15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-15)

Barcelona, Spain
August 3-9, 2003


Improving the Prediction of German Lexical Stress

Petra S. Wagner

Universität Bonn, Germany

Traditional approaches have regarded German stress to be predictable by localizing the initial stem syllable. Later, Metrical Phonology localized German stress close to the right edge of the stem, depending on the syllable weight. It will be shown that an algorithm based on a polytomous scale of syllable weight rather than a dichotomous one (heavy - light) is well able to predict German lexical stress. However, within the word class of proper names the algorithm fails. Here speakers of German appear to place stress on the left rather than the right edge of the stem. A closer look at the phenomena shows that this is not due to a preference of initial stress in historically older proper names but rather a rhythmic preference for trochees and dactyls. This appears to be evidence for a diachronic process where the influence of syllable weight has increased and become more important than a specific rhythmic pattern. This quantity sensitivity has not yet reached the peak of its influence in the diachronically older proper names.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Wagner, Petra S. (2003): "Improving the prediction of German lexical stress", In ICPhS-15, 2059-2062.