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Short /ɛ/ in monomorphemes

Short /ɛ/ occurs freely, and is stressable as well, in all positions other than open syllables word-finally, as in emmer/'ɛ.mər/bucket, beste/'bɛs.tə/best and hotel/ho.'tɛl/do.. In fact, /ɛ/ is found in only a small number of polysyllabic monomorphemes in word-final, open syllables, most of them place and persons' names adopted from indigenous South African languages, for example in Polokwanename of a place and Molefe (name of a person).

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, 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)


In the following Extras, polysyllabic monomorphemes with /ɛ/ as the nucleus in a closed final syllable are listed, with indications of stress patterns. Examples of words with /n/ and /l/ as codas are taken as representative of the sononant consonants /m, n, r, l, ŋ/; cases with obstruent codas are restricted to /s/ and /t/. In the case of the rest of the sonorants and obstruents, examples are somewhat limited.

It is significant that, despite the fact that /ɛ/ is classified phonemically as short, with regard to stress behaviour it behaves similarly to long vowels in the same circumstances. As such, stress patterns cannot function as classifying criteria for the phonemic length of vowels.

[+]Words with sonorant codas

In the Extra below, bisyllabic and multisyllabic monomorphemes with /ɛ/ as the nucleus in a closed, final syllable position are listed.

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Figure 1

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  1. Generally, /ɛ/ is seldom unstressed in word-final closed syllables: skrapnel and skalpel may be the only monomorphemes in which this is the case; the vowel in <el> might vary with schwa too.
  2. Sonorant codas other than /l/ are rare; amen, bitumen, item, totem , all with initial stress, and Jerusalem, tentamen, with antepenult and penult stress respectively, are exceptions.
  3. Penultimate syllables are generally open, with exceptions being kartel, kornel, mistel in the case of the bisyllabic type, and muskadel, pimpernel, ritornel in the case of multisyllabic words.
  4. It does not seem that the vowel quality of the penultimate syllable has any effect on stress placement: it is always on the final syllable.

[+]Words with obstruent codas

Similar to the situation above, stress placement in words with obstruent codes (see the examples in the following Extra ) is on the final syllable, again irrespective of word length, the structure of penultimate syllables or the vowel quality of preceeding nuclei.

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Figure 2

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  1. Almost every word above is bisyllabic.
  2. Final syllables are stressed in the large majority of cases.
  3. Exceptions to (2) include:
    1. <s>: handves, Hercules (initial syllables stressed). Note that handves, as a pseudo-compound, has typical compound stress; personal nouns, like Hercules, are frequently exceptions to general stress rules.
    2. <k>: All but insek, kusek, prefek have final stress. direk, objek, subjek sometimes have penultimate stress in informal speech.
  4. A a couple of monomorphemes ending on a coda cluster with /r/ as a constituent exist: dessert, ekspert, koevert, konsert, all with final stress.
  5. Note that words ending on -ek and -es as reduced forms of -ekt and -est (e.g. objekt, projekt, and anapest, arrest), are also typically found with final stress.

In the following Extra a number of monomorphemes are cited containing ment as final constituent.

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Figure 3

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  1. ment is stressed in all of the above examples as well as other examples not given here. It is not clear whether this strong affinity for stress is morphologically motivated, or due to the syllable structure of /ɛ/ plus the complex coda /nt/.
  2. -ment occurs mostly in monomorphemes, although in a restricted number of cases it functions as a derivational morpheme, such as in dreigement <dreig> threat, medikament <medikasie> medicine, isolement <isoleer> isolate, and traktement <trakteer> treat.

  • 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
  • Wissing, Daan2017FonologieVan Schaik
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