• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show full table of contents
Stress retraction

In certain syntactic and pragmatic contexts, the stress pattern of compounds and complex first names may deviate from the 'neutral' stress pattern. Since the deviating stress is located further to the left than in the neutral stress pattern, the phenomenon at hand is termed stress retraction. It is obligatorily found a) in adjectival compounds of the type weak-strong (see Stress in adjectival compounds), b) in compounds of two prepositions (see Stress in compounds with an adposition), and c) in complex first names (when followed by a surname). In general, the neutral stress pattern is found when the compound or the complex name is realized either in isolation (all categories) or, more specifically, in predicative position (adjectival compounds) or in sentence-final position (compounds with an adposition).

[+]Adjectival compounds of the type weak-strong

A classic example of stress retraction is provided by the different realizations of an adjectival compound like deasiik dangerously ill, consisting of the adjectives siik ill and dea dead (which serves to denote a dangerously high degree of illness). In predicative position (1a) stress is on the second, in attributive position (1b) it is on the first constituent.

Example 1

a. It bern is deasiik [dɪə.'si:k] the child is dangerously ill
b. In deasiik bern ['dɪə.si:ɡ] a dangerously ill child

In predicative position, however, (extra) stress on the first constituent may occur in the context of a contrastive reading, as exemplified in (2):

Example 2

It bern is net siik, mar deasiik ['dɪə.si:k] the child is not just ill, it is dangerously ill
[hide extra information]

When two adjectival compounds, both expressing a (very) high degree of a certain property, are compared, this may also result is (extra) stress on the second constituent of the compounds in question, no matter whether they are in predicative or attributive position. See the following example: It bern is net deawurch, mar deasiik the child is not dead tired, but dangerously ill and Gjin deawurch, mar in deasiik bern not a dead tired, but a dangerously ill child, where deawurch and deasiik are realized as [dɪə'vørx] and [dɪə'si:k], respectively.

The stress shift in deasiik in (1) equals that of adjectives which are modified by a degree adverb, as in (3):

Example 3

a. It bern is slim siik [slɪm 'si:k] the child is seriously ill
b. In slim siik bern ['slɪm si:k] a seriously ill child
[+]Compounds of two prepositions

In sentence-final position and in isolation, compounds of two prepositions have stress on the second constituent; when followed by a complement, stress shifts to the first constituent. See the examples in (4):

Example 4

a. De noat stiet ûnderoan [ˌun.dər.'oən] the note is at the bottom [sentence-final position:]
      De noat stiet ûnderoan de side ['un.dər.ˌoən] the note is at the bottom of the page [attributive position:]
b. It boek leit boppe-op [ˌbop.pə.'op] the book is on top [sentence-final position:]
      It boek leit boppe-op de steapel ['bop.pə.ˌop] the book is on top of the pile [attributive position:]
c. Hja sitte efteryn [ɛf.tər.'in] they are sitting in the back [sentence-final position:]
      Hja sitte efteryn 'e tún ['ɛf.tər.ˌin] they are sitting in the back of the garden [attributive position:]
[hide extra information]

Phrases like efteryn 'e tún in the back of the garden ((4c)) can also be analyzed as consisting of the prepositional phrase yn 'e tún in the garden modified by the adverb efter at the back; the phrase would have to be written as efter yn 'e tún then.

[+]Complex first names (when combined with a surname)

Complex first names are subject to stress shift when they are combined with a surname. This is shown for the name Jan-Piter Weening in (5): (5a) shows the pronunciation of the complex first name Jan-Piter in isolation ‒ without surname ‒, in which case stress is on the right-hand constituent. In (5b), in which the surname Weening has been added, primary stress is on the surname, while stress in the complex first name has shifted to the first constituent, which now bears secondary stress.

Example 5

a. Jan-Piter [jɔm.'pi.tər]
b. Jan-Piter Weening [ˌjɔm.pi.tər.'ve:.nɪŋ]
[hide extra information]

In general, stress retraction is assumed to be called for in order to resolve a stress clash. As for Dutch, this is discussed in Gussenhoven (1984), Visch (1989), Backhuys (1989), and Booij (1995). According to these analyses, the default stress pattern of adjectival compounds like deasiik dangerously ill and APs like slim siik seriously ill is weak-strong, a pattern which is found when the adjectives occur in isolation or in predicative position. In APs, where the adjectives occur in attributive position, stress is on the noun. If the adjective is an adjectival compound, with stress on the second constituent, this gives rise to a stress clash, which is considered to be the motivation behind stress retraction. More details can be found in the Dutch topic onStress retraction.

  • Backhuys, Kees-Jan1989Adjectival compounds in DutchBennis, H. & Kemenade, A. van (eds.)Linguistics in the NetherlandsDordrecht1-10
  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Gussenhoven, Carlos1984On the grammar and semantics of sentence accentsDordrechtForis
  • Visch, Ellis1989The rhythm rule in English and DutchUtrecht UniversityThesis