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An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Language Sciences

Editor-in-Chief: Gast, Volker

IMPACT FACTOR 2018: 1.066

CiteScore 2018: 0.97

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Volume 46, Issue 3


Word length and the location of primary word stress in Dutch, German, and English

Mirjam Ernestus / Anneke Neijt
Published Online: 2008-05-13 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/LING.2008.017


This study addresses the extent to which the location of primary stress in Dutch, German, and English monomorphemic words is affected by the syllables preceding the three final syllables. We present analyses of the monomorphemic words in the CELEX lexical database, which showed that penultimate primary stress is less frequent in Dutch and English trisyllabic than quadrisyllabic words. In addition, we discuss paper-and-pencil experiments in which native speakers assigned primary stress to pseudowords. These experiments provided evidence that in all three languages penultimate stress is more likely in quadrisyllabic than in trisyllabic words. We explain this length effect with the preferences in these languages for word-initial stress and for alternating patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables. The experimental data also showed important intra- and interspeaker variation, and they thus form a challenging test case for theories of language variation.

About the article

Mirjam Ernestus, MPI for Psycholinguistics, P.O. Box 310, 6500 AH Nijmegen, The Netherlands. E-mail:

Received: 2004-02-20

Revised: 2005-06-10

Published Online: 2008-05-13

Published in Print: 2008-05-01

Citation Information: Linguistics, Volume 46, Issue 3, Pages 507–540, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/LING.2008.017.

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