Wednesday, July 30, 2008

odd stress placement

When I was on hold recently I was constantly told to "Please remain on the line. One of our customer care representatives will be with you momentarily." Almost immediately I noticed that the sentence was stressed very strangely (and this was an actual recorded voice, not a computer generated message). I would put a pause between those two sentences, making them two separate utterances for prosodic purposes. For the first I would put a primary accent on "please" and a secondary accent on "line". For the second I would put a primary accent on "care" and a secondary accent on "with". However, this was not at all the case in this recording.

Instead, the speaker did not have a pause or any kind of intonational reset where the orthographic period is. She seemed to parse it into "Please remain on the line one of our customer. Care representatives will be with you momentarily." (At least, that's how I would represent orthographically the prosodic pattern she used.) In the first "sentence", primary accent was on "please" (no surprise there), but the secondary accent was on "our". In the second "sentence", the primary accent was on the third syllable of "representatives", while the secondary accent was on "with". Adding further to the oddity was the fact that the first intonational phrase fit perfectly into 3/4 time, complete with minor accents on the first beat, with "please" taking two beats: "Please -- re-/ main on the / line one of /our customer", and then of course it started to break down. But I found it exceedingly odd that, like myself, the speaker parsed the utterance into two intonational phrases, but that her phrases did not correlate in any way with meaning or clausal structure. There has to be some sort of flagrant alignment violation here, and I don't like it one bit. Luckily I'll never have to deal with it again, since I was on hold to cancel my account.


Anonymous said...

lol..interesting observation

Anonymous said...

Not to mention that the phrase "will be with you momentarily" sounds quite weird to me, like they meant that the conversation itself would be brief instead of the delay. Or maybe that's what they really meant!