Indefinite pronouns

The accentuation of indefinite pronouns when they are in final position is a matter of some complexity. According to Ladd (1996) “English treats negative indefinites rather like other arguments, while it treats non-negative indefinites as similar to personal pronouns”. In Estebas’ words (2009), “indefinite pronouns are produced (1) with no accent if they are affirmative (someone, somebody, something, anyone, anybody and anything) and (2) with an accent if they appear in a negative form (no one, nobody, nothing). Estebas underlines the fact that, unlike English, Spanish stresses them when they appear at the end of the sentence, so they are likely to problematic for Spanish speakers. This difference is showed through a comparison between the two languages:

(199) sound_loud_speaker I’ve got to tell someone.

(200) Se lo tengo que decir a alguien.

In the following examples it can be seen how indefinite pronouns are routinely deaccented.

(201) sound_loud_speaker I think Coward didn’t feel anything (Steven Sondheim; New York, US).

(202) sound_loud_speaker I just adored it. It really means something to me (Peter Bradshaw; UK).

(203) sound_loud_speaker Uncle Toby misunderstands something (John Mullan; UK).


(204) Nobody likes anybody anymore. / Nobody cares about anybody or anything (..) / There’re no certainties anymore (..) / There’s no pleasure in anything… (Hugh Laurie; Oxford, England).


(205) He didn’t say you had anything / He just doesn’t like the spot on your x-ray, that’s all / It doesn’t mean you had anything. / Don’t jump to conclusions (Woody Allen; New York, US).


(206) For God’s sake, Frasier, you’re forty-one years old. It’s time you learned something (John Mahoney; Blackpool, Lancashire, UK).


(207) When some guy grabs your parking space, you don’t just sit there, you say something (John Mahoney; Blackpool, Lancashire, UK).


(208) I had to say something (David Morse; Beverly, Massachusetts).


However, emphatic accentuation of indefinite pronouns seems to be not at all uncommon, so it must be considered too.

(209) sound_loud_speaker You’re never sure about anything again. / You never trust anything again (Colm Toibin; Enniscorthy, Ireland).


(210) I’d recognize him anywhere (David Hyde Pierce; New York, US).


(211) We don’t really know anyone (Dennis Price; Berkshire, UK).


Much less clear seems to be the accentual pattern of indefinite pronouns beginning with every, of which rather oddly no examples are provided in any of the books consulted for this work. Moreover, Wells’ explanation of the matter is slightly ambiguous. I will reproduce it literally: “The same [the deaccentuation] applies to the indefinite pronouns someone, somebody, something, anyone, anybody, anything”. Nothing is said about everybody, everything, everywhere, etc., and the wording of the sentence, given the use of the definite article, certainly implies that they are left out of the list. This, on the other hand, would contradict Ladd’s assertion, who speaks about “non-negative indefinite pronouns” in general. So it might be the case that there is a grey area around the subject.

The natural occurring utterances collected here suggest that both patterns, that is, either the accentuation or deaccentuation of indefinite pronouns beginning with -every, can be considered unmarked options. (212) and (213), for example, are clear instances of the two possibilities, but neither seem to be particularly emphatic or marked.

(212) sound_loud_speaker It’s an obsession that kind of drives everybody (Keira Knightley; Islington, UK).

(213) sound_loud_speaker day after day, and seeing everything, / and taking it all in (Melvyn Bragg; Carlisle, Cumbria, UK).


(214) There is a time and place for everything (Groucho Marx; New York, US).


(215) That explains everything (Donald McBride; Brooklyn, New York US).


(216) He found it at the park and he carries it everywhere (John Mahoney; Blackpool, Lancashire, UK).


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