They can conquer who believe they CAN. (auxiliary verb)
Yes, it IS. (verb in tag question)
He never grew UP. (preposition)
  • I actually got these examples from a book.

Thank you!!!

  • Are you highlighting these examples specifically because they end in "function" words (prepositions, articles, auxiliaries, etc.), which you would otherwise expect not to receive prominence? If so, you should make that clearer. Otherwise you're going to get answers such as the ones below, which discuss the concept of prominence at the end of a sentence in general terms. – musicallinguist Oct 5 '15 at 12:33

That the last stress in a phrase is more prominent than preceding stresses in that phrase was the basis for the nuclear stress rule, see Chomsky, N., M. Halle and F. Lukoff (1956) On Accent and Juncture in English. In M. Halle, H.G. Lunt, H. McLean and C.H. van Schooneveld, eds. For Roman Jakobson: Essays on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday. The Hague: Mouton & Co. 65-80, and see also SPE.

But if you want to know why is that, the only attempted explanation I know of is proposed in Rhythm and the holistic organization of language structure, according to which English puts accent last because it organizes information with comments following topics.


It's just the default intonation contour in the absence of the focus pitch elsewhere. If you want to make contrast, your pitch accent (stress) will shift to the contrasted element:

(1') They can conquer who BELIEVE they can, not just those who SAY they can.

If you want to go into it in detail, Ladd's (1996) Intonation Phonology is a classic reference, I believe. And maybe someone can help with a shorter text.

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