Contrastive stress in English : meaning, expectations and ostension

Scott, Kate (2021) Contrastive stress in English : meaning, expectations and ostension. In: Ifantidou, Elly , de Saussure, Louis and Wharton, Tim, (eds.) Beyond meaning. Amsterdam, Netherlands : John Benjamins. pp. 29-41. (Pragmatics & Beyond New Series, (324)) ISBN 9789027209269


In this chapter I consider where contrastive stress fits within the relevance-theoretic model of utterance interpretation. In particular, I focus on contrastive stress as a cue to ostension which layers on top of the ostensive act of producing an utterance and which guides inferential processes. Stress patterns, however, only act as a cue to ostension when they are unexpected. It is the disconfirmation of expectations that puts the hearer to more effort and prompts the search for extra interpretive effects. The discussions in this chapter build on existing work on both prosody and pragmatics and the conclusions drawn have implications for our understanding of inferential processes, procedural meaning, and ostensive communication more generally.

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