Are Indonesians sensitive to contrastive accentuation below the word level?

Vincent J. van Heuven, Vera Faust


It is impossible in Indonesian to express narrow-focus meta-linguistic contrasts
on subparts of words (whether meaningless syllables or meaningful morphemes).
In English and Dutch this possibility exists, as in I meant coffin not coffer or I said
meaningful not meaningless. We predict from this circumstance that Indonesian
learners of Dutch will not be sensitive to this type of prosodic contrast marking at
the sub-word level. Native Dutch speakers should be able to make functional use
of this type of contrast. We conducted an experiment with thirteen Indonesian
learners of Dutch with lengths of residence in the Netherlands between 3
weeks and 27 years, and a group of thirteen native Dutch speakers as controls.
The results show that the Indonesian learners perform at chance level, and are
therefore insensitive to narrow-focus contrasts below the word level. Dutch
learners are highly sensitive to these contrasts on average, although three out of
thirteen performed at chance level. We argue from these results that Indonesian
has no word stress.


Accent, Dutch, focus, Indonesian, meta-linguistic contrast, second-language acquisition of prosodic functions, stress, word-prosodic typology.

Full Text:



Boersma, P. and D. Weenink. 1996. “Praat, a system for doing phonetics by computer”. [Report of the Institute of Phonetic Sciences 136, University of Amsterdam.]

Chun, D.M. 2002. Discourse intonation in L2; From theory and research to practice. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Comrie, B., M.S. Dryer, M. Haspelmath, and D. Gil (eds). 2005. World Atlas of Language Structures. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cutler, A. and D.M. Carter. 1987. “The predominance of strong initial syllables in English vocabulary”, Computer Speech and Language 2: 133–142.

Cutler, A. and C.E. Clifton. 1984. “The use of prosodic information in word recognition”, in: H. Bouma and D.G. Bouwhuis (eds), Attention and performance X, pp. 183–196. Hillsdale NJ: Erlbaum.

Cutler, A. and W. van Donselaar. 2001. “Voornaam is not (really) a homophone; Lexical prosody and lexical access in Dutch”, Language and Speech 44: 171–195.

Ebing, E.F. 1997. Form and function of pitch movements in Indonesian. Leiden: CNWS. [CNWS Publications 55.]

Heuven, V.J. van. 1988. “Effects of stress and accent on the human recognition of word fragments in spoken context; Gating and shadowing”, in: W.A. Ainsworth and J.N. Holmes (eds), Proceedings of the Seventh FASE/Speech-88.

Symposium, pp. 811–818. Endinburgh: The Institute of Acoustics.

Heuven, V.J. van. 2008. “Making sense of strange sounds: (mutual) intelligibility of related language varieties; A review”, International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing 2: 39–62.

Heuven, V.J. van and P.J. Hagman. 1988. “Lexical statistics and spoken word recognition in Dutch”, in: P. Coopmans and A. Hulk (eds), Linguistics in the Netherlands 1988, pp. 59–68. Dordrecht: Foris.

Heuven, V.J. van, L. Roosman, and E. van Zanten. 2008. “Betawi Malay word prosody”, Lingua 118: 1271–1287.

Ladd, R.D. 1996. Intonational phonology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Langeweg, S.J. 1988. The stress system of Dutch. PhD thesis, Leiden University.

Odé, C. 1994. “On the perception of prominence in Indonesian”, in: C. Odé and V.J. van Heuven (eds), Experimental studies of Indonesian prosody, pp. 27-107. Leiden: Vakgroep Talen en Culturen van Zuidoost-Azië en Oceanië, Leiden University. [Semaian 9.]

Rasier, L. and P. Hiligsmann. 2007. “Prosodic transfer from L1 to L2; Theoretical and methodological issues”, Nouveaux cahiers de linguistique française 28: 41–66.

Remijsen, B. 2002. “Lexically contrastive stress accent and lexical tone in MaÈya”, in: C. Gussenhoven and N. Warner (eds), Laboratory phonology VII, pp. 585-614. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Remijsen, B. and V.J. van Heuven. 2005. “Stress, tone and discourse prominence in the Curaçao dialect of Papiamentu”, Phonology 22: 205–235.

Rietveld, A.C.M. and V.J. van Heuven. 2009. Algemene fonetiek. Bussum: Coutinho.

Roosman, L.M. 2006. Phonetic experiments on the word and sentence prosody of Betawi Malay and Toba Batak. Utrecht: LOT. [LOT dissertation series 129.]

Sluijter A.M.C. and V.J. van Heuven. 1995. “Effects of focus distribution, pitch accent and lexical stress on the temporal organisation of syllables in Dutch”, Phonetica 52: 71–89.

Sluijter A.M.C. and V.J. van Heuven. 1996. “Spectral balance as an acoustic correlate of linguistic stress”, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 100: 2471–2485.

Zanten, E. van and R.W.N. Goedemans. 2007. “A functional typology of Austronesian and Papuan stress systems”, in: V.J. van Heuven and E. van Zanten (eds), Prosody in Indonesian languages, pp. 63-88. Utrecht: LOT.[LOT Occasional Series 9.]

Zanten E. van, R.W.N. Goedemans, and J.J.A. Pacilly. 2003. “The status of word stress in Indonesian”, in: J. van de Weijer, V.J. van Heuven, and H.G.van der Hulst (eds), The phonological spectrum; Volume II: Suprasegmental structure, pp. 151–175. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Zanten, E. van and V.J. van Heuven. 1998. “Word stress in Indonesian; Its communicative relevance”, Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- and Volkenkunde 154: 129–147.

Zanten, E. van and V.J. van Heuven. 2004. “Word stress in Indonesian; Fixed or free?”, NUSA; Linguistic Studies of Indonesian and other Languages in Indonesia 53: 1–20.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Free counters!