It is generally assumed that noun-noun compounds in English are stressed on the left-hand member (e.g.cóurtroom wátchmaker). However, there is a large amount of variation in stress assignment (e.g. silk tíe, Madison Ávenue, singer-sóngwriter) whose significance and sources are largely unaccounted for in the literature. This article presents a study in which three kinds of factors held to play a role in compound stress assignment are tested: argument structure, lexicalization, and semantics. The analysis of 4,353 noun-noun compounds extracted from the Boston University Radio Speech Corpus shows that there is indeed a considerable amount of variation in stress assignment. Overall, semantics turns out to have the strongest effect on compound stress assignment, whereas an approach relying on argument structure is much less successful in predicting compound stress. The article presents for the first time large-scale empirical evidence for the assumption that lexicalization has an effect on compound stress assignment. The article also makes a methodological contribution to the debate in showing that (and how) corpus-based studies using acoustic measurements can shed new light on the issue of variable compound stress.*


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pp. 760-794
Launched on MUSE
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