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Short /i/ in monomorphemes

In Afrikaans, /i/ is regarded phonemically as a short vowel, despite some phonotactic contexts in which it is phonetically long, as is the case with /u/ and /y/. Except for /ɔ/, /œ/ and /ɛ/, all short vowels occur freely in open as well as closed syllables in word-final position. When /i/ occurs in open, final syllables, penultimate stress is regular; /i/ in final closed syllables is also generally stressed. A fairly large body of words exists, however, where /i/ is stressed despite occuring in open, final syllables. In a number of cases, /i/ in penultimate position forces stress to fall on the antepenultimate syllable.

In all instances of short vowels, the following topics should be taken into account as important background information:

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

(De Stadler 1981; Combrink and De Stadler 1987; De Stadler 1991; De Villiers 1965; De Villiers and Ponelis 1992; Lee 1963; Le Roux 1936; Le Roux and Pienaar 1927; Lubbe 1993; Wissing 1971; Wissing 1987; Wissing 1988; Wissing 1989; Wissing 1991; Wissing 2017)


In the following sections, the role of /i/ in different syllable positions and circumstances is treated, firstly in a similar way to the other short vowels, /u/, /ɑ/, /ɛ/ and /ɔ/ i.e. in open, word-final syllables (see Short -oe in monomorphemes); following this /i/ will be treated in word-final position in a closed syllable, and lastly in penultimate position.

[+]The phoneme /i/ in open, word-final syllables

As in the case with especially /u/ and /ɑ/, it becomes clear that the general penultimate stress pattern is applicable here too, irrespective of the length of the word, the quality of the vowel or the type of syllable structure. See Exceptions for more on ie in word-end, stressed position.

The phonemes /i/ in open, word-final syllables
Table 1: The phonemes /i/ in open, word-final syllables
aborsie emosie inflasie kontraksie petisie reünie
aggressie energie intervensie koöperasie polisie revolusie
akademie erosie ironie kwessie posisie sanksie
aksie essensie jaloesie lisensie premie sensasie
alliansie faksie justisie losie profesie simpatie
ambisie familie kategorie mandjie professie situasie
anatomie fantasie koffie meisie progressie spasie
artillerie funksie kategorie melodie promosie stasie
bagasie harmonie kolonie misterie provinsie storie
bakkie herrie komedie mosie reaksie studie
bleddie hiërargie kommissie mutasie redaksie tjommie
chemie horlosie kompanjie obsessie regie tradisie
dimensie implikasie kondisie olie religie tralie
direksie industrie konferensie opsie resessie trollie
donkie infeksie konstruksie persepsie resolusie unie

  1. Penultimate stress is dominant; of the 24 bisyllabics only chemie, ironie and regie have final stress (chemie sometimes not).
  2. Of the 66 multisyllabics, 13 have final stress; for the rest penultimate stress is the default. These 13 words are: anatomie; artillerie; energie; fantasie; harmonie; hiërargie; industrie; ironie; *jaloesie; kategorie; melodie; profesie; religie, and are all of French origin. The abstract noun jaloesie jealousy sometimes has penultimate stress.
  3. Stressed final /i/ sometimes is categorised as long (Wissing 1971), and as such carries normal stress, along with the other long vowels /e/, /o/, /a/ and /ø/ (see Long vowels in monomorphemes).
  4. In derivations with -s (mainly in terms of forming adjectives), the stress of many of these exceptional words shifts back to penultimate position. Examples are anatomies, harmonies, hiërargies, ironies, kategories, melodies and profeties.
  5. Although the case here is not as compelling as with the two other short vowels mentioned above, the stress pattern is nevertheless clear and so is the insignificance of the other potential factors with regards to the assignment of stress in monosyllables, viz. quality of vowels and the type of structure (open or close) of syllables other than the final one.

[+]The phoneme /i/ in closed, word-final syllables

In this position /i/ is stressed, as is the case with short /u/, more commonly when the coda is a sonorant consonant; some instances with obstruents as coda are also present. Examples are provided in the table below.

