A Supplementary Note on

 Accentual versus Animation Stresses

In this discussion, by accentuation (the accenting of words or syllables) is meant the placing of stress upon them (ie making them prominent) to purposely draw attention to them in order to indicate the importance of their meaningful (intellectual) content in the context in which they occur.
  1. It is important to take account of the fact that the English stress and intonation system may make a word or syllable prominent for more than one possible reason including often a desire to upgrade the animation of a piece of speech as an independent intention quite apart from any wish to accent a word. Failure to recognise the existence of such animation stresses may account for misinterpretations where a commentator complains that a "rule" of accentuation is being irrationally infringed.
  2. A notable example is to be seen in the way speakers very often prefer a form of a sentence in which stress is accorded most strongly to a word which may have minimal intellectual semantic content as when `Oh yes I ˏam is very often preferred to `Yes I ˏam or `Oh no it's ˏnot is preferred to `No it's ˏnot. In the versions beginning with Oh that word plainly is meaningless (has no intellectual content, only emotive value) but can be powerfully expressive in terms of emotion. From a purely intellectual point of view one might have expected accentuation of the yes or the no but the speaker completely denies it that treatment. In fact a version of such a sentence with an unstressed (prehead) value for the word Oh is fairly unusual. On the contrary it's not unusual for the speaker to "drawl" the oh giving it considerable extra length at the same time as fully wide pitch range. Above we see that the likely-to-be-crushing effect of eg `No. It's `not is being avoided by the use of the less conclusive, more conciliatory in its effect, low rising tone, with which the expression is ended.
  3. Animation stresses are particularly common on prepositions in expressions like `At ˏfirst, `Of ˎcourse, `To `ˏmy mind, `For the `ˏmoment in which the weakform of the preposition is at least as likely to be used as the strongform. Another example of the kind of thing that confirms one’s conviction that not all tones are accents is expressions like ˈI ˎknow, `I ˏsee and `You ˏknow. The O’Connor-&-Arnold notation ` ́You ˳know seemed very questionable. It seems very difficult to accept the suggestion that in any of these expressions the pronoun is being accented ie emphasised purposely for semantic effect, for the importance of its meaning.
  4. Closely akin to and probably usually not distinct in function from other animation stresses are the essentially non-accentual stresses which seem to be used by the speaker from motives of preference for certain rhythmic patterns such as stress alternation. For example in a very frequent kind of exchange such as  ˈHow `big must it be?It should be as ˈbig as ˎpossible surely the re-occurring big in the reply is more reasonably regarded as accorded a tone and thus made prominent from desire for animation and/or the satisfaction of an agreeeable rhythm than being anomalous in terms of the customary avoiding of the re-accenting of immediate re-occurrences. One alternative wd be avoiding a dispirited effect by raising the climax tone to a Fall with a long (low) prehead before it, but it’s well known that speakers prefer to avoid lengthy preheads. The other possibility of giving high pitch to some other word than on big in the pre-climax segment of the melodic unit would tend to produce an undesired impression of accenting the word selected for the purpose.