My dissertation work examined the question of how changes in word stress can be encoded in an alphabetic orthography.
Lexical stress which manifests acoustically as increased syllable duration (i.e., a ‘heavy’ syllable) is probabilistically associated with additional letters in the syllable over and above those needed to encode the phonemic in the syllable. Proficient readers are sensitive to these statistical relations and can rapidly this information to assign stress patterns to novel words. Many behaviors that appear rule-governed may be driven by implicitly learned statistical regularities, and this finding was an important early source of evidence for the statistical nature of orthography to phonology mappings at the level of word stress (suprasegmental level). This work has changed our understanding of the process of word reading and hence our thinking about how to best help children with reading disorders.
Kelly, M. H., Morris, J. A., & Verrekia, L. H. (1998). Orthographic cues to lexical stress: Effects on naming and lexical decision. Journal of Memory and Cognition, Vol 26(4), Jul 1998. pp. 822-832.