When two nouns are combined, the stress is usually on the first noun, as in MILK bottle, DOG house, DOORknob, and POTATO salad. However, if the first noun denotes a place, the stress seems to be on the second, as in kitchen LIGHT, Osaka STREETS, and city GOVERNMENT. Time also seems to have this effect, as in morning NEWSPAPER. Why is this so? Is there any comprehensive rule to tell which noun is stressed when I meet a new noun-noun phrase?

What confused me recently is how I should pronounce university names. Most university names consist of a non-place, proper noun + university, as in Harvard University. Some university names have a place noun in their name, as in New Castle University, or in Tokyo University. Where should I put a stress when I pronounce these university names? Should I say HARVARD University, and Tokyo UNIVERSITY?

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    You shouldn't be talking about the stress in these noun phrases, because they can have more than one. There is nearly always only one main/primary stress, though, and to me, that lies on the first of the two constituents in all of your time and place combos: KI-tchen light, o-SA-ka streets, CI-ty government, _MOR-ning newspaper. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 7 '14 at 19:41
  • I like your third example. – Doorknob Nov 8 '14 at 16:56
  • I think the stress is mostly based on which word is most significant in the phrase, and can't be determined simply by word order and category. There's no simple rule, it's dependent on the semantics. – Barmar Nov 9 '14 at 23:02
  • @Barmar: No, it's not. At least not reliably. It's based on the habits of the speaker as expressed in this particular situation. Different people use stress in different ways, particularly in nonce creations, which most noun compounds are. There are a lot of noun compounds possible; a few are common and fixed, some are very very rare and made up on the spot. Possibly significant, but in what way, and to whom? For the fixed ones, something is known, however. – John Lawler Dec 7 '14 at 16:19
  • This morning I heard a Classic FM presenter [speaking British R.P.] introduce a piece called Morning Papers with equal stress on each word [MORNing PAPers]. And that's how I [Northern England] would stress it. I think US English is more inclined to treat such combinations as full compounds [e.g. "READing the FUNNy papers", "RUNNIng a RED light"] while I'd say "RUNNing a RED LIGHT". – David Garner Jan 20 '15 at 12:45

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