• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Saterfrisian
  • Afrikaans
Show all
Three-Syllable Window

For the large majority of monomorphemic items, primary stress falls on one of the last three syllables of the word.

[+]General information and exceptions

Dutch is often assumed to be subject to the three-syllable window principle:

Three-Syllable Window
Primary stress can only fall on one of the last three syllables of a monomorphemic word.

The words relevant for this principle are usually loanwords. Native words are too short to demonstrate the relevance of the Three-Syllable Window, for they usually contain only one full vowel. The principle is ‘almost’ exceptionless, yet some quadrisyllabic Dutch toponyms and Latin grammatical terms have preantepenultimate stress and do not respect the Three-Syllable Window:

Wageningen ['ʋa.ɣə.niŋ.ə(n)] name of city
Scheveningen [ˈsxe.və.nɪŋ.ə(n)] name of suburb of The Hague
Amerongen [ˈa.mə.rɔŋ.ə(n)] name of village
infinitief ['ɪn.fi.ni.tif] infinitive
accusatief ['ɑ.ky.zɑ.tif] accusative

Whereas traditionally the Three-Syllable Window is regarded as part of the synchronic phonology of Dutch (Kager 1989; Trommelen and Zonneveld 1989; Booij 1995), Van Oostendorp (2012) questions the relevance of the principle. In his view, the Three-Syllable Window should rather be regarded as a diachronic effect of loanword adaptation than as an instance of the synchronic grammar: as Dutch loanwords are usually borrowed from languages in which primary stress cannot fall outside of the Three-Syllable Window (Latin, French, Italian), Dutch speakers may have adopted them with the stress pattern of the source languages.

  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Kager, René1989A Metrical Theory of Stress and Destressing in English and DutchDordrechtForis
  • Oostendorp, Marc van2012Quantity and the Three-Syllable Window in Dutch word stressLanguage and Linguistics Compass6.6343-358
  • Trommelen, Mieke & Zonneveld, Wim1989Klemtoon en metrische fonologieMuiderbergCoutinho
printreport errorcite