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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: June 2012

7 - Phonological issues in sentence stress


Evidence of the kind discussed in chapter 6, in my opinion, makes any universal highlighting view of sentence stress untenable. However, there are obvious theoretical vulnerabilities in the FTA theory as well, which is one of the reasons that broad focus lives on as a topic of empirical study and theoretical discord. Some of these problems are essentially phonological, and revolve around the fact that we used the same notation five FRANCS to indicate both broad focus and narrow focus on francs. This notational practice implies two claims about sentence stress that require justification. First, it implies that some sentence stress patterns are ambiguous between different focus interpretations; second, it implies that a phrase or utterance must contain a single most prominent (primary) accent. These specific topics, and their broader implications for the phonology of sentence stress, are the subject of this chapter.

Phonological problems with the Focus-to-Accent view

Is the broad focus pattern really ambiguous?

In this section we scrutinise the claim that the broad focus sentence stress pattern five FRANCS can be identified with one of the narrow focus patterns, and that the pattern notated this way is therefore potentially ambiguous. If broad focus and narrow focus readings can always be distinguished, then broad focus (or focus projection) presents no fundamental difficulty for the highlighting view; it requires only a more elaborate account of the broad focus pattern as a whole.