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Primary stress on diphthongs in monomorphemes

The three so-called pure diphthongs ( /əi/, /œu/ and /œy/), as well as the impure ones ( /eu/, /oi/, /ai/ and /ui/), may all occur in open syllables at the end of especially monosyllabic words. In closed syllables, their occurrence word-finally is much more restricted. Of the pure diphthongs, /əi/ is by far the most frequent, occurring especially in monomorphemes ending on teit, that is /-təit/; and also in a few heid words, such as moontheid (-heid is a productive morpheme for noun-formation). The rounded components of /œu/ and /œy/ are highly susceptible to derounding, rendering [əu] and [əi]. This phenomenon is dealt with in detail in a separate topic (under Phonological Processes).

In the case of bisyllabic and multisyllabic monomorphemes, these diphthongs are stressed almost without exception in Afrikaans (i.e. there are a couple of exceptions); in Dutch pure diphthongs always carry primary stress (i.e. without exception), compared with respect to /ɛi/: "there are no monomorphemic words with  /ɛi/ (also /œy/ and /ɑu/)  in unstressed position" (see the topic on the Dutch vowel inventory). In Afrikaans the situation is, therefore, a little less restrictive. Consult the following for a general overview of Dutch stress: (Booij 1995).

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

By way of 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)


The fact that true diphthongs occur freely in monosyllabic words is not relevant for the topic of stress-treatment in Afrikaans. What is of specific interest is their behaviour in word-final position in bi- and multisyllabic monomorphemes i.e. in open as well as closed syllables primary stress on pure diphthongs is the general trend (e.g. battery /bɑ.tə.'rəi/ battery; karmosyn /kɑr.mu.'səin/ crimson). In a subclass of words, with suffixes containing a single schwa, penultimate stress is the consequence if the relevant syllable has a pure diphthong as nucleus, e.g. kabouter /kɑ.'bœu.tər/ dwarf. In a few cases, even antepenultimate stress is present, viz. in monomorphemes with multisyllabic suffixes containing two unstressable schwas, as in duidelik /'dœy.də.lək/ clear.

To a limited extent, unpure diphthongs also occur in word-final syllables of bi- and multisyllabic monomorphemes, as in papegaai /pɑ.pə.'xai/ parrot and toernooi /tur.'noi/ tournament, although almost exclusively in bisyllabic monomorphemes.

[+]Pure diphthongs

In the following Extras, representative examples of monomorphemes ending on the pure diphthong /əi/ are presented. In the Note sections attention is paid to some special characteristics, including those exceptions where this diphthong does not carry primary stress in final position.

The pure diphtong /əi/ in open syllables
Table 1: The pure diphtong /əi/ in open syllables
baklei pastei
tensy plavei
turksvy battery
vallei galery
kasty maatskappy
kontrei raserny
oukei redery
party spesery

  1. Afrikaans spells  /əi/ in two different ways: as ei and y.
  2. Stressed /əi/ occurs in bi- as well as in multisyllabic monomorphemes in word-final position.
  3. Neither the structure of the preceding syllable nor the quality of the preceding vowel has any influence on stress placement and neither does the number of syllables in the word.
  4. A number of exceptions to final stress exist however, such as aambei /'am.bəi/ hemorroid, arbei /'ɑr.bəi/ labor and moerbei /'mur.bəi/ mulberry. All such cases have normal compound stress, i.e. on the first component. (See Overview of Main Stress Rules).

Occurences of /əi/ with coda /n/ in word-final, closed syllables
Table 2: Occurences of /əi/ with coda /n/ in word-final, closed syllables
asyn fontein mannekyn roosmaryn
baldakyn gordyn marlyn rosyn
balein harlekyn merlyn sardyn
begyn Jakobyn Palestyn soewerein
Bisantyn jasmyn porselein stoïsyn
brandewyn kaptein praktisyn tamboeryn
dolfyn karmosyn puritein termyn
domein kelkiewyn rabbyn terpentyn
dosyn konyn ravyn terrein
Filippyn kosyn refrein tornyn
Filistyn kwarantyn robyn woestyn
floryn Latyn

  1. The remarks 1-3, made in the previous Note section, are applicable here too.
  2. Apart from these words with /n/ as coda, a small number of cases with the fricative /s/ as coda is found, viz. matrys, paradys, patrys, polys and radys, as well as the place name Parys.
  3. A small number of exceptions to the general pattern include arbeid /'ar.bəid/ labor (see also arbei /'ɑr.bəi/ labor above) and aalwyn /'al.vəin/ aloe. The remark in the previous Note 4 regarding compound stress is relevant here too.

