• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show full table of contents
Hammock principle

In quadrisyllabic words with final primary stress, secondary stress usually falls on the first syllable of the word, which leaves the second and the third syllables unstressed. This violates the Alternating Stress Principle, which prefers an alternation of stressed and unstressed syllables. The phenomenon was first described in Zwaardemaker and Eijckman (1928:265-273; see also Eijkman 1937, Schultink 1980, Booij 1981: 166-169), and is sometimes referred to as the Hammock principle ((Van Zonneveld 1985):

Hammock principle
Syllables at the edges of prosodic words are stressed.


While the principle describes the general preference for secondary stress on the first stressable syllable of a word (that is, a syllable not containing a schwa) correctly, the situation is more complex at the right edge of the word. We find many items with (regular) penultimate main stress, as for instance:

Here, the principle is violated twice as no edge is stressed. Yet the pattern occurs regularly and may even be the default pattern (see also Overview stress in Dutch monomorphemic words). According to the strictest interpretation of the Hammock principle, we would expect (ˈσσˌσ) or (ˌσσˈσ) to be preferred.

This is a very common stress pattern in Dutch as well (see also Overview stress in Dutch monomorphemic words, Penultimate stress as the default location of primary stress in Dutch), yet it violates the Hammock principle at the right edge of the word).

  • Booij, Geert1981Generatieve fonologie van het NederlandsAula paperbacksUtrecht / AntwerpenHet Spectrum
  • Eijkman, L.P.H1937Phonetiek van het NederlandsHaarlemDe Erven F. Bohn N.V.
  • Schultink, Henk1980Boundaries, word classes and the accentuation of derived words in DutchZonneveld, Wim, Coetsem, Frans & Robinson, Orrin W. (eds.)Dutch StudiesThe HagueSpringer Netherlands205-222
  • Zonneveld, Ron van1985Word rhythm and the Janus syllableThe Structure of Phonological Representations IIDordrechtForis133-142
  • Zwaardemaker, H. & Eijckman, L.P.H1928Leerboek der PhonetiekHaarlemDe Erven Bohn