Unstressed words in Spanish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, I examine the prosodic nature of unstressed function words in Spanish. I defend the hypothesis that these words, like all other words in the language, have a syllable that is lexically designated as stressed. I suggest that the essential property of these words is that they are subject to a rule of prosodic merger with following elements within the syntactic phrase, creating a single prosodic word domain. Their surface stresslessnes, I argue, is a consequence of the fact that, by a general rule operating in the language, only the rightmost lexical stress is preserved within a prosodic word domain in Spanish. I also consider several pragmatic contexts in which these words may receive stress in discourse. Finally, I briefly compare stresslessness in Spanish with accentlessness in Basque and tonelessness in Bantu languages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-212
Number of pages14
JournalLanguage Sciences
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Mar 2009


  • Accent
  • Prosodic domains
  • Spanish phonology
  • Stress
  • Unstressed words

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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