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

Closed, final syllable /ɛ/ in bisyllabic and multisyllabic monomorphemes
Table 1: Closed, final syllable /ɛ/ in bisyllabic and multisyllabic monomorphemes
appel kartel akwarel kolonel
model kornel bakatel muskadel
hotel lamel fontenel naturel
botel lapel frikadel pimpernel
bretel motel kantarel ritornel
flanel mistel karomel sitadel
halel morel kokkerel
gamel mastel
kapel prunel
forel spinel

  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 and totem, all with initial stress, and Jerusalem and tentamen, with antepenult and penult stress respectively, are exceptions.
  3. Penultimate syllables are generally open, with exceptions being kartel, kornel and mistel in the case of the bisyllabic type, and muskadel, pimpernel and 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 table below) is on the final syllable, again irrespective of word length, the structure of penultimate syllables or the vowel quality of preceding nuclei.

Obstruent codas
Table 2: Obstruent codas
s t t t t k k
abses alfabet etiket kornet portret argitek perfek
adres amulet falset korset raket aspek spanspek
anapes ballet faset korvet roset defek subjek
arres banket filet kotelet servet dialek trajek
ekspres baret kabaret kwartet sigaret effek verstrek
handves baronet kabinet loket sonnet gesprek vertrek
Hercules bidet kadet mansjet sorbet insek voltrek
kongres biljet karet marionet stilet intellek bestek
manifes briket kasset oktet tablet korrek direk
moles brunet kastanjet omelet tibet kusek ontdek
orkes buffet klaret pakket toilet objek projek
proses buret klarinet palet trompet perfek respek
rekwes doeblet kloset pipet violet
sipres duet koket

  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 and 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 and prefek have final stress. direk, objek and 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, anapest and arrest), are also typically found with final stress.

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

Monomorphemes containing the suffix -ment
Table 3: Monomorphemes containing the suffix -ment
amendement element ornament rendement
amusement enjambement parlement rudiment
appartement evenement regiment sakrament
argument fragment perkament sediment
augment instrument pierement segment
detriment kompartement pigment supplement
departement kompliment piment temperament
dokument konsument reglement testament
ekskrement ligament sentiment torment
eksperiment moment

  1. The suffix -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. This suffix mostly occurs in monomorphemes, although in a restricted number of cases it functions as a derivational morpheme, such as in dreigementdreig threat, medikamentmedikasie medicine, isolementisoleer isolate, and traktementtrakteer treat.

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  • 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 Linguistics = Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Taalkunde941-46,
  • De Villiers, M1965Aspekte van woordaksent.
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  • Le Roux, T.H. & Pienaar, P. de V1927Afrikaanse fonetiek.Juta
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  • Wissing, D1987Klemtoon en tweesillabige Afrikaanse simplekse: eksperiment.South African Journal of Linguistics = Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Taalkunde5105-139,
  • Wissing, D1989Die klempatrone van Afrikaanse en Nederlandse simplekse: 'n vergelyking.Literator1050-65,
  • Wissing, D1991Is Afrikaans 'n inisiëleklemtoontaal?South African Journal of Linguistics = Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Taalkunde947-57,
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  • Wissing, Daan2017FonologieVan Schaik
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