Understanding the Innerworks of Word Stress in RP and Cameroon English: A Case for a Competing Constraints Approach

Augustin Simo Bobda


This work pursues the investigations conducted in existing comparative descriptive studies on word stress in Received Pronunciation (RP), Cameron English (CamE) speech and related accents which have provided the data for this paper, and further generative studies. Its purpose is to submit a pioneer comprehensive argument for a Competing Constraints Model of analysis of English word stress. According to this model, word stress placement in both Inner Circle and non-native accents represented by CamE is best seen as the outcome of a competition between several constraints, the winner or winners of which determine the position of stress. The constraints reviewed, or analysed when they are new findings, are those already established in older Englishes, as well as those which have developed in the course of indigenization of English in Cameroon. The complexity of English word stress is due to the diversity, and the conflicting, variable and unpredictable nature, of these constraints. The model proposed here is not helpful in predicting the position of stress as such, but does help in understanding why it falls where it falls. It helps indeed in accounting even for data hitherto regarded as exceptions to given patterns.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5539/ijel.v1n1p81

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