Saturday, 29 March 2014

short story stressed

credit: Harry Clarke

"The Tell-Tale Heart" is a short story by Edgar Allen Poe.

As you know, not each and every short story is a short story in the technical sense.

My question to you, dear follower who art an indigenous speaker of the English tongue, is this: What is the stress pattern of the term short story in my initial sentence?


  1. I’ll go first then.
    In your initial sentence:
    short STORY: both stressed, the noun story being stressed a little more strongly than the adjective short.
    Quite different from HOrror story, deTECtective story, etc.
    Say it as often as I can, I can’t make it any different, I think.

    1. Barry,
      How about the continuation of that initial sentence (I mean, the whole sequence "not each and every short story is a short story")?

    2. Emilio, John:
      Call me foolish, but I’ll have ago at that one too:
      In the second sentence, two possibilities:
      1. Both stressed as before: short STOry and short STOry
      2. First usage: two words evenly stressed (so-called citation stress on each word)
      Second usage: remains short STOry
      I do not think that First usage short story can be SHORT story. It seems unnatural, to my ear at any rate.

      I wonder what our blogger is driving at, though?

    3. Barry, All I want to know is where native speakers of English who are familiar with the technical term 'short story' (as exemplified by 'The Tell-Tale Heart') place the main/primary stress.

    4. Barry,
      You think like a Spaniard! I would have thought you'd say something like "not each and EVery short story (slight pause here) IS a short story". It's true that the two words in "short story" would remain evenly stressed, but they would act as an echo of their appearance in the first sentence, while your "vocal attention" would shift to EV- and then to IS –Now it's YOUR turn to call me foolish ;-)

  2. Going back to the title:

    short STORY

    (as already stated), but

    (SHORT story) STRESSED

    with STRESSED more prominent than SHORT

    1. Sorry, Sidney, I don't understand the second part of your deliberation (from your "but" onward).

    2. It's about the title, Petr: onset on "short", nucleus on "stressed".

    3. Aah! I see said the blind man - stress shift that is.

  3. Dictionaries are mostly rather unhelpful on such matters but an exception is the American Random House Dictionary which records the fact that at least a minority of American speakers have the tonic on the first element of the compound saying
    `short story rather than ˈshort `story. Perfectly logical. Compare `fairy story.

  4. Thanks, Jack, but what would YOU say?
    BTW: I found a video on youtube in which some American professor of literature places the primary stress on SHORT. This would corroborate what the Random House Dict. says.

  5. Reading between the lines of the above from JWL, one could reasonably conclude
    that short STOry is the majority way of stressing the phrase in GA and GB.

    If it is any help, this broadcast shows short story being enunciated 5 times:
    James Naughty, with a Scots accent, says the phrase at: 1.59.40; 2.18.48; 2.20.05; 2.20.45; 2.24.26
    Mark Nixon, with some variant of GB, says it at 2.20.34.

    All, I feel, say short STOry, and, though the difference in stress between the adjective and the noun is very slight, it is definite, it seems to me.

    Other examples of short + noun, one lexical item, stressed on second word (in GB)?
    I can only think of one: short CIRcuit. I can’t make up my mind about short cut: short CUT or SHORT cut? Perhaps someone else can help out!

  6. BC, ta for the link. I'm going to listen in as soon as possible.