Obstruent consonant codas
Table 2: Obstruent consonant codas
p t k g f
Gariep afrodiet katoliek bedrieg aktief
Gatiep sulfiet keramiek asseblief
Okiep titaniet klassiek massief
poliep trombosiet kliniek motief
prinsiep bandiet musiek negatief
stereotiep debiet outentiek perspektief
Taliep krediet paniek positief
kwartsiet publiek primitief
parasiet rubriek relatief
stalagmiet spesifiek sensitief
stalaktiet uniek tarief

Sonorant consonant codas
Table 3: Sonorant consonant codas
l m n r
automobiel akroniem aspirien angelier
reptiel alloniem kantien barbier
sekstiel anoniem klandestien brigadier
stabiel ensiem masjien kanselier
veniel intiem miskien kavalier
viniel legitiem morfien koerier
imbesiel maritiem paraffien manier
labiel pseudoniem penisillien offisier
profiel septiem sardien papier
projektiel sinoniem stramien populier
reptiel unaniem vitamien skarnier

  1. Monomorphemes ending on obstruent codas are rather limited in number, especially in the case of -g.
  2. The -p cases are also hard to find; a number of typical South African Afrikaans proper names were therefore included.
  3. In contrast, -f cases, on the other hand, are relatively numerous (the list of eleven examples was extracted from 31 words).
  4. Except for words ending on /i/ + /m/, monomorphemes with sonorant codas are relatively widely available.

[+]The phoneme /i/ unstressed in penultimate position

Antepenultimate stress is observed in Dutch when /i/ occurs in penultimate position, followed by a word-final syllable that is never stressed. In the Dutch topic on this matter, it is stated that /i/ in the context [-ija] (written as ia) "strongly disfavors stress", in which case antepenultimate stress is present. In this regard, Booij (1995) mentions ia (in aria) as well as ium (in calcium) as examples. Neijt and Zonneveld (1982) describe the use of antepenultimate stress as follows: If a word ends in a stress-deterring syllable, and if the penultimate syllable contains -i- (i.e. /i/; written as i) stress is on the antepenultimate syllable.


The complete Dutch list provided by Neijt and Zonneveld (1982) in this regard is:

horizon, stadion, orion, bariton, lexicon, acrostichon, idioticon, symposion, patricier, syfilis, caritas, opium, geranium, adagium, calcium, stadium, medium, jodium, kalium, compendium, alluvium, arsenicum, patrimonium, gymnasium, minimum, optimum, maximum, oratorium, testimonium, emeritus, spiritus, genius, lathyrus, tacticus, politicus, musicus, medicus, stradivarius, handicap, fresia, sepia, paria, aria, cavia, hospita, platina, patina, begonia, gloria, harmonika, grammatika, hydraulica, varia, paprika, malaria, studio, polio, eskimo, animo, deposito, incognito, agio, domino, folio, risico, indigo, mimicry, alibi, kolibrie, kariboe, habitat, olifant, horizont, facsimile, dominee, archipel, specimen, lucifer, jupiter, caries, species, rabies, requiem, specimen, coïtus.

Note that except for words ending in ia, ika, ita and ium in Afrikaans, words similar to the Dutch examples are extremely rare. The list is, however, not complete with respect to Afrikaans. At least itis, frequently found in Afrikaans (see lower down), is not included in this list and neither is /-i-C-i/, as in bikini, edisie, familie, posisie and subsidie. Neijt and Zonneveld (1982) treat these type of words as exceptions to their -i- rule. Note that such monomorphemes are all regular in Afrikaans as to their penultimate stress pattern – see details below (see also Overview of the Main Stress Rules). The same remark applies with regard to monomorphemes ending on schwa, preceded by -i-C, for example aktrise, analise, blondine, dissipline, doktrine, intrige, marine, morfine, piramide, roetine, turbine, urine and vitamine. Afrikaans words ending on ina, ita and itis regularly exhibit penultimate instead of the expected antepenultimate stress in Neijt and Zonneveld's (1982) framework; see examples lower down. Finally, a recent development is to be observed in which the final syllable of ikus, namely us, is frequently stressed.

