Stress avoidance in hiatus

Anya Lunden


Multiple languages avoid stressing the first of two vowels in hiatus. Evidence that this avoidance has a perceptual basis is shown by the results of a perceptual study. Antepenultimate and penultimate stress versions of 40 three-syllable Norwegian nonce words were played to English listeners, who were asked to identify whether stress was on the first or second syllable. It was found that listeners had significantly more trouble correctly identifying penultimate stress in cases of hiatus (that is, where the penultimate vowel was immediately followed by the vowel of the final syllable). Steriade (2012, 2017) has proposed that Interval Theory accounts for the lack of stress in this position because the weight domain is too small to fulfill the requirement to bear stress. While this account is compatible with the perceptual account proposed here, an examination of the possible weight domains of the stimuli used finds a problem for Interval Theory. The onset of a stressed syllable is found to significantly lengthen, but because Interval Theory takes this consonant to be part of the preceding, unstressed interval, interval durations are out of sync with the relative prominence of the weight domains in a word.


stress; hiatus; rhymes; intervals; Norwegian

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