While the diphthong /əi/ of -heid is stress-deterring (as in moontheid /'mont.ɦəid/), in -(i)teit this diphthong is a strong attractor of primary stress. The following monomorphemes all have stress on the final diphthong: fasiliteit; identiteit; kwaliteit; munisipaliteit; sekuriteit; universiteit. This is also the case in normal derivations, as in absurditeit, aktiwiteit, banaliteit, depressiwiteit and many more.

The other two pure diphthongs, /œu/ and /œy/, are not frequent in all contexts, and, contrary to what is claimed to be the case in Dutch (see Quick info above), do not always carry primary stress. The following couple of Extras serve as a demonstration of the behaviour of /œu/ and /œy/. With respect to /œu/, applous /ɑ.'plœus/ applause and herout /ɦe.'rœut/ herald are the sole examples of its appearance as stressed in a word-final closed syllable.

Stressed, word-final /œu/
Table 3: Stressed, word-final /œu/
Open syllables Closed syllables
juffrou kabouter
kabeljou klouter
mevrou louere
Moskou louter

  1. The diphtong /œu/ in open word-final position is extremely rare. In (1) only kabeljou and mevrou have stress on the final syllable containing the diphthong.
  2. In non-final position, as in (2), it does carry stress, due to the presence of schwa in the unstressable pseudo-suffixes, as in louter and louere. (See Primary stress in monomorphemes ending on Type-II schwa).

[+]Unstressed diphthongs

In a limited number of cases, the /œu/ diphthong is unstressed, as in the table beneath.

Unstressed /œu/
Table 4: Unstressed /œu/
gloukoom outomaat
lourier outomaat
oudiensies outomobiel
oudisie outonoom
ouditeur outopsie
outentiek tesourie
outeur outoriteit

  1. It seems clear that, in Afrikaans, position is the overriding factor in terms of determining stress placement in a word, even in words where diphthongs are present. Except for oudiënsies, oudisie and outopsie, the final syllable is stressed in all the examples above.

[+]The phoneme /œy/

This diphthong does not occur in word-final, open syllables.

The phoneme /œy/ in examples
Table 5: The phoneme /œy/ in examples
abuis duisend
aluin duister
basuin fluister
biskuit huiwer
fortuin kluister
harpius kuiken
inkluis luiperd
kajuit luister
kombuis sluimer
konsuis struikel
kornuit stuiwer
kwansuis suiker
meesmuil suiwer

  1. In monomorphemes ending on pseudo-suffixes (as in (2)), penultimate stress is the norm (See Primary stress in monomorphemes ending on Type-II schwa. In other cases (cf. (1)), /œy/ is stressed when occuring in closed syllables word-finally, the coda being one of the anterior consonants /s/, /t/, /n/ and /l/. In rare cases of pseudo-compounds, such as sintuig, skeurbuik and weeluis, /œy/ is unstressed (Overview of Main Stress Rules).

[+]Unpure diphthongs

Afrikaans only has a very restricted set of words ending on two of the four unpure diphthongs, viz. /ai/ and /oi/, most of them being bisyllabic, and the diphthong almost always carrying primary stress. They are given in the table beneath:

Word-final unpure diphthongs /ai/ and /oi/
Table 6: Word-final unpure diphthongs /ai/ and /oi/
/ai/ /oi/
aspaai konvooi
bohaai oktrooi
kabaai pleidooi
koebaai toernooi
lawaai voltooi

  1. koebaai (from Eng. goodbye )and poegaai may, variably, exhibit penultimate stress. Both are rather informal words.
  2. In some descriptions, as in Dutch (see Booij 1995), aai and ooi are not regarded as diphthongs but as long vowels with the consonant /j/ as coda.

  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
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