This section on prosody discusses phonetic and phonological behavior above the level of the segment in Skerre (All transcriptions again will be phonemic). The section covers the following aspects of suprasegmental behavior:


Stress is the prominence of a certain syllable or certain syllables in a word. In some languages, it is an unpredictable property of the words themselves; in other languages, stress appears in a regular position in relation to the word-edge. In Skerre, the latter is the case.

In Skerre, vowels can be classified into three types with respect to stress: primary, secondary, and unstressed. Phonetically, primary stressed vowels are characterized by high intensity (higher amplitude) and by a higher pitch (although pitch also interacts with intonation). Secondary stressed vowels also have increased intensity and pitch, though not to the degree of the primary stress. Unstressed vowels, while having no apparent anti-prominence effects, have no prominence effects either.

The following sections discuss stress placement, starting with primary stress, then moving onto secondary stress. All vowels not receiving primary or secondary stress are unstressed.

Primary Stress

The General Pattern for Primary Stress

All things being equal, primary stress falls on the second to last syllable (the penultimate syllable). The following lists some examples. Primary stress is shown by underlining the stressed vowel.

Skerre Word Gloss
sawa thing
kesor stone
sa:har room
aska blue
torni be swift
karana grass

This is true even in multimorphemic words, as shown by the pairs below. The dashes indicate a morphological boundary. Note that the addition of affixes often produces a shift in stress.

Gloss   Derived
seja sing (imp.)   si-seja singing
sakar child   sa:-sakar children
wira sister   wira-ʔir little sister
jetin find (something)!   jet-i:sa find him!

Stress in Long-vowel Final Words

When the final vowel is a long vowel, stress does not appear on the penultimate. Instead, the long, final vowel is stressed, as shown below:

Skerre Gloss
hira: form, shape
skwana: vagrant
tero: flood
se:ra: stump
rasina: (kind of poisonous plant)

This rule holds of words with more than one morpheme, provided that the final vowel is still long. Thus, the plural, since it is a prefix, keeps the stress on long-vowel final words, such as /skwana:/, vagrant (plural: s-kwa:-kwana:). However, suffixes, such as the augmentative, cause the stress to shift, since the suffixes don't end in long vowels themselves. Compare [tero:], flood with [tero:-wok], big flood.

Apparently Exceptional Stress

Words, when followed by the left-edge "clitics" (subject markers and possessors), can show what appears to be exceptional stress on the syllable three from the end (the antepenultimate). This is best considered a sub-regularity of the above main patterns – the left-edge verbal satellites are exempt from the calculation of word-edge for the purposes of stress. Some examples (the boundary between the "basic" word and the "clitic" is denoted by "=")

Skerre Gloss
ekweji=ti They arrived.
kawes=na You were sleeping.
koni=wo We don't.
wijet=he my boat
ta akik=se near him/her

Secondary Stress

Secondary stress is very straightforward. It occurs every other vowel from the main stress (long vowels count as two vowels). Some examples are given below (secondary stressed vowels [and the rest of their syllable] is marked with the monospaced font)

Skerre   Gloss
rasina: (kind of poisonous plant)
te:tero: floods
sa:sakar children
ri:watsa:na make blurry
eri:watsati:sa made him/her frontrunner


At a phrasal level above stress, there are further melodic contours, called intonation. These contours, in some sense, attach to the stressed vowels described above, but these are further pitch requirements that go beyond what is required by stress.

There are several intonation types, with various different meanings. The table describes some of them, although more extensive study still needs to be done on Skerre intonation. The H's in the following denote high pitches, the M's mid-level pitches, and the L's low pitches.

Intonation Pattern Clause Type
H M --------- HL Declarative
HL M ----------- Wh-questions
H M -------- LH Non-particle Yes-No Question1
1Questions with the Particle follow the declarative pattern

Most kinds of subordinate clauses as well as the "comma" in left-dislocation all have a pitch reset at the beginning of them.

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