An Essay on Stress presents a universal theory for the characterization of the stress patterns of words and phrases encountered in the languages of the world. The heart of the theory is constituted by the formal mechanism for characterizing action at a distance , which is a special case of the formalism needed for the construction of constituent structure.Morris Halle is Institute Professor at MIT. Jean-Roger Vergnaud is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Maryland and Senior Researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and the Centre d'Etudes et de Recherche en Informatique Linguistique in France.