Deaccentuation of words representing 'given' information : effects of persistence of grammatical function and surface position

J.M.B. Terken, J. Hirschberg

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    79 Citations (Scopus)
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    Abstract

    The absence of intonational prominence on a referring expression (deaccentuation) is commonly explained as a consequence of the GIVENness of the discourse entity referred to — the fact that it represents old information in the discourse. However, speakers sometimes use accented expressions to refer to such GIVEN entities, so that GIVENness is not a sufficient explanation for deaccentuation. It has also been suggested that speakers tend to express GIVEN entities as grammatical subjects and to mention them early in the utterance. The present work investigates the contributions of grammatical role and surface position to the occurrence of deaccentuation in English. An experiment is reported in which speakers produced descriptions of visual materials, where the content of the materials was manipulated so that successive descriptions contained coreferential expressions, and grammatical role and surface position varied systematically. The results indicate that persistence of grammatical role and surface position from one utterance to the next both contribute to deaccentuation. Some implications for the way in which listeners may link referring expressions to entities which are already available from the context are discussed.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)125-145
    Number of pages21
    JournalLanguage and Speech
    Volume37
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1994

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