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Stress in monomorphemes with final <a>

Short /ɑ/ occurs frequently in multisyllabic polymorphemic words. For the purposes of the Main Stress Rule (MSR) we focus on the word-final position in closed as well as open syllables, as well as on the penultimate position. Note that this is contrary to the case in Dutch, where short /ɑ/ is not allowed word-finally. In general, stress is placed on syllables preceeding word-final /ɑ/, thus penultimate stress in such words is predominant. The most telling example concerning the behaviour of /-ɑ/ in terms of stress placement is the Afrikaans adoption of the internationally widely-used five-syllable word abracadabra /ɑ.brɑ.kɑ.'dɑ.brɑ/. Note that all instances of the vowel in this word are pronounced as short, contrary to Dutch, where this vowel is transcribed as long (see inscription in Celex database: abracadabra\a.b.r.a.k.a.d.a.b.r.a.\a-bra-ka-'da-bra). The typical Afrikaans word koekemakranka /ku.kə.mɑ.'krɑŋ.kɑ/ is also illustative in this regard.

The following articles 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, L.G. 1981); (Combrink, J.G.H.; De Stadler, L.G. 1987); (De Stadler, L.G. 1991); (De Villiers, M. 1965); (De Villiers, M.; Ponelis, F.A. 1992); (Lee, A.S. 1963); (Le Roux, J.J. 1936); (Le Roux, T.H.; Pienaar, P. de V. 1927); (Lubbe, H.J. 1993); (Lubbe, H.J. 1993); (Lubbe, H.J. 1993); (Lubbe, H.J. 1993); (Wissing, D.P. 1971); (Wissing, D. 1987); (Wissing, D.P. 1988); (Wissing, D.P. 1988); (Wissing, D. 1989); (Wissing, D.P. 1989); (Wissing, D. 1991); (Wissing 2017)


Here /ɑ/ will be treated in terms of its place and role in the stress pattern of Afrikaans bisyllabic and multisyllabic monomorphemic words. Firstly we concentrate at this vowel in closed syllables word-finally, and then in open syllables.

In the following Extra, bisyllabic and multisyllabic monomorphemic words with /ɑ/ word-finally are listed, all of them found in a variety of sources, like dictionaries and other available electronic word-lists.

[+] /ɑ/ in closed final syllable position

In this section we focus on monomorphemic words ending on a single nonsonorant, i.e. obstruent consonant. Many cases of double consonant codas exist, where the first consonant is a sonorant (double obstruents do not occur in Afrikaans. In Note 7 beneath a number of such words, all ending on <nt> is given, representative of other, similar cases ending in sonorants plus obstruent, viz. <lt>, <rt>, <nd>, <rd>, <lp>, <rp> etc.

[+] Nonsonorant codas
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Figure 1

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  1. Word-final stress is in the minority: 18 out of the 48 cases (bold) have final stress.
  2. All names of weekdays receive non-final stress; only Maandag is taken up in the list, making the <g> list much longer.
  3. Initial pseudo-prefixes be-, ge-, ver- are unstressable, forcing final stress in the relevant words.
  4. Both syllables in kompas are officially recognised.
  5. Final stress dominates in words with /k/ as coda.
  6. Words with final member dat (nadat, omdat, sodat, vandat, voordat) could be regarded as opague compounds, or perhaps derivations; we consider them to be monomorphemic in nature.
  7. The overall impression of short /ɑ/ is that it is a rather weak vowel; perhaps apart from schwa the weakest of all short vowels.
  8. The following monomorphemes - all bisyllabic - all have final stress: astrant, blatant, deskant, dormant, ekstant, fisant, formant, galant, gesant, kalant, koerant, kontant, krisant, markant, migrant, parmant, pendant, riskant, sersant, sonant, trawant, vakant, variant, verwant. A large number of similar words exist, also multisyllabic, like amusant, apelant, diamant, elegant, ledekant, immigant, olifant, operant, predikant, relevant, variant. Only olifant is an exception, in that it has initial syllable stress.

[+] Sonorant codas
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Figure 2

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  1. The majority of words show penultimate stress.
  2. The overweight of nonfinal stress, as in the case of words with nonsonorant codas (in previous Extra above) once more suggests /ɑ/ to be a rather weak vowel, though not as weak as schwa, that is unstressable in final syllables with sonorant codas.
  3. Most words as bisyllabic; more of them exhibit penultimate stress than otherwise, with the exception of interval and talisman, with initial stress.
  4. spektrogram and telefoon ; more of these types exist, e.g. anagram, diagram and grammofoon, megafoon, mikrofoon, saksofoon. These and other, similar words may be categorised as pseudo-compounds, after having lost this character of compounds, stress shifted to the last member in compliance with true monomorphemes ending on long /o/ plus a coda, and /ɑm/ respectively.

