (noun), reCORD (verb).

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I absolutely didn't know this. Great call, thank you! –  vemv Sep 13 '11 at 22:11
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