Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 15
  • Cited by
    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Kunter, Gero and Plag, Ingo 2016. Morphological embedding and phonetic reduction: the case of triconstituent compounds. Morphology, Vol. 26, Issue. 2, p. 201.

    Rao, Rajiv 2015. On the phonological status of Spanish compound words. Word Structure, Vol. 8, Issue. 1, p. 84.

    Arnaud, Pierre J.L. and Renner, Vincent 2014. English and French [NN]Nlexical units: A categorial, morphological and semantic comparison. Word Structure, Vol. 7, Issue. 1, p. 1.

    Meng, Fanbo Wu, Zhiyong Jia, Jia Meng, Helen and Cai, Lianhong 2014. Synthesizing English emphatic speech for multimodal corrective feedback in computer-aided pronunciation training. Multimedia Tools and Applications, Vol. 73, Issue. 1, p. 463.

    Bell, Melanie J. and Plag, Ingo 2013. Informativity and analogy in English compound stress. Word Structure, Vol. 6, Issue. 2, p. 129.

    BELL, MELANIE J. and PLAG, INGO 2012. Informativeness is a determinant of compound stress in English. Journal of Linguistics, Vol. 48, Issue. 03, p. 485.

    ARNDT-LAPPE, SABINE 2011. Towards an exemplar-based model of stress in English noun–noun compounds. Journal of Linguistics, Vol. 47, Issue. 03, p. 549.

    Plag, Ingo Kunter, Gero and Schramm, Mareile 2011. Acoustic correlates of primary and secondary stress in North American English. Journal of Phonetics, Vol. 39, Issue. 3, p. 362.

    Schlücker, Barbara and Plag, Ingo 2011. Compound or phrase? Analogy in naming. Lingua, Vol. 121, Issue. 9, p. 1539.

    Smith, Mark 2011. Multiple property models of lexical categories. Linguistics, Vol. 49, Issue. 1, p. 1.

    Plag, Ingo 2010. Compound stress assignment by analogy: the constituent family bias. Zeitschrift für Sprachwissenschaft, Vol. 29, Issue. 2,

    J. Giegerich, Heinz 2009. The English compound stress myth1. Word Structure, Vol. 2, Issue. 1, p. 1.

    Kösling, Kristina and Plag, Ingo 2009. Does branching direction determine prominence assignment? An empirical investigation of triconstituent compounds in English. Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory, Vol. 5, Issue. 2,

    KROTT, ANDREA GAGNÉ, CHRISTINA L. and NICOLADIS, ELENA 2009. How the parts relate to the whole: Frequency effects on children's interpretations of novel compounds. Journal of Child Language, Vol. 36, Issue. 01, p. 85.

    Plag, Ingo Kunter, Gero and Lappe, Sabine 2007. Testing hypotheses about compound stress assignment in English: a corpus-based investigation. Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory, Vol. 3, Issue. 2,


The variability of compound stress in English: structural, semantic, and analogical factors

  • INGO PLAG (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 May 2006

It is generally assumed that noun–noun (NN) compounds in English are stressed on the left-hand member (e.g. cóurtroom, wátchmaker). However, there is a considerable amount of variation in stress assignment (e.g. silk tíe, Madison Ávenue, singer-sóngwriter), whose significance and sources are largely unaccounted for in the literature. This article presents an experimental study in which three competing hypotheses concerning NN stress assignment are tested. The stress patterns of novel and existing compounds, as obtained in a reading experiment with native speakers of American English, were acoustically measured and analyzed. The results show that there is indeed a considerable amount of variation in stress assignment, and that all three hypothesized factors, i.e. structure, semantics, and analogy, are relevant, though to different degrees. On a theoretical level, the findings strongly suggest that a categorical approach cannot be upheld and that probability and analogy need to be incorporated into an adequate account of stress assignment in noun–noun constructions. The article also makes a methodological contribution to the debate in showing that experimental studies using pitch measurements can shed new light on the issue of variable compound stress.

Hide All
This article is dedicated to Günter Rohdenburg on the occasion of his 65th birthday. I would like to thank the two ELL reviewers for their remarks on the first version of this article. I am also grateful to the audiences at the DUtKöMarSie-Workshop 2005, the Sprachwissenschaftliches Kolloquium at Universität Siegen 2005, and the Jahrestagung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Sprachwissenschaft 2005 in Cologne for providing comments and suggestions. I am also very grateful to Heinz Giegerich, Laurie Bauer, Maria Braun, Miriam Ernestus, Sabine Lappe, Hiromi Noda, Gero Kunter, and Mareile Schramm for commenting on earlier versions. Thanks are also due to Gero Kunter for his help with some of the acoustic analyses and Holger Mitterer for his help with the Praat scripts. A very special thanks goes to Harald Baayen for his critical support, detailed suggestions, and for sharing his expertise in statistics with me. I also thank my student Julia Albrecht for starting all this. Needless to say, the usual disclaimers apply. This work was supported by a research grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

English Language & Linguistics
  • ISSN: 1360-6743
  • EISSN: 1469-4379
  • URL: /core/journals/english-language-and-linguistics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *