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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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Discussion Details

Title: Word Stress—Existence at Stake?
Submitter: Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay
Description: Traditionally, in Phonetics as well as in Linguistics, stress of words is
to be attested before going to analyze sentential intonation. What is
"word" really, especially in this type of pre-lexical studies? Is it not
mere truism that the "word" is a culture-specific concept, which has only
visual representation? There is no such representation in the game of
speaking. A literate speaking subject, in his/her printing culture, has
only a visual sensation of word. If word is to be defined as a something
(visual black or any other colored figure) in between two (white or any
other colors) spaces (grounds), the boundaries of word depend on the
particular literate community’s way of manipulating blank (or, one may call
it as "other" spaces) spaces in their printing/writing. The
boundaries/spaces as defined by traditional morphology, do not exist when a
speaking subject is engaged in a discourse. At that moment of speaking,
from the subject’s position, it is not word -stress, but it is rather a
harmonic intonation of a discourse, which s/he is expressing as a continuum
without ontologically being conscious about the grammarians’ order of
things (different levels of language, viz. phoneme, morpheme, word, phrase,
sentence…). As word does not exist, the word-stress is also an absentee at
the moment of speaking. The memory of these blank spaces may also influence
the way of speaking of a literate speaker. It is meaningless to account
stress by isolating a ‘word’( which is actually a citation form as it is
lemmatized in the dictionary produced by the print capitalism) from the
speech continuum. Thus, the typological differences (as designated in the
order Polysynthetic, Synthetic, Agglutinating and Analytic languages) of
languages on the basis of word-morpheme ratio hold no water at all if we do
not consider the literate culture-specificity of something called word.

What do you think about this problem? How do you consider tonal languages,
if the above statement is to be considered as "true"?
Date Posted: 12-Jul-2006
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
LL Issue: 17.2042
Posted: 12-Jul-2006

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