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Primary stress on monomorphemic words in Afrikaans

Stress placement on Afrikaans monomorphemes depends on the following factors:

  1. The type of nucleus,
  2. The position of a syllable in the word,
  3. The structure of a syllable, and
  4. The origin of words.

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

For general background information:

(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)


    Of the factors mentioned above, position (2) tends to be the most important. Taking this into account, the following may be formulated as the main stress rule (MSR) for Afrikaans monomorphemes:

    Primary stress lies on 1) the penultimatesyllable of monomorphemic words ending on an unstressed syllable, or 2) on the antepenultimate syllable when followed by two unstressed syllables, except 3) when other factors dictate word-final stress.


    1. albaster /ɑl.'bɑs.tər/ marble
    2. duidelik /'dœy.də.lək/ clear
    3. generaal /xə.nə.'ral/ general

    In the case of 1) the last syllable is not stressable due to the presence of weak schwa /ə/; in 2) both final syllables are of this kind, and in 3) the final syllable contains a long vowel that is strong enough to attract primary stress.

    For more examples, see The short vowels of Afrikaans, and Long vowels in monomorphemes.

    Three types of vowel segments are distinguished in Afrikaans phonology: diphthongs, long vowels and short vowels. Diphthongs and long vowels are strong attractors of stress; short vowels behave variably in this regard, depending on their position in a word and the subtype to which they belong.

    Note that this classification differs from that of Dutch, which normally distinguishes between Class-A and Class-B vowels (see Booij 1995 and this topic on the segment inventory of Dutch; this topic on the Dutch vowel inventory, and reference in there).

    In Afrikaans, /a/, /o/, /e/, /ø/ are considered to be long (Long vowels in monomorphemes), while the rest of the monophthongs are short i.e. /ɛ/, /ɔ/, /ɑ/, /œ/, /ə/, /i/, /u/ and /y/ (The short vowels of Afrikaans). All diphthongs in Afrikaans are long. With respect to stress-assignment rules, it is useful to distinguish between the following subgroups of short vowels :

    1. /i/, /u/ and /y/ are phonetically short but, in reaction to stress, often behave in some respects as if they were long: they are sometimes stressed in word-final, open syllables, mostly in words of Classical origin.
    2. /ɑ/, /ə/, /ɛ/, /ɔ/ and /œ/ are phonetically short.
    3. /ə/, /ɑ/ occur freely in all positions, in all types of words, and when in word-final, open syllables, are always unstressed.
    4. /ɛ/ and /ɔ/ behave in a similar fashion to 1.3., except that in word-final, open syllables they are restricted to the names of places and persons adopted from indigenous South African languages.
    5. /œ/ occurs freely in word-medial positions, in open as well as closed syllables, though never in word-final position, and therefore does not play any role in primary stress assignment.

    For details, consult the following:

    • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
    • 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 Linguistics = Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Taalkunde941-46,
    • 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 Linguistics = Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Taalkunde118-17,
    • 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,
    • Wissing, D.P1971Fonologie en morfologie van die simplekse selfstandige naamwoord in Afrikaans: 'n transformasioneel-generatiewe beskrywing.Thesis
    • Wissing, D.P1988Die Afrikaanse en Nederlandse verkleiningsisteme: 'n vergelyking in metries-fonologiese kader.Literator962-75,
    • Wissing, Daan2017FonologieVan Schaik
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