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I am having issues knowing the stressed (tonic) syllable, especially when a noun or adjective is pluralized. I am not sure if I should be treating endings like -oj and -aj as separate sounds or as diphthongs (the words malgrandaj and hundoj for instance.

Is malgrandaj pronounced /mal-gran-DA-y/ (with a Spanish sounding -a) or is it pronounced /mal-GRAND-aye/? Similarly, /HUN-doy/ or /hun-DOI-y/. The issue for me is knowing to treat it as a diphthong or not. Please help!!

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    I think that this topic is treated in the first lessons of virtually every Esperanto course. Anyhow, it would make no difference whether -Vj- were two phonemes or one (a diphthong): In both cases they form one syllable, so the stress according to the rule is on the syllable before word-final -aj and -oj (and -aŭ: báldaŭ). – Cyril Robert Brosch Oct 29 '17 at 19:37
  • It might be, but I m sure people wouldn't ask if they weren't having trouble with it. – AdamS Oct 30 '17 at 16:35
  • There is, of course, no such thing as a dumb question, but if you're having trouble with a question like this after working through a basic course, it's possible you haven't found a good basic course to work through. If you need help finding a good course, please ask. – Tomaso Alexander Nov 4 '17 at 22:45
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The whole point of J and Ŭ in Esperanto is to make it very clear whether it's one syllable or two. The vowels are just A, E, I, O, U; the second-to-last is stressed (marked with ´ in the examples below):

  • malgrándaj húndoj
  • balái (ba-lá-i, a verb), bálaj (bá-laj, an adjective) — That's why we use J for plurals and not I.
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JC Wells in his Esperanto Dictionary states that the aj "represents a plus a short i-sound; it is like English y in my".

Others:

  • ej as in play
  • oj as in boy
  • as in cow

There is no English equivalent of uj, he gives ruinous as a close approximation.

So, to answer your question: they are diphthongs, rather than separate sounds.

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Yes, you should treat it as a single syllable. The stress always falls on the second-to-last syllable. So malgranda and malgrandaj both have three syllables and so in both cases the stressed syllable should be the gran. Ie, /mal-GRAND-aye/.

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