In words of three or more syllables, stress falls either on the penult or the antepenult (third from the end), according to these criteria:
- If the penult contains a short vowel in an open syllable, the stress falls on the antepenult: e.g. stá.mi.na, hy.pó.the.sis.
- If the penult contains a long vowel; a diphthong; a closed syllable (with any length of vowel); or is followed by z, the stress falls on the penult.
[...] The fact that decorum is stressed on the penult, and exodus on the antepenult, is a fact about each of these words that must be memorized separately (unless one is already familiar with the Classical quantities, and in the former case, additionally with the fact that decus -ŏris n. with short -o- syllable became in late Latin decus/decor -ōris m. with long -o- syllable: 'Dómine, diléxi decórem domus tuæ').
However, English speakers often pronounce words like this with penult stress instead:
- stigmata (coexists with antepenult-stressed variant)
- schemata (coexists with antepenult-stressed variant)
- Uranus (coexists with antepenult-stressed variant)
- uroboros/ouroboros (Wikipedia: /jʊərɵˈbɒrəs/, /ɔːˈrɒbɔrəs/; Collins: /uːˈrɒbəˌrɒs; ˌuːrəˈbɒrəs/)
Is there any linguistic explanation of this? Native English words don't seem to me to have a general preference for the penultimate syllable, but I may be wrong — please tell me if there's evidence for this.
It does seem to me that for many English speakers, penult stress is the default for pronouncing foreign words. For example, in the Anglicized pronunciation of words from Japanese, Japanese pitch-accent seems to be totally ignored, and penult stress is common (but not universal; see "samurai," "tycoon," and some pronunciations of "haiku" for counterexamples). Has there been any linguistic research that confirms this idea? If so, do we have any idea of the conditions under which this tendency applies to the pronunciation of a word (does it depend on apparent language of origin, phonological structure, analogy to other specific English words with the same spelling) and how long it has been active historically?