There are different methods of asking questions of the oral forms. However, there are certain principles and laws that are capable of leading you to the answer where you have questions.
For example, UME 2007 questions 62, 63 and 64 are questions that border on
appropriate pronunciation of words based on the principle of syllabication and stress.
What is the answer to each of the following questions? Attempt them before learning the laws. Revisit them, after learning the laws.
2007 UME: In each of questions 62 to 64, choose the appropriate stress pattern
from the options. The syllables are written in capital letters.
(a) capiTAlism (6) capitaLIsm (c) capitalism (d) CAPItalism
(a) aSSOciation (b) associaTION (c) associAtion (d) Association
(a) adVERtisement (b) advertiseMENT (c) adverTISEment
What are your answers? Write each down.
Now, let us look at the laws. Before that, let us look at some important concepts that we
(a) Letter: There are twenty – six letters in the English Language, also called the
alphabet: ABCD Z
(b) Sound: Note that a letter ego is different from a sound e.g. /e/. When we
discuss sound, we usually have two slanting lines bordering it in front and behind
(i) e is a letter
(ii) /e/is a sound. Do you understand? The difference is the // (slanting lines)
Yes, one letter can produce two, three or more sounds
(a) /e/as in egg
(b) /i:/ as in she. It is the e in she and the same e in egg that has produced /e
(c) Stress: Stress is the pitch, that is the health of your voice as it goes up and
sounds deeper on a syllable in a word than other syllables. This means that one
word may have many syllables and you are expected to pronounce one syllable
LOUDER than the other syllables (of the same word) if the pronunciation must be
It, therefore, means that stress cannot be discussed without having discussed
(d) Syllable: A syllable is the amount of speech sound that can be produced at one
heartbeat. Now, how many times (place your hand on your heart) will your heart
beat before you complete the pronunciation of the longest word in the dictionary
How many times? No, No!! Not six. How did you arrive
at that? Now, look at it (with your hand still on your heart):
in-ter de – no- mi – na – tio na- li – sm
So, it means, there are 10 syllables in that word. Do you truly understand? Good! Now.
how many syllables are there in the following?
1= 4 syllables
2= 1 syllable
3= 3 syllables
4= 2 syllables
5 = syllables
So you got everything? Great! Okay, now that you know syllables, let us discuss
STRESS a little deeper
Look at father as a word. To pronounce the 2 syllable word, one of the two syllables
must be pronounced louder than the other.
Look at the syllables:
fa-ther. Which syllable will therefore be pronounced louder than the other? Yes, fa
pronounced with the mill tone, sounding like faaa. The second syllable will be
pronounced Jow. with the “doouu” tone. So, to pronounce father correctly, it can be
written in two ways:
FA – ther (miii – do) make sure the ther sounds only faintly while the FA sounds very
9. Try it Ah ha! Yes, yes, you got it. Do it again. Great!!
A second way of writing out the pronunciation of father is by putting a small mark on top before the syllable that is “stressed”, and that is the dictionary way of teaching leamers
So, father in the dictionary is written for pronunciation purposes as
/transcribe/. The stroke (/) on top of f shows that, the first syllable should be pronounced louder than the second.
Now, how do you determine, at any time, where, on a word, you are to put the stress -mark? In other words, which syllable should you STRESS in a word. JAMB gives three words: capitalism, association and advertisement.
So which syllable is stressed (pronounced louder than the other syllables) in the word? The principles are the following
Law 1: WORDS ENDING IN “SM”
If a word ends in SM:
The formula is: STRESS + Ø + + Ø + SM
This means that, if there is a word ending in sm it is the FIRST Syllable the
must be stressed.
Look at the Ø Ø + (in the formula above)
They represent three syllables. You may have two, three, four, five sive
more syllables before sm. Each of the Ø is not stressed.
So, in other words, federalism will be pronounced as:
FE -de -ra – li -sm
| | | | |
STRESS + Ø Ø Ø +sm
Do you understand?
So, what is the answer to UME 2007 question 62? Whao! Great, “D” Happy
Try pronounce and stress the following, too
Fascism, nepotism, feudalism, socialism, nationalism, mannerism
communism, activism, tribalism, feminism, etc
Law 2: WORDS ENDING IN “IST”
Formula = STRESS + Ø + Ø + Ø+ ist
↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓
FEU da – – list
or feu – dalist = FEU – da – list
This means that words that end in ist are treated much the same way sm
word are treated: stressed on the first syllable.
Consider these, too industrialist, communist, nationalist, socialist, activist,
federalist and fascist. How are they stressed?
Law 3: Words with prefix and sm
If a word has a prefix, e.g. re before a word that ends in sm, the formula
prefix + STRESS + Ø
prefix + STRESS + Ø + Ø + Ø + sm
Consider revivalism, post communism, anti rheumatism.
