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The Stress System Database currently contains information on the patterns of primary (word) stress in some 190 languages. Stress is interpreted broadly here, as a manifestation of abstract rhythmic structure that need not be tied to a particular physical realization (e.g. duration, loudness, or pitch).


The database focuses particularly on phonological determinants of which syllable gets the main emphasis, but also includes limited information about stress that is determined morphologically or lexically. The idea is to include as many languages as possible, even if it is just to indicate that a particular language does not assign stress phonologically.


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Nonmetrical Constraints on Stress

(This doctoral thesis argues that that primary stress in many languages is not governed by rhythm, but by nonmetrical constraints. Also contains the original list of primary stress systems used as the basis for the Stress System Database)


This database was derived originally from the list of primary stress systems compiled in Bailey (1995), Nonmetrical Constraints on Stress.


The Stress System Database benefits from the ongoing support of the School of Psychology at Cardiff University. It has also been supported by: the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford; the McDonnell-Pew Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience, Oxford; a grant to Kim Plunkett from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (UK); a grant to the University of Minnesota Center for Research in Learning, Perception and Cognition, from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (U.S., HD-07151).


Ramin Nakisa and Neil Forrester contributed valuable technical expertise.


Helpful information and comments have been contributed by Ray Brown, Ioana Chitoran, Jana Dankovicova, Dirk Elzinga, Michael Jessen, Mark A. Mandel, and Andreas Mengel.


Much information on languages of the former Soviet Union was contributed by Marika Butskhrikidze (


Disclaimer: This database is made available in the hope that it will be more helpful than misleading. For practical reasons, secondary sources have often been unashamedly relied on. The information about particular languages should be read as my interpretation of what was reported in the sources cited. Any similarity to the stress patterns of actual languages, whether living or dead, is no coincidence but cannot be guaranteed.


Please send questions and comments, including information on stress systems and languages not yet included in the Stress System Database, to