Don`t look at me in that tone of voice: discourse accent and linguistic

John Partridge, SECL German
Don’t look at me in that tone
of voice
discourse accent and linguistic
Some quotes
“There’s nothing like quality – and this is
nothing like quality.” (anon., but
unfortunately true)
“You really speak a most excellent accent
without the slightest English” (George
Mikes: How to be a Brit.
Stress & Accent 1
What is stress?
The varying degree of emphasis placed on
particular syllables in a word: essentially
invariable, except in word-play.
He didn’t frustrate the cat: he castrated it.
Cricket: ‘Catch it! vs ‘cat ‘shit
Mechanics: ‘Ratchet vs ‘rat ‘shit
Stress: examples
into’nation: undisputed stress pattern
No agreed orthodoxy - source of bitter
However - no meaning shift
Stress and Accent 2
What is accent?
Emphasis placed on a particular word or
expression used in an utterance. The word
or expression retains its stress pattern.
What does it do?
It focuses attention on that particular part
of the utterance
Ambiguities and meaning shift
sleeping ‘partner vs ‘sleeping partner
Taliban ‘fighters – vs ‘Taliban fighters
Accent again
How do we recognise it?
There is no particular and exclusive form,
but we seem to perceive it intuitively:
Pitch change
Information, Intonation and
Contrastive Stress
Concept of Head of Phrase: given
material, no particularly obtrusive
New material may be markedly accented
to focus on a particular element
Contrastive stress: contrast with what?
Not necessarily binary: me versus the rest
Misplaced accent?
‘royal editor vs royal ‘editor
the ‘village pump vs the village ‘pump
(German/American accentuation?)
It’s really the rich European ‘clubs which
will benefit (Today Programme, BBC Radio
4, 5/10/06, reporting on the drain of talent
from Brazilian football clubs)
She sits there … in her ‘matching suit
Life as a ‘city clerk
A classic of focusing and
“Tony called Harriet a Socialist, and then
she insulted him” (original template
attributed to George Lakoff, instigating the
Generative Semantics debate)
cf. “Tony called Harriet a Socialist, and
then she insulted him”
The role of context in discourse focussing
and grammatical process
Is focusing only done by accent?
J.L. Austin (1962) How to do Things with
Words identifies illocutionary acts which
make explicit and focus on the speaker’s
intention (leads to the Performative
I promise to buy you a bunch of red
Accent and Words 1
English conveys much discourse meaning
by tone of voice, but
It is often difficult to identify intonation in
written text
Where did you get that hat ?
I do like to be beside the seaside
Spot the difference?
Accent and Words 2
German uses modal particles to convey much
discourse meaning:
Following Moulton(1962) The particle doch is
used to focus on the following word and indicate
a yah-boo attitude to a previous speaker’s
Er ist doch gekommen.
Well, he came (he was a waste of space once
he got here, but at least he was there)
Chickens and Eggs 1
Claim by Bolinger, Chapman, Blakemore et al:
accent is non-linguistic, and overlaid on a preexistent sequence of words, i.e. paralinguistic.
Does para- = non-?
English makes extensive use of intonation to
German appears to use modal particles to focus.
Does English lack words and German tone of
What came first?
Chickens and Eggs 2
I do like to be beside the seaside
??? I do like to be beside the seaside
Relative clauses in English: Restrictive and nonrestrictive
The deputy Prime Minister who expressed a passion for
melons was on the skids.
Restrictive: Which one?
The deputy Prime Minister, who expressed a passion for
melons, was on the skids. (Rising intonation before
Non-restrictive: So what? He likes eggs on his suit too.
Hühner und Eier 1
German modal particles
Er ist doch gekommen.
At least he came (which is more than anyone else did)
Er ist doch gekommen.
He really did come. (So there!)
Er ist doch gekommen.
He did come after all (despite the doubt he wouldn’t).
Er ist doch gekommen.
Well, he came. (He was a waste of space once he got
here, but at least he was there.)
Acccentuation effects meaning change in particle
Hühner und Eier 2
German relative clauses
No formal distinction between restrictive and non-restrictive
Mit dem Vizekanzler, der sich besonders für Melonen interessierte,
ging es steil abwärts.
No change in intonation contour, commas obligatory.
No differentiation in meaning – has to be done with different
determiner, possibly with accentuated gender/case prefix;
Mit demjenigen Vizekanzler, der sich besonders für Melonen
interessierte, ging es steil abwärts.
Non-restrictive: No change in intonation contour (but maybe
pauses), commas obligatory.
Chicken omelette
Both English and German use words and accent to
focus, but to varying degrees. However, not
complementary distribution
English emphatic do is unacceptable if not accented,
therefore must be inserted into sentence so that it can be
German particles change meaning when accented, must
therefore be inserted with accent.
Relative clauses: English accentuation signifies different
meaning. German must insert accentuated particle to
make a distinction.
So what now?
Is accent accidental?
What triggers it?
Context – what is it?
Discourse history
Co-text – preceding dialogue and linguistic
Discourse intention of participants
“Mutual knowledge” of participants
“Shared knowledge” of participants
Use of accent: example types
Accent in Action 1
Also/ in addition, I’d like to stress that
Außerdem möchte ich betonen
Fourthly, ...
Und viertens …
Accent in Action 2
Modality (somewhat variable, doesn’t always
I must say that’s the giddy limit, old chap
?Ich muss sagen, das ist doch der Gipfel, mein
That can’t be right
Das kann nicht stimmen
I can promise you I’ll be there
?I can promise you I’ll be there
Accent in Action 3
That’s not right
Das stimmt nicht
We don’t do that
Das machen wir nicht
Accent in Action 4
We don’t do that
Das machen wir nicht
Accent in Action 5
He wasn’t lying on the bed: he was lying under the bed
Er lag nicht auf dem Bett, er lag unter dem Bett.
Prefixes (wordplay)
Als Franz-Josef umgebracht wurde, waren viele Leute
When Franz-Josef was killed, many people were
You thought this was going to be a popular lecture: we’ll,
it’s turning out to be pretty unpopular
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