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Primary stress

In Frisian, word stress manifests itself in much the same way as in Dutch: by an increase in amplitude, duration, and pitch. A stressed syllable therefore is louder, longer, and is spoken on a slightly higher pitch than an unstressed one. Duration seems to be the strongest indicator of a stressed syllable. More details on this can be found in Rietveld (1997:256-258).

The most prominent syllable in a word receives primary stress. For the placement of primary stress a few generalizations hold. These are not without exceptions. There are various cases where the position of primary stress is not in line with the generalizations. The location of primary stress is therefore partly a lexical property of words.

As to the quality of the vowels native Frisian words contain, the following holds:

  • monosyllabic words: they have one full vowel (with the notable exception of some function words);
  • disyllabic words: they have one full vowel and a schwa;
  • trisyllabic words: they have one full vowel and two schwas (there are only a few instances of these).

If a word has more than one full vowel or more than three syllables, it is either a non-native word or a loanword of great antiquity (which is no longer recognizable as such).

The main generalization as to the location of primary stress in native words is that it usually is on the only or the first (left-most) full vowel, which is also the case in Dutch. The non-native part of the Frisian lexicon consists of loanwords, which enter Frisian via Dutch. In general, then, the stress pattern of loan words is the same as that of their Dutch counterparts.

Since a) there is not much literature on Frisian stress and b) the Frisan and Dutch stress systems match to a great extent, the topics on primary stress are mainly based on the comparable Dutch topics, found in Word stress.

  • Rietveld, Antonius C.M. & Heuven, Vincent J. van1997Algemene FonetiekUitgeverij Coutinho