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I am lucky to find the phonetic structure of Esperanto extremely close to home, but a stress in the middle of a word has always been alien to me. (I am inclined to read everything I see with a stress on the first syllable and only expressed through loudness (no change in pitch or length or articulation), even in English I sometimes have to actively think of not doing so.) I also have some trouble detecting it in others' speech, unless it's really accented. I have not yet had a chance to have my Esperanta pronunciation assessed by anyone and I am afraid that I may develop some bad habits by not paying enough attention to it in the early stages.

In some recordings I have heard (throughout my course on Duolingo and randomly scattered on Youtube) I couldn't really say the people would put very significant stress on the penultimate syllable, but that may just be a result of my indisposition. When I try to read aloud and force myself to put stress on the penultimate syllable it feels somewhat strange (and I would say the same sentences actually sounds different from what I heard in those recordings).

My question is, may other people's understanding of my Esperanto be impaired if I don't do the stress right? Can it make hard for them to e.g. detect word boundaries? Or is it not so enforced after all?

  • You're questions are really diverse, great! I find the stress rather difficult too. I believe the right "flow" comes to everyone in time. As long as you regularily listen to spoken Esperanto, I don't think there is a risk to get stuck in bad habbits. Of course, listening to recordings and repeating(or at least trying) is great practice! – Antonia Montaro Nov 14 '16 at 22:18
  • @AntoniaMontaro I'm just very curious :-) And I also promised myself to bump the questions per day count for greater good (even if ever so slightly) :-D – La Vo-o Nov 14 '16 at 22:30
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It is important and you should not neglect it, if only because your audience is diverse, and while some will be able to ignore the stress, others will get distracted by it. However, there's little danger of real misunderstanding, perhaps with compound words one would parse the beginning as a separate two-syllable word for instance vivokazaĵo as vivo kazaĵo, or even worse, plejefika ...

Edit: this all assuming that you tend to you always stress the first syllable. French speakers tend to do the opposite and stress the last one.

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  • Sorry, what is plejefika and its alternative? – La Vo-o Nov 15 '16 at 10:53
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    "plejefika" is "most efficient". "pleje fika" means something else – 2_K_ Nov 15 '16 at 11:35
  • Ha! :-) But... how are they different in pronunciation even if I do follow the primary stress on the penultimate and secondary on the first? These rules tell me to stress fi and plej in both cases! – La Vo-o Nov 15 '16 at 11:38
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    With "standard" stress you would put the stress only on "fi". I would hear "ple" and "je" in a normal tone, and wait for a stresses syllable to begin parsing the end of the word. But if you stress "ple", my brain would tell me "one more syllable and this word will end", and "pleje" is a normal Esperanto word which has the stress indeed on "ple", so I stop parsing the word right there. Then follows a "fika" with no stress at all, which could still be parsed as a separate word. To avoid misunderstandings: "plejefika" is a single (compund) word, and should have only one stressed syllable. – 2_K_ Nov 15 '16 at 12:45
  • For example, if you pronounce both “bone” and “bonege” with stress on “bo”, I would hear the second one as “bone ge” (and then I would be waiting for a word that begins with “ge”). – marcus Nov 16 '16 at 19:23
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In Esperanto, as in other languages, there is a way of speaking that doesn't draw attention to itself and therefore allows attention to remain on what is being said, not on how it is being said. Putting the accent on the right syllable is part of this.

I find the stress in Esperanto quite natural. (There are plenty of examples of me speaking on YouTube - and other model speakers I could link to.) As you have pointed out, stress usually means increasing pitch, duration, and volume - but sometimes these habits will vary with a speaker's native language. If you'll pardon the expression, it's nothing to stress out about. If you listen, it should come to you.

I listened to a training tape years ago about putting correct stress in Latin. (Where stress doesn't not include all three elements.) The first steps felt very unnatural. There's nothing wrong with exaggerating when you're practicing at home. Ultimately, it should sound and feel natural, but practice doesn't have to feel natural - and it won't if you're trying to change your natural habits.

I recall that I initially mislearned the stress on words like apud and hipopotamo. That sort of thing happens. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't try anyway.

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  • I mislearned apud too. Is this a real trend or just coincidence? – 2_K_ Nov 15 '16 at 10:36
  • @2_K_ I think a leading "a-" is just too often unstressed in English. Think "anew", "aside", "ago", or compounds like "agnostic". To my best knowledge in other languages also "j'adore" or "arriba". – La Vo-o Nov 15 '16 at 10:51
  • Another possible reason is that words ending in D are rare, so apud (“ápud”) kind of looks like apud' (with vowel elision, making “apúd”)... – marcus Nov 16 '16 at 19:19
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Many times in Esperanto, two nouns are joined together to create a new word. The stress is important in such cases. Example: Lignoglavo

If you listen to beginner Esperanto speakers from around the world, their accents sound funny and make it hard to understand.

The stress is always at the second to the last vowel. http://lernu.net/en/gramatiko/skribo

The stress (“accent”) always falls on the second-to-the-last syllable... http://pages.ucsd.edu/~dkjordan/resources/PronouncingEsperanto.html

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The stress is important and never changes location so it's not very hard. Although not as important as it can be in other languages when changing the stress changes the word, it doesn't sound right. Consider how weird this sounds: I brought the recórd. Recórd is a verb and récord is a noun. Makes a big difference. That doesn't happen in EO but it still sounds weird. People have problems sometimes when adding a suffix last second after starting to say a word because it changes the location. If I started to say staki and then realized I mean to say stakigi it comes out stákigi. Not a big deal.

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