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Primary stress on diphthongs in monomorphemes

The three so-called pure diphthongs (/əi œu œy/), as well as the impure ones (/eu oi ai ui/), may all occur in open syllables at the end of especially monosyllabic words. In closed syllables, their occurrence word-finally is much more restricted. Of the pure diphthongs, /əi/ is by far the most frequent, occurring especially in monomorphemes ending on <teit>, that is /-təit/; and also in a few <heid> words, such as moontheid (-heid is a productive morpheme for noun-formation). The rounded components of /œu/ and /œy/ are highly susceptible to derounding, rendering [əu] and əi. This phenomenon is dealt with in detail in a separate topic (under Phonological Processes).

In the case of bisyllabic and multisyllabic monomorphemes, these diphthongs are stressed almost without exception in Afrikaans (i.e. there are a couple of exceptions); in Dutch pure diphthongs always carry primary stress (i.e. without exception), cf. with respect to /ɛi/: "there are no monomorphemic words with  /ɛi/ (also /œy/ and /ɑu/)  in unstressed position" ( The Dutch vowel inventory. In Afrikaans the situation is, therefore, a little less restrictive. Consult the following for a general overview of Dutch stress: (Booij, Geert 1995).

The following articles should be taken into account as important background information:

By way of orientation with respect to all topics concerning stress placement in Afrikaans monomorphemes, the following reference list should be consulted:

(De Stadler, L.G. 1981); (Combrink, J.G.H.; De Stadler, L.G. 1987); (De Stadler, L.G. 1991); (De Villiers, M. 1965); (De Villiers, M.; Ponelis, F.A. 1992); (Lee, A.S. 1963); (Le Roux, J.J. 1936); (Le Roux, T.H.; Pienaar, P. de V. 1927); (Lubbe, H.J. 1993); (Lubbe, H.J. 1993); (Lubbe, H.J. 1993); (Lubbe, H.J. 1993); (Wissing, D.P. 1971); (Wissing, D. 1987); (Wissing, D.P. 1988); (Wissing, D.P. 1988); (Wissing, D. 1989); (Wissing, D.P. 1989); (Wissing, D. 1991); (Wissing 2017)


The fact that true diphthongs occur freely in monosyllabic words is not relevant for the topic of stress-treatment in Afrikaans. What is of specific interest is their behaviour in word-final position in bi- and multisyllabic monomorphemes i.e. in open as well as closed syllables primary stress on pure diphthongs is the general trend (e.g. battery /bɑ.tə.'rəi/battery; karmosyn /kɑr.mu.'səin/crimson). In a subclass of words, with suffixes containing a single schwa, penultimate stress is the consequence if the relevant syllable has a pure diphthong as nucleus, e.g. kabouter /kɑ.'bœu.tər/dwarf. In a few cases, even antepenultimate stress is present, viz. in monomorphemes with multisyllabic suffixes containing two unstressable schwas, as in duidelik /'dœy.də.lək/clear.

To a limited extent, unpure diphthongs also occur in word-final syllables of bi- and multisyllabic monomorphemes, as in papegaai /pɑ.pə.'xai/parrot and toernooi /tur.'noi/tournament, although almost exclusively in bisyllabic monomorphemes.

[+] Pure diphthongs

In the following Extras, representative examples of monomorphemes ending on the pure diphthong /əi/ are presented. In the Note sections attention is paid to some special characteristics, including those exceptions where this diphthong does not carry primary stress in final position.

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Open syllables:

Figure 1

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  1. Afrikaans spells /əi/ in two different ways: as <ei> and <y>
  2. Stressed /əi/ occurs in bi- as well as in multisyllabic monomorphemes in word-final position.
  3. Neither the structure of the preceeding syllable nor the quality of the preceding vowel has any influence on stress placement and neither does the number of syllables in the word.
  4. A number of exceptions to final stress exist however, such as aambei /'am.bəi/hemorroid, arbei /'ɑr.bəi/labor andmoerbei /'mur.bəi/mulberry. All such cases have normal compound stress, i.e. on the first component. (See Overview of Main Stress Rules.

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/əi/ frequently occurs in word-final syllables in monomorphemes with coda /n/, as in the following Extra.

Closed syllables:

Figure 2

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  1. The remarks 1-3, made in the previous Note section, are applicable here too.
  2. Apart from these words with /n/ as coda, a small number of cases with the fricative /s/ as coda is found, viz. matrys, paradys, patrys, polys, radys , as well as the place name Parys.
  3. A small number of exceptions to the general pattern include arbeid /'ar.bəid/labor (see also arbei /'ɑr.bəi/labor above) and aalwyn /'al.vəin/aloe. The remark in the previous Note 4 regarding compound stress is relevant here too.

While the diphthong /əi/ of -heid is stress-deterring (as in moontheid /'mont.ɦəid/), in -(i)teit this diphthong is a strong attractor of primary stress. The following monomorphemes all have stress on the final diphthong: fasiliteit, identiteit, kwaliteit, munisipaliteit, sekuriteit, universiteit. This is also the case in normal derivations, as in absurditeit, aktiwiteit, banaliteit, depressiwiteit and many more.

