In the question "What time is it?" we only stress the noun "time". Am I right? The "is it" part at the end is unstressed. Right? I'm not sure if the word "what" needs secondary stress or not. I need your opinion about word stress in this question. Which words do you stress when pronounce it? Thank you.

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    You can stress any or all of the words in that sentence for emphasis (except perhaps it, that would make for an odd sentence). Non-emphatically, though, I’d say time is the only word that requires stress. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 2 '15 at 14:09
  • Thank you. If I ask: What time is it in California? I should stress "time" and "California". Right? – Zoltan King Feb 2 '15 at 14:31
  • Either that or what and California. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 2 '15 at 14:34
  • Greg Lee is correct; Janus Jacquet is not. Under no circumstances would an American ever emphasize the word "what". In fact the "what" is said so briefly and unemphatically that a speaker in an informal setting might say "w'time is it?" or simply "time is it?" and as long as the emphasis is correct, the listener will understand perfectly what they mean. – user114343 Mar 19 '15 at 20:11
  • Not even when asking for a repeat of the '10 am' you've just failed to identify? – Edwin Ashworth Mar 19 '15 at 22:58

You're right. In the absence of special emphasis or contrast, "time" gets the main stress. If "what" is fully pronounced with voiceless [w̥] and final "t", I give it a secondary stress. In a casual speech version where "what" has reduced to "wa", I give it no stress: [wəˈtʰɑjməzət].

  • Thank you. As far as I know, when the final consonant of one word is the same as the first consonant of the following word, we pronounce the consonant only once. I think this is why the question "What" loses the "t" at the end. – Zoltan King Feb 2 '15 at 14:43
  • May I ask you one more question? When we add a location we stress the location more I suppose. What time is it in Sweden? sounds like [ wʌ ˈtaɪm_ɪz_ɪd_ɪn ˈswid n? ] . Can we keep the stress on "time" or should we move it to "What" and "Sweden" in this case? – Zoltan King Feb 3 '15 at 14:09
  • Yes, "in Sweden" now has the new main stress, but otherwise, the stress remains the same. That is, 1-stress on "time" is demoted to 2-stress when "in Sweden" gets 1-stress. (This is how the SPE theory of English stress works, and for this example, it works fine.) – Greg Lee Feb 3 '15 at 15:31

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