The “Pentametron” and pronunciation

The “Pentametron” and pronunciation

October 7, 2016 by Bloomsbury International

Accidental rhyme and rhythm

One of the many unusual contributors to the online Twitter community is the pentametron, an automated retweeter of others’ posts, found at
A seemingly random collection of rhyming one line tweets, which occasionally seem so bizarre that they will make you laugh out loud- for example,

“Tomorrow is already Wednesday, Geez!
But do her elbows really touch her knees?”

Or, by complete fluke, appropriate-

“I need a texting buddy during school
My business law professor is a tool”.

Aside from rhyme, try reading these lines out loud. Each has 10 syllables, and if a native or near native speaker reads these, every other syllable, starting from the second, will be stressed. For example,

“My BUSiness LAW proFESSor IS a TOOL”

Does the flow of these sentences sound quite natural? There might be a reason for that. In poetry, this is described as Iambic Pentameter, the form used by Shakespeare in his plays, and throughout English literature. This should explain the name of the twitter account, and the rather squashed looking face of that poet at the top of the page.

Rhythm and stress

rhythmIt is often said that the rhythm “De DUM de DUM de DUM de DUM de DUM”, where “de” is a weak syllable, and “DUM” the stressed syllable, is the most natural pattern for English pronunciation. This may not be completely true, as you practice English, you will notice that we often include two or three weak syllables between each stress, but poetry can be a key to unlock the English pronunciation system.

Any poetry with a clear rhythm, or meter, will help the learner to tune in to our habit of alternating strong and weak syllables, and practicing reading these out loud will be particularly useful for those whose first language is not stressed, like English.

The most important element of stress is that each stressed syllable is the same distance apart- this is a beat, and making it regular in any way will make your speech sound like music.

Ways to make stress fun
Poems, Shakespeare or not, are written to be fun to read. Try saying the lines from the Pentametron with clear stress on every second syllable. Many people, hearing poems read out loud, are reminded of rap music- this is not surprising, as rap is the same thing- regularized speaking patterns. Try finding the lyrics of a hip-hop track, and see what I mean!

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