The other two pure diphthongs, /œu, œy/, are not frequent in all contexts, and, contrary to what is claimed to be the case in Dutch (see Quick info above), do not always carry primary stress. The following couple of Extras serve as a demonstration of the behaviour of /œu/ and /œy/ . With respect to /œu/, applous /ɑ.'plœus/applause and herout /ɦe.'rœut/herald are the sole examples of its appearance as stressed in a word-final closed syllable.

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Figure 3

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  1. /œu/ in open word-final position is extremely rare. In (1) only kabeljou and mevrou have stress on the final syllable containing the diphthong.
  2. In non-final position, as in (2), it does carry stress, due to the presence of schwa in the unstressable pseudo-suffixes, as in louter and louere. (See Primary stress in monomorphemes ending on Type-II schwa.

[+] Unstressed diphthongs

In a limited number of cases, the /œu/ diphthong is unstressed, as in the Extra beneath.

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Figure 4

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  1. It seems clear that, in Afrikaans, position is the overriding factor in terms of determining stress placement in a word, even in words where diphthongs are present. Except for oudiënsies, oudisie, outopsie, the final syllable is stressed in all the examples above.

[+] /œy/

This diphthong does not occur in word-final, open syllables.

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Figure 5

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  1. In monomorphemes ending on pseudo-suffixes (as in (2)), penultimate stress is the norm (See Primary stress in monomorphemes ending on Type-II schwa. In other cases (cf. (1)), /œy/ is stressed when occuring in closed syllables word-finally, the coda being one of the anterior consonants /s, t, n, l/ . In rare cases of pseudo-compounds, such as sintuig, skeurbuik, weeluis, /œy/ is unstressed (Overview of Main Stress Rules.

[+] Unpure diphthongs

Afrikaans only has a very restricted set of words ending on two of the four unpure diphthongs, viz. /ai/ and /oi/, most of them being bisyllabic, and the diphthong almost always carrying primary stress. They are given in the Extra beneath:

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Figure 6

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  1. koebaai (from Eng. goodbye )and poegaai may, variably, exhibit penultimate stress. Both are rather informal words.
  2. In some descriptions, as in Dutch (see (Booij, Geert 1995)), <aai> and <ooi> are not regarded as diphthongs but as long vowels with the consonant /j/ as coda.

  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Combrink, J.G.H. & De Stadler, L.G1987Afrikaanse fonologie.Macmillan
  • De Stadler, L.G1981Die klemkontoere van die simplekse selfstandige naamwoord in Afrikaans: 'n NGF-siening.Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe21285-295
  • De Stadler, L.G1991Oor die klemtoon van Afrikaanse simplekse: re Wissing.South African Journal of Linguistics941-46
  • De Villiers, M1965Aspekte van woordaksent.
  • De Villiers, M. & Ponelis, F.A1992Afrikaanse klankleer.Tafelberg
  • Le Roux, J.J1936Die uitspraak van Afrikaans.Huisgenoot2031
  • Le Roux, T.H. & Pienaar, P. de V1927Afrikaanse fonetiek.Juta
  • Lee, A.S1963Klem in Afrikaans.Thesis
  • Lubbe, H.J1993Oor die klemtoon van Afrikaanse simplekse: re Wissing én De Stadler.South African Journal of Linguistics118-17
  • Lubbe, H.J1993Die klempatrone van Afrikaans.South African Journal of Linguistics1149-59
  • Lubbe, H.J1993Klem in Afrikaans en die superswaar rym.South African Journal of Linguistics78-99
  • Lubbe, H.J1993Inleiding tot die algemene en Afrikaanse metriese fonologieReeksUOVS
  • Wissing, D1987Klemtoon en tweesillabige Afrikaanse simplekse: eksperiment.South African Journal of Linguistics5105-139
  • Wissing, D1989Die klempatrone van Afrikaanse en Nederlandse simplekse: 'n vergelyking.Literator1050-65
  • Wissing, D1991Is Afrikaans 'n inisiëleklemtoontaal?South African Journal of Linguistics947-57
  • Wissing, D.P1971Fonologie en morfologie van die simplekse selfstandige naamwoord in Afrikaans: 'n transformasioneel-generatiewe beskrywing.Buijten & Schipperheijn. Vrije Universiteit.Thesis
  • Wissing, D.P1988Die Afrikaanse en Nederlandse verkleiningsisteme: 'n vergelyking in metries-fonologiese kader.Literator962-75
  • Wissing, D.P1988Abrakadabra: die klem van multisillabige Afrikaanse simplekse.South African Journal of Linguistics613-40
  • Wissing, D.P1989Twee- en multisillabige Afrikaanse simplekse: twee klemtoonreëls of net een?South African Journal of Linguistics7116-124
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