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Trochaic reversal

Unlike stress retraction and iambic reversal, which are both leftward shifts of stress, trochaic reversal results in a rightward shift of stress in weak second constituents of compounds; it never affects the position of the primary compound stress.


Trochaic reversal regularly occurs in the following word groups (data from Visch 1989, Booij 1995):

Example 1

Compounds with complex second constituents that have initial compound stress
bank [ˈbɑŋk] bank + overval [ˈo.vər.ˌvɑl] robbery
bankoverval bɑŋk.ˌo.vər.ˈvɑl] bank robbery
kanker [ˈkɑŋ.kər] cancer + onderzoek [ˈɔn.dər.ˌzuk] research
kankeronderzoek kɑŋ.kər.ˌɔn.dər.ˈzuk] cancer research
zang [ˈzɑŋ] sing + wedstrijd [ˈʋɛt.strɛit] competition
zangwedstrijd [ˈzɑŋ.ˌʋɛt.ˈstrɛit] singing competition
Example 2

Compounds whose second constituents are trisyllabic prosodic words with initial primary stress
stad /stɑd/ [ˈstɑt] city + almanak [ˈɑl.ma.nɑk] almanac
stadsalmanak stɑts.ˌɑl.ma.ˈnɑk] city almanac
hoofd /hofd/ [ˈhoft] main + regio [ˈre.xi.o] region
hoofdregio hovd.ˌre.xi.ˈo] main region
strand /strɑnd/ [ˈstrɑnt] beach + bungalow [ˈbʏŋ.ga.lo] bungalow
strandbungalow strɑnd.ˌbʏŋ.ga.ˈlo] beach bungalow
Example 3

Compounds whose second constituents are disyllabic and contain a final superheavy syllable that does not carry primary word stress
handen [ˈhɑn.dən] hand-PL + arbeid [ˈɑr.bɛit] work, labour
handenarbeid hɑn.dən.ɑr.ˈbɛit] handcraft
bloed /blud/ [ˈblut] blood + lichaam [ˈlɪ.xam] body
bloedlichaam blud.lɪ.ˈxam] blood cell
voor [ˈvor] before + oordeel [ˈor.del] judgement
vooroordeel vor.or.ˈdel] prejudice

Trochaic reversal is largely excluded in compounds whose second constituent consists of disyllabic prosodic words with initial stress, in which the second syllable is not superheavy(4). There are a few exceptions, possibly lexicalized forms (5):

Example 4

Disyllabic prosodic words with initial stress
bloed /blud/ [ˈblut] blood + plasma [ˈplɑs.ma] plasma
bloedplasma [ˈblutˌplɑs.ma] [*ˈblut.plɑs.ˌma] bloed plasma
brief [ˈbrif] letter + porto [ˈpɔr.to] postage money
briefporto [ˈbrif.ˌpɔr.to] [*ˈbrif.pɔr.ˌto] letter postage
verkeer [vɛr.ˈker] traffic + chaos [ˈxa.ɔs] chaos
verkeerschaos [vɛr.ˈkers.ˌxa.ɔs] [*vɛr.ˈkers.xa.ˌɔs] traffic chaos
post [ˈpɔst] post + giro [ˈxi.ro] transfer
postgiro [ˈpɔst.ˌxi.ro] [*ˈpɔst.xi.ˌro] giro transfer
Example 5

a. tand /tɑnd/ [ˈtɑnt] tooth + pasta [ˈpɑs.ta] paste
      tandpasta [ˈtɑnt.pɑs.ˌta] tooth paste
b. bos [ˈbɔs] forest + atlas [ˈɑt.lɑs] atlas
      bosatlas [ˈbɔs.ɑt.ˌlɑs] atlas used at schools, Bos is the name of the author
c. aarts [ˈarts] arch + bisschop [ˈbɪs.xɔp] bishop
      aartsbisschop [ˈarts.bɪs.ˈxɔp] archbishop

Like iambic reversal, trochaic reversal is generally restricted to words with two stressed syllables, as only syllables with secondary stress in the isolated form are potential carriers of the shifted word stress. Accordingly, it does not occur when the second constituent is a disyllabic prosodic word, as such words have one stressed syllable only: adjacent stressed syllables are prohibited within one prosodic word. A configuration with two adjacent stressed syllables can usually only occur across morpheme boundaries, as e.g. in compounds.

Disyllabic words with unstressed super-heavy finals, which are subject to the stress shifts (see (3)), are an ambiguous category in this respect. Morphologically, they are simplex words as they show no overt morphological complexity, which suggests that the relevant stress patterns are exceptional. Phonologically, on the other hand, they behave like compounds, and they have been analyzed as so-called prosodic compounds in the literature, that is, as words that are morphologically simplex but consist of two prosodic words.

  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Visch, Ellis1989The rhythm rule in English and DutchUtrecht UniversityThesis