Law 4: Words with prefix and ist
If a word has a prefix, e.g. re or ante or anti or pro or pan etc before a word
that ends in ist, the formula is:
prefix + STRESS + O + Ø + Ø + ist
Law 5: Reflexive Pronouns
All reflexive pronouns end in self or selves and these are the syllables to
stress in words such as:
ThemSELVES, MYSELF yourSELF / yourSELVES, herSELF, himSELF,
Law 6: Teen words
All words ending in teen are to be stress on the teen:
sixTEEN, nineTEEN, thirTEEN
Law 7: Try words
Numbers ending in ty are stressed on the syllable BEFORE ty:
Law 8: Words with ion ending
Mostly, nouns end in ion. Where does the stress fall in accommodation, for
example? The law in formula is:
0 ++0 + STRESS + ion. This means that it is the syllable BEFORE
ion that must be stressed. So, accommodation is written as
ac com mo – DA -tion.
Other ion words are communication, negotiation decision, complexion
transportation and realisation. Can you try pronounce each, right?
Law 9: Words with ic ending
The law in formula is:
Ø + Ø + 0 + stress + ic
This means that, like words ending in ion (above), it is the syllable BEFORE
ic that must be stressed, e.g republic, photographic
re PUB lic, pho -to GRA phic
Others are, fantastic, specific pathetic, dramatic, nationalistic, economic
Law 10: Words with ics ending
As with law 9, a word ending in ics will be stressed on the syllable before the ics
=Ø+ + 0 + stress + ics.
Words that obey this law include:
Economics, semantics, Mathematics, Civics, mechanics, linguistics
Law 11: Words with ial or ian endings
The formula is:
Ø + Ø+ Ø+ stress + ian/ial,
The stressed syllable is the one BEFORE ian or ial, as in:
= po – li TI – cian, com – MER – cial
Other words in this category include:
Civilian, industrial, authoritarian, Mathematician, official, palatial al
an official, palatial, electrician,
Law 12: Words with lent ending
Mostly adjectives use the ient suffix.
Appropriate stressing is as follows:
Ø Ø Ø + stress + ient
e.g. Recipient, efficient = reCipient, eFFIcient
Other words like the above are convenient, deficient, proficient.
Law 13: Words with um or ium ending
The formula for syllable stressing here is:
Ø + Ø + Ø + stress + um / ium, e.g: equilibrium, ultimatum = equi –LI -brium, ul – ti – MA – tum. Other such words include: presidium, symposium,
addendum, corrigendum, compendium, memorandum, pandemonium.
Law 14: Words ending in ious or ual or uous or eous
Formula = Ø + + Ø + stress + [ious] e.g unusual = un- U-sual [eous] continuous = con- TI – nuous [uous] extraneous = ex -TRA -neous [ual] industrious = in -DUS -trious
Law 15: Words with ical or al ending
Adjectives are the most likely words ending in these ways (sum
Formula: Ø + stress + Ø +
e.g: mechanical = me-CHA-ni-cal
fanatical = fa – NA-ti-cal
directional = di – REC – tion al
Ø + stress + Ø
Other words are: political, inaugural, identical, mathematical, departmental
Law 16: Words ending In (i)ble
Adjectives are the most likely class of words ending in ible or ble. Stress the third syllables to the end
Formula: 0 + stress + Ø + ————-
im- POS – si – ble
Ø + stress + Ø Ø
Other words in this category include: compatible, illegible, admissible,
Law: 17 Words with sis ending
Nouns are more likely to end in sis than any other word class. Stress the
third syllable to the end
Formula = Ø + stress + Ø + sis e.g.
osmosis = OSmosis (third syllable to end, stressed)
paralysis = paRAlysis
Other words in this category are:
hypothesis, analysis, photosynthesis, synthesis, parenthesis, elephantiasis.
Law 18: Words with ity ending
The suffix ity is used mostly for nouns. Words that end in ity are stressed on
the third syllable to the end of the word
Formula = Ø stress + Ø + -ity, e.g.
heredity = he – RE – di – ty
Ø + stress + Ø + ty
Others in this category are:
plurality. paternity, morality, activity, quality, community, impossibility
Okay, now, pronounce impossibility with the appropriately stressed syllable.
Nol Ah, why? Take it again: Yes!: im pos si BI – li – ty
Law 19: Words with ship ending
Some nouns end in ship
Such words are stressed on the third syllable to the end.
Formula = 2+ stress + Ø + ship, e.g.
dic – TA tor – ship (third syllable to the end, stressed)
Other words in this category include:
fellowship, relationship, partnership, etc.
Law 20: Words with ise or ize ending
Verbs sometimes end in ise (British English) or ize (American English)
Remember, British English is regarded as the standard English, the world