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N is for New information



New information is information that is assumed by the speaker not

  • to be known to or assumed by the addressee, or
  • previously established in the discourse.

New information typically

  • is placed late in the sentence, and
  • has a high amount of stress placed on the words representing it.
Examples (English)
  • In the following exchange, the stressed words are new information:

  • A: Do you know where my SHOES are?
  • B: I put them in the CLOSET.
  • Source http://www.sil.org/linguistics/GlossaryOfLinguisticTerms/WhatIsNewInformation…



    Thinking Task

    Here is the transcript from a clip from the  “Yes, Prime Minister” TV series

    It’s a series of aphorisms, which the PM delivers about British newspapers. Read through them and try to predict which parts of each utterance will be delivered with low stress (given information at that particular stage in the discourse) and which particular words will receive high/tonic/nunclear stress (New Information) 



    Prime Minister:

    “The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country,

    the Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country.

    the Times is read by people who actually do run the country.

    the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country.

    The Financial Times is read by people who own the country, 

    the Morning Star is ready by people who think the country ought to be run by another country, 

    and the Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.”

    Second speaker:

    “Well, Prime Minister, and what about the people who read the Sun?”

    Third Speaker:

    “The Sun readers don’t care who runs the country as long as she’s got big t***.”


    Now Scroll down please to listen to how these lines were actually delivered – listen from 1:04




















    1. Louise says:

      Great piece! To a native speaker it’s absolutely obvious where the emphasis will come but to a NNS….? I’d like to give this a try with my students who are all absolutely excellent. I wonder how they’ll do.

    2. Anonymous says:

      I usually do this as a whole lesson on newspapers – start from the Ss’ papers who reads which paper in their country – then give this as a workshteet with blanked out spaces for newspaper names Pronunciation work comes later Then they do their own piece and read appropriately Cheers let me know if it works

    3. alanmtait says:

      Hooray!!! I love discourse and havent a clue how to teach it. Thanks a lot. More please.

    4. Dale Coulter says:

      Thanks for the post, Marisa.I’m looking forward the next ones. I’m quite a fan of discourse and find it a fascinating topic. I would like to try out the idea of the ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ lesson with my students. Could it even be useful for highlighting given versus new positioning and passives to help aid this information structure too?ThanksDale

    5. Anonymous says:

      Definitely, Dale, the whole business of opting for passives is often just that!<div><br></div><div>Marisa??<br><br></div>

    6. Anonymous says:

      @alantait, thank you – the intention of this blog is not to include lesson plans for teaching discourse analysis – but if some ideas come up in the discussions, so much the better, no?

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