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Stress-neutral suffixes

Most native suffixes are stress-neutral, which means that they do not influence the position of the main stress of the base word to which they adjoin.

[+]General information

Two categories of stress-neutral suffixes are to be distinguished: the so-called non-cohering suffixes, which form prosodic words of their own, and the cohering suffixes, which form prosodic words with the stem to which they adjoin. Examples of these two types are listed in (1).

a. Non-cohering suffixes
      -eftich /ɛftəɣ/ -like
      -dom /dom/ -dom
      -heid /hid/ -ness
      -ling /lɪŋ/ -ling
      -leas /lɪəz/ -less
      -skip /skɪp/ -ship
      -fol [fol] ful
      -guod /ɡwod/ stuff
      -mannich /manəɣ/ a couple of
      -wei /vaj/ way
      -spul /spøl/ stuff
      -stra /stra/ type of person
      -ommen /omən/ such as {noun}
b. Cohering suffixes
      -e /ə/ (several functions)
      -el /əl/ (verbalizing suffix)
      -en /ən/ (plural suffix)
      -ens /əns/ -nes
      -er /ər/ (several functions)
      -ert /ət/ (creates deadjectival pejorative names)
      -(e)nis /(ə)nɪs/ -ness
      -ing /ɪŋ/ -ing
      -s /s/ (several functions)
      -sel /səl/ (creates deverbal object names)
      -st /st/ (deverbal nominalizing suffix)
      -ster /stər/ (feminizing suffix)
      -t /t/ (deverbal nominalizing suffix)
      -DIM (diminutive)

It should be noted that these are not exhaustive lists; more instances of stress-neutral suffixes can be found in Visser (1997:chapter 5) and Hoekstra (1998).

Whether a native suffix is non-cohering or cohering can almost completely be 'read off' from its phonological make-up. Suffixes which contain a full vowel, so that they can form a prosodic word on their own, are non-cohering (except for -ing and -(e)nis). By implication, suffixes without a full vowel are cohering.

[+]Non-cohering stress-neutral native suffixes

From a prosodic point of view, non-cohering suffixes form compounds of the type strong-weak with the base word to which they adjoin. They have a full vowel and, with the exception of -eftich, begin with a consonant. This makes for an important difference from cohering suffixes, which either have schwa as their only and initital vowel or have no vowel at all and consist of one or more consonants.

[+]Cohering stress-neutral native suffixes

The stress-neutrality of these suffixes does not follow from their containing a schwa. Take for instance the noun húshâldster ['hys.hɔ:t.stər] housekeeper. Stress is not on the syllable preceding the final schwa syllable, as is usually the case, but instead on the initial syllable, in keeping with the primary stress on the first syllable of the verb stem húshâld /'hyz.hɔ:d/ household. That is, it is an inherent property of these suffixes that they do not influence stress placement at all.


When two schwa-suffixes are adjoined to a base word, as in de tinnere /tɪn+ər+ə/ ['tɪn.nə.rə] the thinner one, this results in a lapse, in violation of the Alternating Stress Principle. The latter does not seem to have any bearing on the well-formedness of complex words.

[+]The special behavior of -leas

Adding the suffix -leas may result in a rightward stress shift. While as a rule -leas is stress-neutral, it can induce a rightward stress shift when it is followed by the suffix -ens (see -heid, -ichheid, -ens for a detailed treatment of the behaviour of the suffix -ens). Examples of this particular stress shift are given in (2):

a. soargeleas ['swar.ɣə.lɪəs] careless   ~ soargeleazens [swar.ɣə.'lɪə.zə̃s] carefreeness
b. gewichtleas [ɡə.'vɪxt.lɪəs] weightless   ~ gewichtleazens [ɡə.vɪxt.'lɪə.zə̃s] weightlessness

In addition to stress-neutral suffixes, there are also stress-shifting native suffixes and stress-bearing native suffixes.

A detailed treatment of various aspects of suffixation can be found in the introduction to suffixation.

  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Visser, Willem1997The Syllable in FrisianVrije Universiteit AmsterdamThesis
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