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accent

Source:
The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms
Author(s):

Chris Baldick

accent 

The emphasis placed upon a syllable in pronunciation. The term is often used as a synonym for stress, although some theorists prefer to use ‘stress’ only for metrical accent. Three kinds of accent may be distinguished, according to the factor that accounts for each: etymological accent (or ‘word accent’) is the emphasis normally given to a syllable according to the word's derivation or morphology; rhetorical accent (or ‘sense accent’) is allocated according to the relative importance of the word in the context of a sentence or question; metrical accent (or stress) follows a recurrent pattern of stresses in a verse line (see metre). Where metrical accent overrides etymological or rhetorical accent, as it often does in ballads and songs (Coleridge: ‘in a far coun‐tree’), the effect is known as a wrenched accent. See also ictus, recessive accent.