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I am little confused over this matter; the teacher has stated that no English word can start with two stressed syllables and that you understand a syllable is stressed when it's not reduced to a schwa and when it is therefore a full vowel. For words like biology (/baɪˈɒl.ə.dʒi/), it seems that the PRICE vowel /aɪ/ is followed by the LOT vowel /ɒ/. It makes 2 full vowels followed by each other and contradicts the first information of the teacher.

Is there something I am missing?

The teacher considers an unstressed syllable.

screenshot

The cambridge dictionary also considers it as being unstressed: /baɪˈɒl.ə.dʒi/ and not /ˌbaɪˈɒl.ə.dʒi/.

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    You're missing something (and possibly your teacher is, too). English syllables can have primary stress, secondary stress, or be unstressed. – Peter Shor Nov 30 '20 at 2:57
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    No English word starts with two syllables that both have primary stress. (And in fact, there is almost always only one primary stress per word.) There are three levels of stress here, not just two. – Peter Shor Nov 30 '20 at 3:01
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    There are (at least) two different ways of analyzing stress in English words. If you say there are only two levels of stress, then some unstressed syllables have full vowels. – Peter Shor Nov 30 '20 at 3:05
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    Your teacher seems to be mixing two different systems of analyzing stress in English. See Wikipedia. – Peter Shor Nov 30 '20 at 3:12
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    @GlobalCharm The second syllable of tutu is not stressed. Compare canoe and tutu, or a two two and a tutu where the former is a second class degree. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Nov 30 '20 at 11:27
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"No English word can start with two stressed syllables" is just false, unless you define "stressed syllable" as "primary-stressed syllable", in which case it is trivially true (because by definition a word only contains one primary-stressed syllable).

A better rule is that no English word can start with two fully unstressed syllables (two syllables with a reduced vowel).

As you have found, it's definitely the case that an English word can start with two syllables with unreduced vowels. Some theories of English stress allow unstressed syllables to contain unreduced vowels (at least in some circumstances), while other theories of English stress treat any syllable with an unreduced vowel as having at least some degree of stress (theories may make use of a concept of secondary or even tertiary levels of stress).

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    Here's a reference disagreeing with the statement ending the first paragraph: << Some words have optional stress. The following words may have two primary stresses each or one. Where there is one, it shall fall on the second syllable. 'Ju- 'ly or Ju-'ly / 'bam- 'boo or bam-'boo / 'four-'teen or four-'teen / 'fif-'teen or fif-'teen / 'Car-'lisle or Car-'lisle [Anna University] Checking, M-W allows ... – Edwin Ashworth Nov 30 '20 at 13:16
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    for the 'double' or 'no' primary stress pronunciation of bamboo (among others). In maths, it is possible to have two 'most popular / frequent' intervals, in a bimodal distribution. So, correspondingly, here it is necessary to give confirmation either that 'bamboo' can be said (in one pronunciation) to have no primary stress, or double primary stress. You know about the need to add supporting references. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 30 '20 at 13:17
  • @EdwinAshworth It always has a primary stress. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Nov 30 '20 at 23:25
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    @piojo: How do you feel about two-word spondees, such as true blue or why not? – ruakh Dec 1 '20 at 4:37
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    @piojo I've been rehearsing 'July', and find I naturally (ie trying not to allow artificial elements related to the testing to intrude) pronounce it differently in different strings. In a naturally trailing-off sentence (eg a resigned "It won't be ready until the end of July", I certainly primary-stress the second syllable. But in a brisk, free-running "They're at their best in June, July and August" there's no perceptible difference in stress. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 1 '20 at 15:15
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You're conflating two things. Stress and vowel reduction. I too pronounce the word as /baɪˈɒl.ə.dʒi/; the only stressed syllable being the second one. The only reduced vowel is the third one. The first and fourth syllables are neither stressed nor reduced.

I believe what your teacher meant by "you understand a syllable is stressed when it's not reduced to a schwa and when it is therefore a full vowel" is that a stressed syllable is never reduced, but this does not imply the inverse, that a non-stressed syllable is always reduced. Indeed just the words "always" and (albeit not always!) "reduced" disprove this!

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  • I'd say there's secondary stress on the first syllable. The last syllable, though unstressed, still has an unreduced vowel too, though. – Hearth Dec 1 '20 at 4:21
  • I can't rank stress (1st two syllables) in the 'US pronunciation' sample offered by CED. Your 'I too pronounce the word as /baɪˈɒl.ə.dʒi/; the only stressed syllable being the second one. The only reduced vowel is the third one. The first and fourth syllables are neither stressed nor reduced.' seems to imply that what you say is gospel. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 2 '20 at 20:27
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Bi OL o gy has one stressed syllable. You may think there are two because of the natural way the bi is pronounced makes it sound louder than certain other letter pairs when they are pronounced.

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  • I can't rank stress (1st two syllables) in the 'US pronunciation' offered by CED. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 2 '20 at 20:25
  • Not sure what the problem is. The word is pronounced as shown in the answer above. UK and other countries may be influenced by their native languages to pronounce English words differently than what is correct in US. – teacher Dec 3 '20 at 3:36
  • ELU is not US-specific. And ELU expects answers to be backed by supporting references. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 3 '20 at 16:04
  • No English word has two stressed syllables next to each other. – teacher Dec 3 '20 at 16:50

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