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Iambic reversal

Iambic reversal is a leftward shift of stress, which is comparable to stress retraction. Unlike stress retraction, however, it is not obligatory, but optional. In general, iambic reversal retracts stress to a position which bears secondary stress if the word concerned occurs in isolation. This is why it usually affects words of three or more syllables with final stress, these having a secondary stress to the left of the primary stress. The 'landing site' of the shifted primary stress of words undergoing iambic reversal, therefore, is the first stressable syllable of the word, which is the leftmost syllable with secondary stress in the isolated form. All this implies that disyllabic words cannot be subject to iambic reversal, though there are some exceptions to this.


Iambic reversal occurs in the following groups of words:

  1. Regularly: attributively used adjectives / place names
  2. Regularly: nouns with an apposition
  3. A few exceptional cases: some disyllabic monomorphemic adjectives
  4. Excluded: most disyllabic monomorphemic adjectives
Examples of these four types can be found in (1). For each example, forms with and without iambic reversal are provided.

Example 1

a. Attributively used adjectives / place names
      respektabel [ˌrɛs.pɛk.'ta:.bəl] example: in respektabel man ['rɛs.pɛk.ˌta.bəl 'mɔn] or [ˌrɛs.pɛk.'ta:.bəl ˌmɔn] a respectable man
      katolyk [ˌkat.to:.'lik] example: in katolike skoalle ['ka.to:.ˌli.kə 'skwal.lə] or [ˌka.to:.'li.kə ˌskwal.lə] a catholic school
      Amsterdam [ˌam.stər.'dam] example: it Amsterdamske bosk ['am.stər.ˌdam.skə 'bosk] or [ˌam.stər.'dam.skə ˌbosk] the Amsterdam wood
      Earnewâld [jɛn.nə.'vɔ:t] example: de Earnewâldster toer ['jɛ.nə.ˌvɔ:s.tər 'tuər] or [ˌjɛ.nə.'vɔ:s.tər ˌtuər] the tower of the village of Earnewâld
b. Nouns with an apposition
      Amsterdam [ˌam.stər.'dam] example: Amsterdam Sintraal ['am.stər.dam sɪn.'tra:l] or [ˌam.stər.'dam.sɪn.ˌtra:l] Amsterdam central station
      kardinaal [ˌkar.di.'na:l] example: kardinaal Simonis ['kar.di.ˌna:l si.'mo:.nɪs] or [ˌkar.di.'na:l si.ˌmo:.nɪs] cardinal Simonis
      admiraal [ˌat.mi.'ra:l] example: admiraal De Ruyter ['at.mi.ˌra:l də.'rœy.tər] or [ˌat.mi.'ra:l də.ˌrœy.tər] admiral De Ruyter
c. Some disyllabic monomorphemic adjectives (exceptional cases)
      sintraal [sɪn.'tra:l] example: it sintraal stasjon ['sɪn.tra:l stas.'sjon] or [sɪn.'tra:l stas.ˌsjon] the central station
      binêr [bi.'nɛːr] example: in binêr skaaimerk ['bi.nɛːr 'ska:j.mɛrk] or [bi.'nɛːr ˌska:j.mɛrk] a binary feature
      finaal [fi.'na:l] example: mei finaal aksint ['fi.na:l ak.'sɪnt] or [fi.'na:l ak.ˌsɪnt] with final accent
d. Disyllabic monomorphemic adjectives (normal cases)
      banaal [ba.'na:l] example: in banaal grapke [ba.'na:l ˌɡrap.kə] [*'ba.na:l 'ɡrap.kə] a trivial joke