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Stress in complex words

The stress patterns in complex words (compounds, affixed words) differ from those in simplex, underived words. That is, many of the generalizations on stress placement apply to individual constituents of words (e.g. the stem) but not to the complex word as a whole. However, there are also specific generalizations concerning stress in complex words: for instance, some affixes do not affect the stress pattern of their base word at all, others attract it, and still others move it towards a syllable, and others again attract word stress. Furthermore, in compounds there is variation as to whether compound stress falls on the first or the second constituent; words with `strong-weak' as well as with `weak-strong' patterns exist. The literature often assumes strong-weak compounds to be the unmarked group, which is most strongly supported for nominal compounds and verbal compounds. Even more variation is to be found in other types of compounds, most significantly in adjectival compounds, which regularly exhibit weak-strong patterns (at least in predicative position). Variation in stress assignment can also be observed in compounds of greater complexity, where one of the two constituents is itself complex.

Complex words can be subject to stress shifts, which are of two kinds. The first type of stress shift is sensitive to the syntactic position of the relevant complex word: adjectival compounds that have a weak-strong stress pattern in predicative position (can) exhibit a strong-weak pattern in attributive position. While for some adjectival compounds, this difference is categorical (stress retraction), it seems to be optional for others (iambic reversal). Furthermore, in complex words of the type strong-weak, the position of the primary stress within the weak constituent of the compound can sometimes shift rightwards. The shift is most common in cases where the weak constituent is complex itself. Yet it can also occur in longer monomorphemic words.