I read in a textbook that certain words in English lose the secondary stress when they appear in a sentence. For example, this female name has both primary and secondary stress according to the dictionary:

Alexandra [ ˌæl ɪgˈzæn drə ]

If I say:

Hey Alexandra [ heɪ ˌæl ɪgˈzæn drə ] do we still keep the secondary stress in the name?

One more question. When we have these greetings: Hi + name or Hey + name

Do we need to put any stress on Hi or Hey, or are they unstressed words? In the context when I see someone and want to greet him or her. Any suggestion would be appreciated. Thank you!

  • 1
    When I say "Hey Alexandra", the name has the same syllabic emphasis as when I say "Alexandra". Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 20:41
  • The answer to part of your question depends on whether the person is already looking at you or whether you're getting their attention. The intonation pattern and stress will be completely different depending on which of these two situations you're in. Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 21:12

1 Answer 1



We judge the stress by pitch, vowel reduction, and perhaps in other ways. In your example, judging by pitch, I think I would say the first two syllables of "Alexandra" out of context with higher pitch on the first syllable than on the second, but in your example sentence, "Hey Alexandra!", I find it most natural to give those syllables the same low pitch. So, then judging from this, and using pitch to estimate the stress, yes, non-primary stress sometimes goes away in the context of a larger sentence.

However, the vowel of the first syllable of "Alexandra" does not reduce, whether or not it's in a sentence. (Other examples might work differently.) So judging from the absence of vowel reduction, no, I don't think non-primary stress does disappear in context of a larger construction.

Loudness might be another way we can judge stress, but I don't think I can do this, personally.

  • According to the dictionary "Hello" should be stressed on the second syllable because it's a two syllable word, but I'm not sure about one syllable words such as "Hi" or "Hey". Can the stress be flexible on 'Hi' or 'Hey' depending on the feeling we have? Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 21:06
  • I can't think of an example where "Hi" or "Hey" would lose stress. Other one syllable words don't necessarily work this way. One syllable prepositions can have vowel reduction, sometimes.
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 23:40
  • No, but the name Alexandra may not take any stress if she's already said hello to you, or is already looking at you when you speak to her. Vocatives are de-accented in English and occur in the tail of the IP. Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 1:30
  • @Araucaria, I don't agree with your observation. After Alexandra says hello, you could say "!Hey, 3Ale3andra", with lower pitch and lower stress on the stressed syllables of "Alexandra", but not no stress at all. The vowels of the first and third syllables would not reduce to schwa, as you would expect if they had no stress.
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 1:45
  • @GregLee That's not what we'd expect if they had no stress. Are you trying to say that every syllable in the word grotesquely has stress? How about inhumanely? Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 1:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.