American English Phonetics

Another American English Faculty Project

Most noun compounds have the stress on the first constituent. Examples are ˈcourse requirements, ˈhigh chair (kinderstoel), ˈhousing problem, ˈlunch voucher, ˈalbum cover, ˈring finger, ˈweekend, ˈtrade union, ˈloudspeaker.

In the following cases both constituents are stressed:

  • in names of streets and buildings, except when the second constituent is street: ˈTimes ˈSquare, ˈRochester ˈRoad, ˈMaplewood ˈTerrace, ˈMadison ˈLane, ˈMary Jane ˈLane, ˈGrand Central ˈStation, ˈGolden Gate ˈBridge, but ˈWall Street, ˈState Street, ˈTwenty-Second Street.
    Note that in Dutch in these cases the stress frequently falls on the first constituent ˈAnnastraat, da ˈCostakade, Induˈstrieweg. There is a great deal of variation in the way Dutch Street names are stressed, however.
  • when the first constituent is arch, ex, non, self, over (too much), under (too little), vice: ˈarchˈbishop, ˈex-ˈwife, ˈnon-interˈvention, ˈself-ˈdiscipline, ˈself-ˈservice, ˈover-compenˈsation, ˈunder-deˈvelopment, ˈunderˈstatement, ˈvice-ˈchancelor, etc.
    Note that those with ex and non normally have the same pattern as in Dutch.
  • when the first constituent refers to place: ˈtown ˈhall, ˈvillage ˈchurch, ˈtop ˈshelf, ˈmiddle ˈfinger, ˈbottom ˈrung (onderste sport van ladder), ˈback ˈdoor, ˈfront ˈgarden, ˈnorth ˈpole, ˈworld ˈwar, but not for instance ˈtownhouse (ong. drive-in woning), in which the first constituent does not refer to place.
  • when the first constituent refers to time: ˈweekend ˈmeal, ˈFebruary ˈwinds, ˈwinter ˈevening, ˈnight ˈwatchman, ˈspring ˈcleaning.
  • when the second constituent refers to a kind of food such as broth (bouillon), chop (karbonade), curry, cut(let) (lap(je)), pie, pudding, soup, squash (soort pompoen), stew, tea, as in ˈchicken ˈbroth, ˈpork ˈchop, ˈvegetable ˈcurry, ˈveal ˈcutlets, ˈapple ˈpie, ˈplum ˈpudding, ˈtomato ˈsoup, ˈwinter ˈsquash (gerecht gemaakt van pompoen), ˈbeefˈ stew, ˈlemon ˈtea.

In addition, there are quite a number of noun compounds with two stresses for which no rule can be given. Among them are ˈanti-ˈclimax, ˈcourt-ˈjester (hof­nar), ˈdry-ˈcleaning, ˈfamily ˈplanning, ˈfour ˈposter (hemelbed), ˈgood ˈwill, ˈkitchen ˈgarden (moestuin), ˈMiddle ˈAges, ˈpotˈ luck (to take potluck: maar iets kiezen; ook: eten wat de pot schaft), ˈrevolving ˈdoor (draaideur), ˈsafe ˈconduct (vrijgeleide), ˈshop ˈsteward (vakbondsvertegenwoordiger op fabriek of fabrieksafdeling), ˈshop ˈwindow (etalage), ˈsliding ˈdoor.

There are also noun compounds with the stress on the first constituent that might wrongly be thought to have the stress on the second, on the basis of their equiva­lents in Dutch. In such cases the compounds are misinterpreted as combinations of adjective plus noun. Examples are ˈblind spot (blinde vlek; dode hoek (auto)), ˈcold cream (huid crème, schoonmaakcrème), ˈdark room (doka), ˈmental institution, ˈnervous system, ˈpostal service, ˈsolar system.

A noun compound that comes from a verb + particle combination always has the stress on the first constituent. From to ˈpin ˈup, for example, the noun ˈpin up is formed, and from to ˈtip ˈoff the noun ˈtip off (tip, aan politie). When these noun compounds are taken over into Dutch, the second constituent is stressed.

Here are a few examples, together with the usual Dutch pronunciation:

close up /ˈkloʊsʌp/ /klo.z ˈʏp/
feedback /ˈfiːdbæk/ /fidˈbɛk/
lay-out /ˈleɪaʊt/ /leˈɔut/
make-up /ˈmeɪk ʌp/ /me.k ʏp/
stand by /ˈstæn baɪ /stɛnd ˈba.j/
teach-in /ˈtiːt͡ʃɪn /titʃˈɪn/
try-out /ˈtraɪ aʊt /tra.j ˈɔut/

The relationship between to pin up and a pin up may be compared with that between to contrast and a contrast discussed above. These noun compounds should be distinguished from formations like ˈpassers ˈby (voorbijgangers), ˈswearing-ˈin (beëdiging, bijv. van president), ˈgoings-ˈon, which are stressed in the same way as the verb + particle combination from which they are derived.