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Two views of accent

  • Dwight Bolinger (a1)

Extract

The debate over determinism and free choice in linguistics is not likely to be settled in this or the next century. All we can do is try to shed some light on the issue from time to time, and perhaps define areas that are best described deterministically, and others where freedom reigns, in majesty if not supreme. Nowhere has the debate been more lively than in descriptions of English stress and accent. The latest – to which this essay is a response (and which can be consulted for chronological developments – there is no need to repeat them here) is Gussenhoven (1983), ‘Focus, mode and the nucleus’. It is a forthright endorsement of a deterministic view, with the high merit of a rich assortment of examples – many attested and all perfectly idiomatic. The case that Gussenhoven builds is a solid one, and as it is directed in part against a view that I have espoused for a long time and still believe to be correct, it requires an answer.

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References

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