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Diachronic aspects of Dutch stress (native words vs. loanwords)

From the historical point of view, Dutch primary stress in simplex words mainly derives from three sources (Gaarenstroom 1897; Van Marle 1980; Booij 1995): a Germanic pattern with stress on the initial stressable syllable, a French pattern with stress on the final stressable syllable, and a Latin pattern with stress on the penultimate syllable or on the antepenultimate if the penultimate in the source language is light (i.e., when it is open and contains a short vowel). All syllables with full vowels are stressable, whereas schwa syllables can never receive stress. In the majority of cases, the stress patterns of Dutch loanwords resemble those of the source language (for exceptions, see Stress shifts in Dutch loanword adaptation).

Table 1
Germanic pattern (initial stress) pijler [ˈpɛi.lər] pillar bevel [bə.ˈvɛl/] command
French pattern (final stress) kanon [ka.ˈnɔn] cannon parade [pa.ˈra.də] parade
Latin pattern (penultimate or antepenultimate stress) canon [ˈka.nɔn] canon valium [ˈva.li.jʏm] valium
[+]Germanic pattern

Since words of Germanic origin usually contain only one full vowel, stress always falls on the syllable containing the full vowel. This is illustrated in the examples above. In pijler, only the first syllable is stressable (the second syllable contains a schwa), in bevel, only the second syllable is stressable (the first syllable contains a schwa).

[+]French pattern

French loanwords are stressed on the rightmost syllable that contains a full vowel. Whereas kanon has stress on the final syllable, stress is on the penultimate in the case of parade; the latter is due to the presence of unstressable schwa in the word-final syllable.

[+]Latin pattern

In Latin loanwords, stress can be on the penultimate or on the antepenultimate syllable – in words of three or more syllables, the penult will be stressed if it is heavy, otherwise the antepenult will be stressed.

  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Gaarenstroom, J.H1897De klemtoon in de Nederlandsche taalCulemborgBlom & Olivierse
  • Marle, Jaap van1980The Stress Patterns of Dutch Simplex Words: A First ApproximationDutch StudiesSpringer79-121