Contrastive accentuation

In apparent contradiction to what has been claimed so far stands the next exception to the LLI rule, which is based on the following principle: every word of every type whatsoever, even the most insignificant functional element, can bear the nucleus in English for contrastive purposes. This normally occurs in a sentences with narrow focus. Part of it is already known, the contrasted word –no matter its type, lexical of functional- is made the nucleus of the IP and the rest becomes the tail.

As Estebas (2009) points out this is a particularly difficult area for Spanish speakers. The reason is that, in order to stress contrast, Spanish usually relies on a syntactical reorganization of the sentence rather than contrastive intonation. So Spanish speakers of English tend to do away with a number of contrasts native speakers certainly expect. The result is that native speakers often find those utterances awkward, many times without knowing exactly why. The practice of contrastive intonation, therefore, should be strongly encouraged in the English classroom, especially when students are doing conversation.

Let’s now have a look at a few examples where the LLI rule is violated for contrastive purposes. As stated before, this can affect any kind of word.


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