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Accent in Context

The ontological status and communicative effects of utterance accent in English

Siobhan Chapman

This study explores the viability and consequences of an account of utterance accent in English as being entirely independent of the syntactic properties of sentences. Accent is defined as a physical property of individual utterances, determined by the distinction between given and new information in context. Such an account is shown to be consistent with the acoustic nature of accent, to explain its frequently noted 'highlighting' effect, and to distinguish it ontologically from the linguistic phenomenon of word stress. Most significantly, it is compatible with, and indeed necessitates, a clear distinction between the sentence and the utterance, a distinction which underlies any meaningful discussion of semantics and pragmatics. The implications of such an account are considered in relation to a number of topics, including reference assignment, the nature of presupposition, truth-conditionality and the distinction between explicit and implicit meaning.
Contents: Utterance accent - Semantics and Pragmatics - Linguistic Theory - Spoken English - Focus - Reference - Presupposition - Explicit and implicit meaning - Truth-conditionality - Metalinguistic negation.