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Academic Paper


Title: Informativeness Is A Determinant of Compound Stress in English
Author: Melanie J. Bell
Institution: Anglia Ruskin University
Author: Ingo Plag
Email: click here to access email
Homepage: http://www.phil-fak.uni-duesseldorf.de/anglistik3/plag/
Institution: Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf
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.

CUP at LINGUIST

This article appears in Journal of Linguistics Vol. 48, Issue 3, which you can read on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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