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Stress in adjectival compounds

In adjectival compounds, the rightmost constituent is an adjective (A), while the initial constituent can either be

  1. a noun (N),
  2. another adjective (A),
  3. a verb (V), or
  4. a preposition (P).
Adjectival compounds display two stress patterns.

[+]General information

Unlike most nominal compounds, the majority of adjectival compounds are of the type weak-strong; however, NA compounds sometimes also are of the type strong-weak, like most nominal compounds. Such strong-weak compounds usually end in -ziek, -blind, -moe, -doof, -graag, or -rijk (e.g. Langeweg 1988, Backhuys 1989).

Note, however, that the difference in stress placement is neutralized in attributive position, where the stress in adjectival compounds of the type weak-strong regularly shifts to the first constituent; as a result, the contrast between strong-weak and weak-strong neutralizes in attributive position. Below we give examples for NA compounds, AA compounds, VA compounds, and PA compounds.

[+]NA compounds

NA compounds are usually stressed on the right-hand component, at least when they occur in predicative position of a phrase or in isolation.

Example 1

doodziek [[dood][ziek]] [ˈdod.ˈzik] seriously ill
wereldvreemd [[wereld][vreemd]] [ˈʋe.rəld.ˈvremt] unworldly
woningzoekend [[woning][zoekend]] [ˈʋo.nɪŋ.ˈzu.kənt] seeking accommodation

However, NA compounds with invariable stress on the left constituent do exist.

Example 2

zeeziek [[zee][ziek]] [ˈze.ˌzik] seasick
sneeuwblind [[sneeuw][blind]] [ˈsnew.ˌblɪnt] snowblind
kleurenblind [[kleuren][blind]] [ˈklø.rən.ˌblɪnd] colour blind
levensmoe [[levens][moe]] [ˈle.vəns.ˌmu] world-weary
waardevol [[waarde][vol]] [ˈʋɑr.də.ˌvɔl] valuable
praatgraag [[praat][graag]] [ˈprat.ˌxrax] talkative
kleurrijk [[kleur][rijk]] [ˈklør.ˌrɛik] colourful
[+]AA compounds

AA compounds are always stressed on the second constituent in predicative position, and stressed on the left constituent in initial position.

Example 3

welbekend [[wel][bekend]] [ˈʋɛl.bə.ˈkɛnt] well known
hoogzwanger [hoog][zwanger]] [ˈhox.ˈzʋɑ.ŋər] heavily pregnant
zwartwit [[zwart][wit]] [ˈzʋɑrt.ˈʋɪt] black and white
lichtblauw [[licht][blauw]] [ˈlɪxt.ˈblɑu] light blue
[+]VA compounds

VA compounds have compound stress on the second constituent in predicative position.

Example 4

fonkelnieuw [[fonkel][nieuw]] [ˈfɔŋ.kəl.ˈniw] brand new
druipnat [[druip][nat]] [ˈdrœyp.ˈnɑt] soaking wet
kakelvers [[kakel][vers]] [ˈka.kəl.ˈvɛrs] farm-fresh
spuugzat [[spuug][zat]] [ˈspyx.ˈzɑt] sick to death of something
[+]PA compounds

Compound stress in PA compounds is on the second constituent in predicative position.

Example 5

onderbetaald [[onder][betaald]] [ˈɔn.dər.bə.ˈtalt] underpaid
bijziend [[bij][ziend]] [ˈbɛi.ˈzint] nearsighted
overvol [[over][vol]] [ˈo.vər.ˈvɔl] overcrowded
buitengewoon [[buiten][gewoon]] [ˈbœy.tən.xə.ˈʋon] exceptional

Note that variation in the stress patterns can be found in the examples in (5). It is possible that the compound stress rule is applied, which results in the main stress on the first syllable.

  • Backhuys, Kees-Jan1989Adjectival compounds in DutchBennis, H. & Kemenade, A. van (eds.)Linguistics in the NetherlandsDordrecht1-10
  • Langeweg, S. J1988The stress system of DutchUniversity of LeidenThesis