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It's Been Said Before

By Orin Hargraves

It's Been Said Before "examines why certain phrases become clichés and why they should be avoided -- or why they still have life left in them."

New from Cambridge University Press!


Sounds Fascinating

By J. C. Wells

How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.

Academic Paper

Title: Informativeness Is A Determinant of Compound Stress in English
Linguistic Field: Phonology
Subject Language: English
Abstract: There have been claims in the literature that the variability of compound stress assignment in English can be explained with reference to the informativeness of the constituents (e.g. Bolinger 1972, Ladd 1984). Until now, however, large-scale empirical evidence for this idea has been lacking. This paper addresses this deficit by investigating a large number of compounds taken from the British National Corpus. It is the first study of compound stress variability in English to show that measures of informativeness (the morphological family sizes of the constituents and the constituents' degree of semantic specificity) are indeed highly predictive of prominence placement. Using these variables as predictors, in conjunction with other factors believed to be relevant (see Plag et al. 2008), we build a probabilistic model that can successfully assign prominence to a given construction. Our finding, that the more informative constituent of a compound tends to be most prominent, fits with the general propensity of speakers to accentuate important information, and can therefore be interpreted as evidence for an accentual theory of compound stress.


This article appears IN Journal of Linguistics Vol. 48, Issue 3.

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