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Stress pattern of reduplications

Based on impressionistic data, reduplications are, across the board, described as having equal stress on both constituents, as amongst others by Botha (1988), Combrink (1990), Conradie (2004) and Raidt (1981).

Closer observation has however revealed a more complex state of affairs as described below (Van Hyssteen and Wissing 2007).


    Basically in reduplicated forms with monosyllabic members, like blaf-blaf, een-een, huil-huil, kort-kort, lag-lag, lui-lui, net-net, nou-nou, sing-sing, skreeu-skreeu, so-so, stil-stil, val-val, vloek-vloek and voel-voel, it is generally found that the first constituent carries main stress, albeit only of a slightly higher levels than the strong secondary stress of the second constituent. First-syllable stress is in compliance with the stress pattern of normal compounds. Note, however, that in reduplications composed of multisyllabic members, as in amper-amper, bietjie(s)-bietjie(s), bitter-bitter, doekoe-doekoe, kielie-kielie, kuier-kuier, vieserig-vieserig and Zama-zama, main stress tends to be on the last member. The latter also applies to semi-reduplications like flikker-flakker, tingel-tangel, tjingel-tjangel and wirrel-warrel (these examples from Combrink 1990:82).

    In experiments, it turns out that stress assignment in reduplications is sensitive to the type of reading task being used. Readers are strongly inclined to stress the second component of monosyllabic reduplications in a reading task in which the focus words are ebedded in carrier sentences, in contrast to stress on the first component when the same words occur within natural sentences. Such unstable behaviour is in accordance with the fact that stress assignment is not as explicit and clear-cut as in the case of normal compounds, an indication of the possible categorization of reduplications as being a separate type of grammatical construction.

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