What word would be used or could be coined to express the opposite of accent?

This is in reference to syllables, not foreign accents.
The usage is theory on chant and setting prose text to music.


[> Origin: 1520–30; < Latin accentus speaking tone, equivalent to ac- ac- + -centus, combining form of cantus song (see canto); translation of Greek prosōidía prosody

Related forms ac·cent·less, adjective ac·cen·tu·a·ble [ak-sen-choo-uh-buhl] Show IPA , adjective non·ac·cent, noun non·ac·cent·ed, adjective non·ac·cent·ing, adjective]1

Personal Reflections in view of the word needed:
Nonaccent or accentless indicate a lack of accent but do not indicate the opposite of accent (the opposite would express the de-emphasising a syllable).

For an accented syllable the voice would be raised.
For a nonaccented syllable the voice would stay the same.
But for the opposite of an accented syllable the voice would be lowered.

De-accented seems inadequate since it would indicate negation of the accent which would merely mean nonaccented.

Would the opposite of accent be decent?
In speech some syllables bear an accent; some bear a de-cent?
In speech some syllables are accented; some are de-cented?
In speech some syllables are accentuated; some are de-centuated?

I appreciate your assistance.

  • "For an accented syllable the voice would be raised". By raised, do you mean pitch or volume? For many languages, what is called stress is a subtle combination of many things, e.g. pitch, volume, length and so on. I would question whether there are many cases where the "opposite" of stress would make sense.
    – dainichi
    Aug 28, 2013 at 9:50
  • I am applying it to the English language for which all of the above dynamics apply to some extent.
    – Sarah
    Aug 28, 2013 at 21:09
  • I would use un- as in unaccented or unstressed to say there was no accent or stress, and de- to say that an accent or stress which was usually there had been removed
    – Henry
    Aug 29, 2013 at 7:44

1 Answer 1


In this context, the term accent might be a bit ambiguous. And in fact, you did make a distinction between what you meant and foreign accents. It is a synonym of stress, so it's not that strange that you thought of it, but as I said it's ambiguous and furthermore, it has no opposites that I'm aware of. Going through your proposals for the sake of completeness:

  • Decent is not the opposite of accent, it means something else entirely. I see that you deconstructed the word "accent" but I don't think it works in this case.
  • Non-accented (or unaccented) refers to letters without diacritics: a, e, i, o, u, etc. As opposed to à, è, ì, ò, ù, and so on.
  • de-accented does not exist I think.

In Linguistics, I've always seen the term stressed be used in this context. Its opposite would be unstressed. So we speak of stressed/unstressed syllables, stressed/unstressed vowel sounds and so on.

Now, if you search for "accented" in the dictionary, it will give you the definition of "stressed", but I think stressed would be more appropriate for this task. And indeed, there is also another ambiguity about this: in some languages, not all stressed syllables bear accents (diacritics) and vice versa.

  • Ahhh! Thank you. You have been most helpful! I did not know non-accented refers to letters without diacritics. That brought me to realize that the diacritics themselves, if I remember correctly, mean to raise (ague) or lower (grave) ones voice. If this is true, I could use these to express what I need to!
    – Sarah
    Aug 27, 2013 at 16:41
  • @Sarah It might be that in some languages it relates to the intonation of how you pronounce words, but nothing comes to my mind at the moment. But even so, it's not always like that. For example in Pinyin, which is the system used for romanizing Chinese readings, diacritics indicate the tone, not the intonation: Mà is different from má. They might refer to different characters. However in other languages, such as Spanish, French or Italian, the diacritics mostly indicate where the stress goes (still not the intonation). You're welcome! :)
    – Alenanno
    Aug 27, 2013 at 17:07
  • Would these accents be a viable way to communicate the intent in pointing an English text for chant (if accompanied by a key?); would it be a proper application/use of these accents?
    – Sarah
    Aug 28, 2013 at 21:11
  • @Sarah There exist symbols for showing tones and intonation. Check this PDF document. One right around the center, it will say Tones and a bit to the left it will say Intonation. :) Now, those symbols are hard to write, so if you want to use regular accents in your case, where everyone knows their meaning in that instance, then I don't think there is a problem with that.
    – Alenanno
    Aug 28, 2013 at 22:10
  • This chart is very helpful to me. Thank you.
    – Sarah
    Sep 1, 2013 at 16:40

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