Teaching Tips

Concentrating on Function Words

  • Donna M. Brinton (Educational Consultant)


Prosodic features, including rhythm, stress, and intonation, are an essential part of teaching pronunciation as learners' command of these features is essential to both intelligibility and comprehensibility. This aspect of pronunciation often presents challenges to teachers of pronunciation since numerous factors play a role. With regard to stress, learners are often unaware of the rhythmic patterns of English with its regularly occurring alternating patterns of unstressed and stressed elements; further, they may be unaware of the negative impact that failing to stress or unstress given elements of speech has on their interlocutors. For pedagogical purposes, it is useful to distinguish content words (e.g., nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs) from function words (e.g., articles, conjunctions, prepositions, particles) and to note that the former are typically stressed whereas the latter are not. As learners may come from languages with quite different rhythmic patterns, focused practice in this aspect of English speech is essential. This teaching tip involves several game-like activities designed to heighten learner awareness of the stressed-unstressed rhythmic nature of English. Two interactive options are presented: Function Word Concentration and Swat the Content Word.

How to Cite:

Brinton, D. M., (2019) “Concentrating on Function Words”, Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching Proceedings 11(1).

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Published on
01 Jan 2020