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Stress and prominence in the speech of Malay speakers of English

Mat Nayan, N. and Setter, J. ORCID: (2019) Stress and prominence in the speech of Malay speakers of English. In: Yap, N. T. and Setter, J. ORCID: (eds.) Speech Research in a Malaysian Context. Universiti Putra Malaysia Press, Malaysia, pp. 78-98. ISBN 9789672395256

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This chapter discusses the notion of stress and prominence in World Englishes, with a focus on Malay English (ME), a sub-variety of Malaysian English (MalE), and is based on a larger study (Mat Nayan, 2012) which examined the prosodic features of Malay Speakers of English (MSEs). In this chapter, three inter-related aspects of stress and prominence are discussed: (i) the fluidity of the tonic syllable (i.e., the main stressed syllable in a tone unit); (ii) the shift of the tonic syllable towards the final syllable in a tone unit; and (iii) the difficulty in identifying the tonic syllable using paradigms for other varieties of English. The motivation for this research is to consider the role of stress and prominence in intelligibility in World Englishes. Based on the findings, what can be seen in the MSE data is that the notion of stress in ME is different to that of Standard Southern British English (SSBE). In comparison to other Asian Englishes in the region, ME does share similar features, such as the shift towards the final syllable, but it also has more distinct features such as the fluidity of the tonic syllable. This implies that stress and prominence in ME may lead to difficulties in intelligibility for some speakers of English, but not necessarily for those using varieties spoken in the region. While some studies have suggested that the prosodic features of ME could be an influence from L1, i.e., the Malay language as it is spoken in Malaysia, more substantial and robust studies need to be conducted to prove this. What can be said though is that the notion of stress and prominence is an ambiguous and complex area that needs further investigation.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM)
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Language and Applied Linguistics
ID Code:92092
Publisher:Universiti Putra Malaysia Press

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