More About Word Stress

Written on:March 27, 2012
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When a woman says she loves ирис, what should you bring her – a flower or a candy? Yet another reason to pay attention to word stress in Russian language.

The last post on word stress ended with a question “Why is word stress so important”. Stress is what creates ритм (rhythm) or мелодика (speech melody) of many literary works, particularly poetry. One of the pleasures of knowing Russian is being able to enjoy the works of its famous poets. And to do that, we need to speak with the proper stress.

But even if you are not into poetry, there are plenty of times when knowing which way stress falls will help avoid confusion. There are quite a few Russian words which change their meaning depending on where the stress is placed, such as :

Замок (castle) – замок (lock)

Атлас (atlas) – атлас (satin)

Засыпать (to fall asleep) – засыпать (to fill, to pour)

Полки (shelves) – полки (regiments)

Парить (to soar) – парить (to steam)

Хлопок (cotton ) – хлопок (a clap)

Пироги (pies) – пироги (pirogues)

Уже (already) – уже (narrower)

Стоящий (standing) – стоящий (worthwhile)

Писать (to write) – писать (to pee)

Ирис (iris) – ирис (butterscotch)

Козлы (he-goats) – козлы (saw horse)

Характерный (character as in character part) – характерный (characteristic of something)

On the other hand, there are words in which stress can be placed on two different syllables without any loss of meaning, including

Творогтворог both mean cottage cheese

Баржабаржа both mean a barge

Тортыторты either way they are cakes or torts

Щавельщавель mean sorrel

Колледжколледж is an education of higher learning, a college.

Маркетингмаркетинг is another borrowed word with double stress; both mean the same “marketing”

Звонитзвонит means “is calling”

Finally, there are words with double stress, meaning not one, but two vowels are stressed in a word at the same time. This is typical of compound nouns and words with certain prefixes, such as анти- , экс-, контр-, меж-, сверх- and some others:

Межнациональный (international)

Машиностроение (mechanical engineering industry)

Сверхскоростной (ultra-fast)

Контрреволюционный (counterrevolutionary)

Нефтепереработка (crude oil refining)

Пятидесятилетний (fifty-year)

Стовосьмидесятый (one hundred eightieth)

Стометровый (one hundred meter) and all other compound words with ordinal numbers in them.

Finally, remember the rule that буква ё всегда ударная (ё is always stressed)? Well, in most literature and news, you will not see ё, but instead е will be used. Looks like even when it comes to words with ё in them, you will still need to memorize the proper stress.


2 Comments add one

  1. SBa says:

    Are there any rules of thumb that can help you guess where the stress lies? Do Russian learners tend to develop a “feel” for where to stress words they haven’t heard before?

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