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Secondary stress in trisyllabic words

Trisyllabic words sometimes have a secondary stress, and sometimes they do not, depending on the location of the primary stress. Words with stress on the penultimate syllable do not have secondary stress; as it would result in two adjacent stressed syllables, which is prohibited in Dutch (see Alternating Stress Principle). Accordingly, the only possible pattern is a stressed syllable in between two unstressed ones.

[+]General information and examples

Words with final primary stress have secondary stress on the initial syllable. The following examples are taken from Celex (Baayen 1995; secondary stresses have been added):

Example 1

Final primary stress: secondary stress on the first syllable
contigu [ˌkɔn.ti.ˈɣy] contiguous
samoerai [ˌsa.mu.ˈrɑj] samurai
bergamot [ˌbɛr.ɣa.ˈmɔt] bergamot
taboeret [ˌta.bu.ˈrɛt] taboret
jubilee [ˌjy.bi.ˈle] jubilee

Words with antepenultimate primary stress have secondary stress on the last syllable (on the assumption that there can be a secondary stress to the right of a primary stress, see debate). Consider the following data from Celex:

Example 2

Antepenultimate primary stress: secondary stress on the final syllable
aloë [ˈa.lo.ˌʋe] aloe
figaro [ˈfi.ɣa.ˌro] figaro
platina [ˈpla.ti.ˌna] platinum
ratio [ˈra.tsi.ˌjo] ratio
podagra [ˈpo.da.ˌɣra] podagra

Assigning secondary stress to the final syllables in trisyllabic words with penultimate stress conflicts with the principle that the rightmost foot usually receives primary stress in Dutch. Scholars differ in whether they do or do not postulate secondary stress on the word-final syllable in these items: while e.g. Kager (1989), Trommelen and Zonneveld (1989), and Booij (1995) assign secondary stress in such cases, e.g. Van Oostendorp (1997) assumes that these syllables remain unstressed.

  • Baayen, R. Harald, Piepenbrock, Richard & Gulikers, L1995The CELEX Lexical Database (CD-ROM), Release 2, Dutch Version 3.1
  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Kager, René1989A Metrical Theory of Stress and Destressing in English and DutchDordrechtForis
  • Oostendorp, Marc van1997Lexicale variatie in de optimaliteitstheorieNederlandse Taalkunde199713-145
  • Trommelen, Mieke & Zonneveld, Wim1989Klemtoon en metrische fonologieMuiderbergCoutinho