LINGUIST List 7.184

Mon Feb 5 1996

Disc: Emphasis

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. Lee Hartman, Emphasis
  2. "P.M. Shaw", Re: 7.166, Disc: Emphasis

Message 1: Emphasis

Date: Sun, 04 Feb 1996 07:30:18 CST
From: Lee Hartman <>
Subject: Emphasis
 Harold F. Schiffman's comment
has helped me to see the stressed-preposition phenomenon in terms
of theme and rheme in discourse. If the news story is *about* Jerusalem,
then diplomats will be going *to* Jerusalem, news will come *from*
Jerusalem, and H. Kissinger will be *in* Jerusalem. Jerusalem itself,
prosodically, can fade into the background as taken for granted.
But the various relationships *to* Jerusalem, expressed by prepositions,
are new each time and thus "deserving" of emphasis.
 Likewise in the "reduced" language of routine airline announcements:
for flight personnel, the seats, the aisle, the landing gate, etc. are so
frequently repeated (thematic) that they become prosodically part of the
background. *Of course* they're talking about your seat; what's interesting
is whether they tell you to put your things *on* the seat or *under* the seat.
 Of course I won't claim that this explains all instances; only that
it may
be what originally set the phenomenon in motion.
 Would you all like me to check with my colleague Bryan Crow
to see if he ventured any explanation in the brief paper he presented on
this topic several years ago? And -- is his study the only one documented
in the literature?
 On a perhaps tangential topic, but still dealing with stress on
words, I wonder if others have observed the same phenomenon that I have
in local radio weather reports. Announcers (whom I perceive as bored with
their job) vary their speech between loud and soft, and often the _soft_ phase
coincides with the _more significant_ information. Here is my hypothetical
example (not a verbatim quote):
 Tomorrow we'll have cloudy SKIES, with temperatures reaching a HIGH
of mumbly-six DEGREES. There will be mumbly-west WINDS at mumbly-gluff
miles per HOUR, with a relative humidity of mumbly-two PERCENT.

- ------------------------------------------------------------------
Lee Hartman
Dept. of Foreign Languages
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4521
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Message 2: Re: 7.166, Disc: Emphasis

Date: Mon, 05 Feb 1996 09:58:54 GMT
From: "P.M. Shaw" <>
Subject: Re: 7.166, Disc: Emphasis
I have assumed that stress on prepositions, non-contrastive conjunctions
etc, was a way of saying 'There is no new item in this sentence; all
information is predicatable or repeated' Thus: there were riots in UTOPIA
yesterday; Mike Smith (can't stress reporter's name) is IN Utopia (can't
stress given Utopia) for DTV (name of station given -- stress misleading).
I don't think misplaced stress in the first -straightforwardly
informational -- sentence is very likely.

Philip Shaw
The Language Centre, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle NE1 7RU
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