Friday, February 09, 2007

Stress position at the end?

Dr. George Gopen asserts that--
It is a linguistic commonplace that readers naturally emphasize the material that arrives at the end of a sentence. We refer to that location as a stress position.
Source (scroll to page 5).

I have read the same thing in other sources. It seems right. But I have also read this:
There are two emphatic positions in a sentence . . . . These are the beginning and the end.
David Lambuth, The Golden Book on Writing 26 (Penguin Books, Ltd. 1983).

While accepting the opinions of Dr. Gopen and Mr. Lambuth, I have still always viewed the beginning of a sentence as more emphatic than the end. Just one example:
  1. President Bush made mistakes.
  2. Mistakes were made by President Bush.
To me, number one emphasizes President Bush more. This is surely subjective, and some will disagree, but I generally teach my students to use the beginnings of sentences (and of paragraphs and of entire documents) as stress positions.

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