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Accent and intonation

Dutch is a language with word stress. This means that one of the syllables of a word is perceived as the most prominent one. For instance, in the word vader [ˈvaː.dər] father, the first syllable is the prominent one, and can be accented. The rules for the location of stress on one of the syllables of a word are called word stress rules. In the word vader the location of stress is predictable because a syllable with a schwa can never carry stress.

The syllable of a word with main stress is the potential locus of a sentence stress (also called accent). The location of sentence accents is determined by semantic and pragmatic factors. For instance, in the sentence Jan is in de kamer Jan is in the room we will put accent on the word Jan if the new information is that it is Jan who is in the room, and on the word kamer if the new information is that the location of Jan is the room. In addition to this pragmatic effect, there is a set of principles for the location of accent in a sentence.

When a word is accented in a sentence, this prominence is manifested by a number of phonetic properties of stress, such as length and intensity, that make an accent perceivable.

Each sentence has an intonation contour, and the stressed syllables of accented words form anchor points in the intonation of a sentence, because there are pitch movements on these accented syllables. So there is a strong relationship between sentence accent and intonation.

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