Toward an accommodation account of deaccenting under nonidentity

Jeffrey Geiger, Ming Xiang


Two competing models attempt to explain the deaccentuation of antecedent-nonidentical discourse-inferable material (e.g., Bach wrote many pieces for viola. He must have LOVED string instruments). One uses a single grammatical constraint to license deaccenting for identical and nonidentical material. The second licenses deaccenting grammatically only for identical constituents, whereas deaccented nonidentical material requires accommodation of an alternative antecedent. In three experiments, we tested listeners’ preferences for accentuation or deaccentuation on nonidentical inferable material in out-of-the-blue contexts, supportive discourse contexts, and in the presence of the presupposition trigger too. The results indicate that listeners by default prefer for inferable material to be accented, but that this preference can be mitigated or even reversed with the help of manipulations in the broader discourse context. By contrast, listeners reliably preferred for repeated material to be deaccented. We argue that these results are more compatible with the accommodation model of deaccenting licensing, which allows for differential licensing of deaccentuation on inferable versus repeated constituents and provides a principled account of the sensitivity of accentuation preferences on inferable material to broader contextual manipulations.


deaccenting; prosody; information structure; givenness; inference; identity; accommodation; entailment

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Copyright (c) 2021 Jeffrey Geiger, Ming Xiang

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