ozarque (ozarque) wrote,
ozarque
ozarque

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Linguistics; verbal self-defense; verbal attacks; emphatic stress

Crossfire is correct to note that any time you hear two extra stresses coming at you in a single utterance from an adult it should get your attention, and probably signals hostile language -- for sure. I thank him for his comment, and for all the encouraging words. I'd just like to add some very minor clarifying notes for those who are new to all this....


About the English "acoustic" stress system (the system for adding emphasis to words and parts of words in speech):

1. Every English sentence has at least one stress, somewhere -- that's to be expected, and happens by rule.
2. Some English sentences have a stress that's there to contrast one thing with another -- as in "It wasn't a red book, it was a GREEN book."
3. Some English sentences have what I call "announcement" stress ... there to mark something that any reasonable person would consider remarkable. As in "You've WON the Nobel PEACE Prize!"


When the utterance coming at you has two or more stresses and all of them come from one of those three groups, there's no reason to suspect that you're under attack. But when they're extra stresses, stresses that can't be accounted for in that way -- as in "WHY don't you EVER think of ANYbody but yourSELF?" -- that's almost certainly hostile language.

I say "almost certainly" because there are two possible exceptions:

The adult who for some unknown reason has never stopped using the ChildSpeak stress system. and says things like "I was WALKING down the STREET and I saw a CAR coming that I'm SURE belongs to TOM, and I....." And so on. It doesn't take very long to discover that this is just the way this person talks, all the time, and that it may have nothing at all to do with hostility. This is rare in grownups, fortunately.

The adult who is sharing an emergency with you and has to get through to you intensely and in a hurry. For example, you're being rushed at top speed down a hospital corridor on a gurney and the doctor running along beside you says, "TELL me your BLOOD type, QUICK!" Your own common sense will tell you that these interactions aren't attacks; may they also be rare.

Suzette
Tags: verbal self-defense
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