Booij (1995) handles antepenultimate stress in -i- word types as follows: in forms like ária and cálcium the last syllable should be marked as extrametrical. According to him, the historical background is that words like these are either Latin or formed after a Latin model; the corresponding /i/ in Latin was short, thus giving rise to a light syllable that was, in turn, to be skipped in a stress-assignment cycle progressing from the right edge to the left in a word. This explanation is problematic in the case of Afrikaans. This is clearly demonstrated by the recent development in which the final syllable of ikus, namely us, is frequently stressed, e.g. in historikus, medikus and tegnikus. The vowel in us, /œ/, almost always derounds to schwa, is normally stressable in extremely limited instances (see The short vowels of Afrikaans), and in terms of Booij's treatment should be regarded as extrametrical, and consequently not to be stressed as in these and many other similar cases.

Unstressed <ina> and <ita>
Table 4: Unstressed <ina> and <ita>
ina ita
Abrina Alita
Acquina Amanita
Adelina Amelita
Agrippina Amorita
Albertina Amrita
Albetina Angenita
Alexandrina Anita
Alina arita
Alvina Arita
Angina Ashrita
Antilopina Avita
Apina Benita
Carolina Bonita

  1. ina and ita: These are but a few names that all follow the penultimate stress pattern instead of the expected antepenult i.e. should Booij's explanation for Dutch should be applicable for Afrikaans too.
  2. It seems that penultimate stress is prevalent in the case of persons' names (in Column 1 and 2); seemingly new formations follow this pattern to a high degree.
  3. itis: Antepenultimate stress is excepted here too, but in a large number of medical terms, like the selection in Column 3, penultimate stress is found as well, also contrary to the Latin stress pattern.
  4. Interestingly ika, though of a similar structure to ina and ita, nevertheless follows the normal Latin antepenultimate pattern (e.g. Afrika, fisika) as also observed in other Latin-like cases, e.g. ia and io. It is unclear what the difference is between ina and ita on the one hand, and ika on the other.

For an elaborate treatment of antepenultimate stress where /i/ is involved, see Exceptions to the Main Stress Rules.

[+]Evidence from adopted South African proper names

Alongside some established geographic names with a Bantu origin, like Ekhuruleni, Empangeni, Ethikweni, Khayalami, Lusikisiki, Maluti, Thabazimbi, Ulundi and Umlazi, all ending on /i/ and with penultimate stress, quite a number of less well-known names are also found, for instance those in the Extra below.

Indigenous geographical names ending on /i/
Table 5: Indigenous geographical names ending on /i/
Ekulindeni Mkabayi
Elukwatini Mqanduli
Emakhosini Msunduzi
Emjindi Mtunzini
Emnambithini Mzinyathi
Empuluzi Nkanyezi
Ezinqoleni Shingwedzi
Giyani Swongozwi
Hlanganani Ulundi
Makhutswi Umdoni
Mandeni Umlalazi
Maquassi Umzinyathi
Mbonambi Wembezi

Well-known politicians' names of recent times may be added to this list, e.g. Bheki, Hani, Mboweni, Mdluli, Mulaudzi, Naledi, Nathi, Pikoli, Thandi, Thuli, Vusi and Yengeni. The importance of this data for the assumption that Afrikaans monomorphemes' stress pattern is predominantly one of penultimate position, flows from the fact that the assignment of stress position in newly adopted words may provide important ways of falsifying proposed stress rules (Neijt & Zonneveld 1982). Kager (1989) also mentions the importance of imported words alongside mispronunciations in this regard.

Additional support for the non-stressed status of /i/ in word-final, open syllables comes from the observation of many speakers who tend not to stress this vowel in open, final syllables in words unfamiliar to them. Consequently orgie /ɔr.'xi/ orgy is often pronounced as ['ɔr.xi].

The evidence from adopted place and persons 'names as presented above in the case of /i/, applies to the other short vowels /u/, /ɛ/, /ɔ/, /ɑ/ as well. See Short -oe in monomorphemes, Short ɛ in monomorphemes, Short ɔ in monomorphemes, Short -a in monomorphemes.

  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Kager, René1989A Metrical Theory of Stress and Destressing in English and DutchDordrechtForis
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