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Figure 3

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The stressed vowels in these words occur in both open and closed syllables and vowels are not restricted as to type i.e. both short and long (monophthongal and diphthongal) vowels occur frequently in these examples. Syllable position (i.e. penultimate) is thus the only robust factor here in terms of stress placement.

[+] Adopted South African place names

The existence of quite a number of place names recently adopted or imported into Afrikaans needs mentioning. They are of special interest in that the assignment of stress position in newly adopted words may provide important means for the falsification of proposed stress rules (Neijt, Anneke and Zonneveld, Wim. 1982). (Kager, R. 1989) also mentions imported words alongside mispronunciations in this regard.

Note that such adopted place names in Afrikaans provide an interesting and important perspective on the possibility of incorporating the Three-syllable Window principle into Afrikaans, as is the case in Dutch. According to this principle, primary stress can only fall on one of the last three syllables of a monomorphemic word (see e.g. (Kager, R. 1989); (Trommelen, M.; Zonneveld, W. 1989); (Booij, Geert 1995); and also Three-Syllable Window in Dutch. As is the case with Afrikaans, however, native (Germanic) words in Dutch are too short to demonstrate the relevance of this principle, for they usually contain only one full vowel. This necessitates looking at adopted words, all of which adhere to the Three-Syllable Window principle. Some telling examples, cited by (Kager, R. 1989) are: Ashurbanipal, Carvancevitam, Demosthenes, Erechtheion, Melanchton . Only a small number of quadrisyllabic Dutch toponyms and Latin grammatical terms incorporated into Dutch are exceptions, all of which show pre-antepenultimate stress e.g. the name of the city of Scheveningen ['sxe.vә.nɪŋ.ә(n)], and the grammatical term infinitief ['ɪn.fi.ni.tif]infinitive. Note that, in Afrikaans, stress placement on the equivalent of these two words is on the final syllable.

In the Post-Apartheid era, a number of former Afrikaans geographical names have been replaced by African (languages of the Bantu family) ones, e.g. Mpumalanga (Eastern Transvaal), Mbombela (Nelspruit), Bela-Bela (Warmbaths), KwaDukuza (Stranger), Senwabarwana (Bochum). These names exist alongside other, naturalised names, that were incorporated earlier into Afrikaans, e.g. Marikana, Phalaborwa, Phutaditjhaba, Bophuthatswana. Note that all of these names carry penultimate stress in the case of Afrikaans speaking persons' pronunciation. Other multisyllabic place names ending on a variety of vowels include Ekhuruleni, Empangeni, Eshowe, Giyane, Hluhluwe, Hlanganani, Khayalami, Mabopane, Malelane, Modimolle, Mokopane, Mpumamlanga and Polokwane. Penultimate stress in these cases supports the existence of the Three-Syllable Window principle in the case of Afrikaans too. Note that the view of Van Oostendorp (Three-Syllable Window), that the overriding of the Three-Syllable Window principle, in the case of a number of Dutch exceptions, should be regarded as a diachronic effect of loanword adaptation, is not relevant here., : According to him, Dutch speakers may have adopted words like Scheveningen and infinitief , as mentioned above, with the stress pattern of the source languages retained. In the case of Afrikaans, however, and in terms of its adoption of words from indigenous languages, it is widely assumed that syllable-timed languages, like the Bantu languages, do not exhibit linguistic stress (cf. (Cole, D..T. 1953)): "… there is no indication that stress has any significant function whatsoever in this language." Consequently, it is reasonable to assume that speakers adopting names from these languages are simply applying the rule of Afrikaans penultimate stress, the overall patterning of which is to be taken as strong support for the proposed synchronic phonological stress-assignment rules.

Given the above, penultimate stress-assignment in the first names and surnames of current prominent South African politicians should be treated along the same lines. Holomisa, Komphela, Madonsela, Madiba, Makwetla, Malema, Mandela, Ramaphosa, Zwelinzima, are a few well-known examples .

[+] Words ending on <a> with antepenultimate stress

Some subclasses of words ending on /ɑ/, those in which /ɑ/ is preceeded by a glide (as in ia [ijɑ]), or those in which /ɑ/ is preceeded by /i/ + some consonant(s) (as in ika [ikɑ]) have antepenultimate stress. /ea/ (as in area) is pronounced as [ijɑ] too. Examples of <ia> are provided in the Extra below. For more on similar cases, see Short -oe in monomorphemes

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Figure 4

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Most of the examples of the <-ia> type of words have antepenultimate stress, irrespective of word length. Stress on the penultimate syllable seems to be restricted to proper names, e.g. Jeremia, Maria, Samaria, Sofia. Interestingly Maria in languages such as Croatian is written as Marija.

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