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  1. Member
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    #1

    primary stress of flying doctor and flying officer

    Hi,

    Do you know why the primary stress falls on the "doctor" of "flying doctor" but on the first component of "flying officer"?

    In case you don't know what "flying doctor" and "flying officer" refer to, here are the definitions:

    flying doctor: ​(especially in Australia) a doctor who travels in an aircraft to visit patients who live far from a town
    flying officer: an officer of fairly low rank in the British air force

  2. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: primary stress of flying doctor and flying officer

    Interesting question — the kind of thing you don't notice or think about if it's your native language.

    Maybe it's because a flying officer is always a flying officer, even on the ground, but a flying doctor is only a flying doctor when flying.

    Or maybe not. It might be arbitrary. On the east coast of the US, we have towns called Port CLYDE and PORT Chester. There's no reason. It's just how we say them.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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    #3

    Re: primary stress of flying doctor and flying officer

    People who grew up in my village call it Yellow SPRINGS. People who move here often say YELLow Springs. I have no idea why they say it wrong.
    I am not a teacher.

  4. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: primary stress of flying doctor and flying officer

    The general principle is that in compound nouns the first word (the modifier) is stressed to focus on type. This is in contrast to 'regular' adjective + noun combinations, where the stress is on the second word (the noun) and the adjective describes the noun attributively.

    So the question (for me at least) is why doctor is stressed, when flying seems to show type.

    Based on the principle above, I'd suggest that when the phrase flying doctor was originally coined, the adjective flying was used as a descriptive attribute rather than a modifier of type.

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    #5

    Re: primary stress of flying doctor and flying officer

    What makes a descriptive attribute different from a modifier of type?

    What about the "Flying" in "Flying Scotsman" (a type of railway engine) and "Flying Squad"?
    Last edited by raymondaliasapollyon; 10-Apr-2020 at 04:30.

  6. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: primary stress of flying doctor and flying officer

    Quote Originally Posted by raymondaliasapollyon View Post
    What makes a descriptive attribute different from a modifier of type?
    It's difficult to answer this concisely, but I'll try. Sometimes, adjectives describe in that they give information as to property. And sometimes, adjectives (and noun modifiers) classify in that they give information about class.

    Generally speaking, property is non-essential information whereas class is essential information. The principle behind which words we stress relates to this idea of essential information. We place more emphasis on words we wish to show are important to the meaning of what we say.

    A single word can fulfil both roles, depending on what is meant. For example, a colour adjective such as blue may in some utterances be purely descriptive, and thus non-essential (I love my blue shoes), and in other utterances essential to identify which shoes I mean (Pass me my blue shoes, (not my black ones.)) The stress in the speaker's voice tells the listener where to focus. In the latter sentence above, in the minds of both speaker and listener, there is a set of things classed as 'shoes', and within that set there is a subset of shoes classed as 'blue shoes'. That's what I mean by 'type', as opposed to 'attribute'.

    What about the "Flying" in "Flying Scotsman" (a type of railway engine) and "Flying Squad"?
    Flying Scotsman was precisely the example I had in mind when thinking about your question. It's a good example of an adjective describing property, I think, because Flying is not intended to show what type of Scotsman is being referred to—it's purely descriptive. For this reason, the adjective is not stressed. You could easily remove the word Flying from the name of the train without a problem.

    On the other hand, in Flying Squad, the adjective identifies which squad is being referred to, and is accordingly stressed. It would not be possible to remove the word Flying from Flying Squad and still make good sense. The same goes for flying officer.
    Last edited by jutfrank; 10-Apr-2020 at 13:47.

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