Do you think about how well you say words? Do you believe that how you say words affect what they mean?
Discover what went wrong in this situation.
A kindergarten class presented a play entitled “The Archer and the Bird.” At the end of the presentation, the teacher told the kids to go back to the stage and say goodbye to the audience. She explained how she would call the performers and what they should do without bringing their props.
Soon, the bird heard her name. “What will I do?”
“Take a bow on the stage,” a kid said.
The bird walked with the archer’s bow and arrow to the teacher’s dismay and everyone’s amusement.
Do you know what went wrong?
The teacher told the kids to take a bow, transcribed as baw in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). They should bend their heads to perform the farewell curtsy. A kid told the bird to take a bow, transcribed as bo in the IPA. The bird thought she had to bring what the archer used with an arrow.
The English language contains homographs that challenge listeners and readers. These are words with similar spelling but different sound and meaning.
Difference in meaning is a result not only of vowel change but also of emphasis or stress in syllables or words.
Take the word convert as an example. Stress on the first syllable con makes the word a noun or name for a person who has undergone change. One may be a convert in a new religion. Stress on the second syllable vert makes the word a verb or an action word that refers to change. One may convert fraction to decimal.
Homographs like the above include conduct, conflict, desert, insult, present, progress, record, and subject. Syllable stress is crucial in the clarification of their meaning.
Homographs that emphasize syllable stress are not the only challenges. Examine the expressions hotdog and hot dog. Word stress is important to establish their distinction. Primary stress on the first word makes the combination a noun referring to what people eat. Primary stress on the second word makes the combination a phrase referring to an overheated dog. Most of the time, people eat hot dog instead of hotdog.
The lesson emphasizes how change in sound could change meaning. It reminds speakers who may forget and learners who need to remember.