Lexical analyses of the function and phonology of Papuan Malay word stress

Constantijn Kaland*, Angela Kluge, Vincent J. Van Heuven

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


The existence of word stress in Indonesian languages has been controversial. Recent acoustic analyses of Papuan Malay suggest that this language has word stress, counter to other studies and unlike closely related languages. The current study further investigates Papuan Malay by means of lexical (non-acoustic) analyses of two different aspects of word stress. In particular, this paper reports two distribution analyses of a word corpus, 1) investigating the extent to which stress patterns may help word recognition and 2) exploring the phonological factors that predict the distribution of stress patterns. The facilitating role of stress patterns in word recognition was investigated in a lexical analysis of word embeddings. The results show that Papuan Malay word stress (potentially) helps to disambiguate words. As for stress predictors, a random forest analysis investigated the effect of multiple morpho-phonological factors on stress placement. It was found that the mid vowels /E/ and /E/ play a central role in stress placement, refining the conclusions of previous work that mainly focused on /E/. The current study confirms that non-acoustic research on stress can complement acoustic research in important ways. Crucially, the combined findings on stress in Papuan Malay so far give rise to an integrated perspective to word stress, in which phonetic, phonological and cognitive factors are considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-168
Number of pages28
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01 Apr 2021


  • morphophonology
  • phonetics
  • phonetics-phonology interface
  • prosody
  • word stress


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