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Stress pattern in the word ‘totalitarian’

It occurred to me last evening that I pronounce the word ‘totalitarian’ with a major stress on all three [t] sounds. It seems as well that any people I have heard use the word say it that way.

I cannot think of any other English word that has triple major stress. Even double major stress is rare - I can’t think of an example just offhand.

Are there other words in English that have triple major stress?

  • April 9, 2004
  • Posted by henryix
  • Filed in Misc

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I can't think what three syllables you are major stressing. I minor stress the second (tal) and major stress the fourth (tar). I do so even when the word is lengthened into "totalitarianism." Under no circumstances do I consider the first syllable (to) even a minor stress.

Examples of double stresses are "hot dog" and "groundswell." Note that they are both compounds. I'm sure there are words in English that have triple major stress, but they are probably incredibly long compounds.

If you hyphenate any given two words that each have double major stress, I suppose you technically have a word with quadruple major stress. But that's really, really pushing it.

speedwell2 April 12, 2004, 12:06pm

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I stress the three "t" syllables - "to," "tal," and "tar," and the same stress pattern holds for "totalitarianism."

As to "hot dog" and "groundswell" , I stress the first syllable only in both words (unless, of course, I am assenting to a proposed exciting activity; then, I might say, "Hot Dog!", stressing both syllables.)

Is this, then, a regional pronounciation? I live in Northern New Jersey.

henryix April 12, 2004, 12:33pm

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That web site may clear things up. I notice, for example, that there's a difference between stress and intensity.

I lived in Tinton Falls when I was in middle school! So I do know what you sound like. If you're typical of the speakers in the Northern NJ area, you have a certain choppy diction and stress pattern that comes across to others (particularly here in the South) as aggressive and forceful. When I moved to Georgia, everyone could tell instantly I was from NJ.

Had to run off for lunch with the girls at work, or I would have added to my previous post that stress patterns are extremely varied between and within populations. The best we can do for an "American" pronounciation is to average things out and see what we come up with (it's closest to the pronuciation used by a representative portion of the Midwest).

speedwell2 April 12, 2004, 1:45pm

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I'd say "disingenuous" has pretty even stress on three syllables--DISinGEN-Uous.

Adam Rice April 13, 2004, 5:31pm

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How about the word like reconceptualization? Do you consider it as a three-major-stressed word?

goossun April 14, 2004, 9:57pm

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Reconceptualization? Perhaps... although I prnounce it as a two-major word ("re" and "za"), with a significant minor stress on "cep". In my everyday speech (and I'm a pretty representative speaker in the US), long words get sort of compressed and all but just a couple of the most important major stresses get lowered to minor stresses. if i was to pronounce the word in a formal setting, slowly, or when reading aloud, I might indeed use all three major stresses.

speedwell2 April 15, 2004, 8:38am

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