In watching nature documentaries narrated by David Attenborough, I've noticed that in various compounds where Americans use first-syllable stress (elsewhere, inland, life-forms), he uses second-syllable stress (elsewhere, inland, life-forms). So, uh, what's up with that? Is that the (or a) usual pronunciation in England? Are there are any rules or patterns that determine which words show this variation?

  • We have "Planet Earth", and laugh that someone with such strange language usage ever became so popular; but maybe it's not just him, ??? Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 8:50
  • He does do that, doesn't he? Well done for isolating that particular quirk. I had never consciously thought about it before, but you have brought his voice back into my head quite clearly! Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 9:05
  • People stress too much about stress in English. Stress for a given word tends to vary based on the speaker, where in the sentence the word appears, and what concepts are being emphasized. There is no formula.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 12:10

1 Answer 1


I think it is part of his flair, and part of what makes him popular.

It's not common usage, but I believe it fits the documentary style quite well.

It doesn't change the meaning, but it might help to change the emotional reception.

Usually when people use first-syllable stress in the word elsewhere, they are demonstrating a counterpoint, a discrepancy which could be received as surprising or exceptional.

When Attenborough uses second-syllable stress on "elsewhere", the intonation is more calming. As well as being attractive, it also suggests that he is not surprised that things are different, and neither should we be. The diversity is normal and expected.

  • Thus he is leading his viewers on a relaxing journey of wonderment, as opposed to a scientific exposition of stark facts. Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 9:02

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