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Primary stress in monomorphemes ending on Type-I schwa

Prefinal stress placement is dominant in monomorphemes with a word-final schwa as nucleus. We can distinguish between two types: Type I monomorphemes consisting of a single final /ə/ or a final syllable containing a schwa and a final sonorant consonant (/n, m, l, r, ŋ/) as word-final coda; Type II monomorphemes are characterized by a word-final schwa + an obstruent consonant (/k, x, s/) as coda (viz. lik, ig, nis). In both instances, syllable position is more important for stress assignment than other factors such as syllable structure or vowel quality and quantity. Type-II is dealt with in a separate topic (Primary stress in monomorphemes ending on Type-II schwa).

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

  • Concerning the general stress pattern of Afrikaans monomorphemes: Overview of main stress
  • Concerning the criteria for classifying words as monomorphemes: Background to primary stress of Afrikaans monomorphemes
  • As an orientation with respect to all topics concerning the 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, D. 2014)


    In Afrikaans, schwa has special status as a full phonemic vowel, unlike in Dutch. This necessitates a separate treatment of this vowel in the description of the stress patterns of monomorphemic words. Prefinal stressed syllables are the default stress pattern in both bisyllabic and multisyllabic words. See examples in the Extras to follow.

    The aim of this topic is the detection of the factors of importance for the description of the main stress patterns of Afrikaans monomorphemic words. Exceptions and subclasses will only briefly be mentioned. Furthermore, while very similar patterns are observed across all Type-I words, we concentrate here on cases ending on word-final schwa without coda, thus (/-ə/), as representative of the whole type. A smaller number of examples of multisyllabic words other than those with word-final /-ə/ is presented for the purposes of substantiating the principle of an across-the-board prefinal syllable stress pattern in Afrikaans words of this type.

    Type-1 syllable-final schwa never receives stress so that penultimate stress is always the default. Consequently, the focus here is on multisyllabic monomorphemes.

    In the following Extra, a number of Afrikaans bisyllabic monomorphemes with word-final <-ə> is presented.

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    Figure 1

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    1. These few examples are representative of a larger body of similar bisyllabic words.
    2. Schwa is not stressable in Type-1 word-final position and stress is always on the prefinal syllable (penultimate in bisyllabic words).

    In the next Extra, words consisting of three syllables each are given, all with final <-ə>.

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    Figure 2

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    1. Penultimate syllables have main stress, except for oorkonde which has stress on the antepenult.
    2. In a few instances, this syllable is closed beskonke, legende, medalje, oorkonde, petalje, sekonde, sekunde, vanielje, versonke, voldonge.
    3. Vowel quality is unrestricted - short and long vowels (monophthongal and diphthongal) all are found.
    4. Consequently, position in the word is sole deciding factor in stress placement.

    In the subsequent Extra, words containing four and five syllables are given. The same tendency as formulated in Note 4 above is evident here: penultimate stress is dominant.

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    Figure 3

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    1. Like in the case of three-syllable words above, here too penultimate syllables have main stress, except for offerhande, which has "normal" compound stress on the first member offer /'ɔ.fər/offer.
    2. Most of these prefinal syllables are open.
    3. The nuclei of these syllables represent most of the Afrikaans vowels, short (including schwa) and long. Neither these parameters nor vowel quality ( roundedness, vowel height or frontness/backness) play any significant role.

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