Final versus non-final accent


Most words can be accented in two different ways - with a final or a non-final accent. (Non-final accent refers to any accent that does not fall on the last vowel.) The type of accent depends on where the word occurs in a sentence or phrase: 


  • Words have a non-final accent 
    • when they are pronounced alone or 'solo'; or
    • when they are at the end of a phrase.
  • Words have a final accent when they are not at the end of a phrase.


Two types of accent pattern for most words


Here are two examples illustrating that the same word will change its accent placement, depending on where it occurs in a phrase. In the first instance, accent is on the final vowel of aga:tǫ:déˀ because this word is not at the end of the phrase.


Final accent

Aga:tǫ:déˀ tsǫ́:, tę́ˀ ní:ˀ degé:gę:ˀ.  I just heard it, I didn’t see it.


In the second example, the same word has a non-final accent (aga:tǫ́:deˀ) because it is at the end of a phrase.


Non-final accent

Negitsǫ́: aga:tǫ́:deˀ I just heard it


Exceptions to the final/non-final accent pattern


While most words have either a final or a non-final accent, short words are different. Depending on the context,

  • some two-syllable words either have a final accent or no accent; and
  • one-syllable words are either accented or unaccented.

For more details, see the page on accenting short words


In addition, the non-final accent patterns described above only apply to 'neutral' statements; for example, they do not apply to emphatic phrases or questions. See the page on Non-neutral statements for more details. 

We've seen in this section that the rule for final accent is fairly simple; (accent the final vowel of a word if the word is not at the end of a phrase or sentence). In contrast, the rules for non-final accent placement are fairly complicated, since either the second-last, third-last, or fourth-last vowel can be accented. The rules for non-final accent placement are described next.