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Patterns of secondary stress in words with full vowels only

This entry discusses the placement of secondary stress in Dutch words. These patterns are discussed for words containing full vowels only; words with schwa are disregarded since schwa influences the stress patterns in ways that other vowels do not. Furthermore, compounds are disregarded since their stress patterns deviate from those of other words; however, words with cohering affixes are included as the location of secondary stress(es) resembles that of simplex words.

The occurrence of secondary stresses in Dutch simplex words varies with respect to word length and the position of the primary stress. First of all, the number of syllables in a word is relevant: a monomorphemic word needs to be at least trisyllabic to potentially have a secondary stress. Words with five or more syllables can potentially have two secondary stresses. Words of at least four syllables will always have a secondary stress, (rare) words of six or (even rarer) more syllables will always have at least two secondary stresses. In general, every other syllable in a word is stressed (with exceptions, see Alternating Stress Principle).


Generalizations on the placement of secondary stress in words from three to six syllables length are provided in the overview below – examples and additional discussion of these patterns is provided in separate entries (see Secondary stress in trisyllabic, quadrisyllabic words, words with five syllables, words with six syllables). In general, the patterns are highly predictable – only words of six syllables with final stress show considerable variation: the word-internal secondary stress is sometimes realized on the third and sometimes on the fourth syllable.

Table 1
Number of syllables PPPAPU PPAPU PAPU APU PU U Examples
3 ˈσ σ ˌσ Canada[ˈkɑ.na.ˌda]Canadakolibrie[ˈko.li.ˌbri]hummingbird
3 σ ˈσ σ aroma[a.ˈro.ma]aromafamilie[fa.ˈmi.li]family
3 ˌσ σ ˈσ calorie[ˌka.lo.ˈri]caloriechocola[ˌʃo.ko.ˈla]chocolate
4 σ ˈσ σ ˌσ Jeruzalem[je.ˈry.za.ˌlɛm]Jerusalemtarantula[ta.ˈrɑn.ty.ˌla]tarantula
4 ˌσ σ ˈσ σ macaroni[ˌma.ka.ˈro.ni]macaroniavocado[ˌa.vo.ˈka.do]avocado
4 ˌσ σ σ ˈσ economie[ˌe.ko.no.ˈmi]economyfonologie[ˌfo.no.lo.ˈɣi]phonology
5 ˌσ σ ˈσ σ ˌσ Paramaribo[ˌpa.ra.ˈma.ri.ˌbo]Paramaribocafétaria[ˌkɑ.fe.ˈta.ri.ˌja]cafeteria
5 ˌσ σ σ ˈσ σ abracadabra[ˌa.bra.ka.ˈda.bra]abracadabraVenezuela[ˌve.ne.zy.ˈʋe.la]Venezuela
5 ˌσ σ ˌσ σ ˈσ encyclopedie[ˌɛn.si.ˌklo.pe.ˈdi]encyclopediaparallelogram[ˌpa.ra.ˌlɛ.lo.ˈɣram]parallelogram
6 ˌσ σ ˌσ σ ˈσ σ parasitologisch[ˌpa.ra.ˌsi.to.ˈlo.ɣis]parasitologicalencyclopedieen[ˌɛn.si.ˌklo.pe.ˈdi.jən]encyclopedias
6 ˌσ σ σ ˌσ σ ˈσ encyclopedoloog[ˌɛn.si.klo.ˌpe.do.ˈlox]encyclopedistcompatibiliteit[ˌkɔm.pa.ti.ˌbi.li.ˈtɛit]compatibility
6 ˌσ σ ˌσ σ σ ˈσ dialectologie[ˌdi.ja.ˌlɛk.to.lo.ˈɣi]dialectologyindividualist[ˌɪn.di.ˌvi.dy.ʋa.ˈlɪst]individualist

As these generalizations indicate, the leftmost secondary stress in a word usually occurs in the first (stressable) syllable; word-initial secondary stress is only blocked when the main stress is located on the second syllable. Secondary stresses to the right of a primary stress only occur when primary stress is on the antepenult syllable, thus at a distance of two syllables from the word end. As the Three-Syllable Window prohibits the location of primary stress further to the left and adjacent stresses are forbidden in simplex words, antepenultimate primary stress is the only stress location that allows for a final secondary stress (which again can be regarded as an effect of the Alternating Stress Principle).

While the location of secondary stress is predictable in most cases, there is variation in words with six syllables: word-internal secondary stresses occur on the third syllable in some cases, and on the fourth in others (Hoeksema and Van Zonneveld 1984). Booij (1995:106) argues that this difference may be influenced by the morphological make-up of the respective words.

  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Hoeksema, J. & Zonneveld, R.M. van1984Een autosegmentele theorie van het Nederlandse woordaccentSpektator13450-472
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