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The stress in Estonian is usually on the first syllable, as was the case in
Syllables can be divided into short and long. Syllables ending in a short vowel are short, while syllables ending in a long vowel, diphthong or consonant are long. The length of vowels, consonants and thus syllables is "inherent" in the sense that it is tied to a particular word and is not subject to morphological alternations.
All stressed long syllables can possess a suprasegmental length feature. When a syllable has this feature, any long vowel or diphthong in the syllable is lengthened further, as is any long consonant or consonant cluster at the end of that syllable. A long syllable without suprasegmental length is termed "long", "half-long", "light" or "length II" and is denoted in IPA as ⟨ˑ⟩ or ⟨ː⟩. A long syllable with suprasegmental length is termed "overlong", "long", "heavy" or "length III", denoted in IPA as ⟨ː⟩ or ⟨ːː⟩. For consistency, this article employs the terms "half-long" and "overlong" and uses ⟨ː⟩ and ⟨ːː⟩, respectively, to denote them.
Both the regular short-long distinction and the suprasegmental length are distinctive, so that Estonian effectively has three distinctive vowel and consonant lengths, the distinction between the second and third length levels being at a level larger than the phoneme, such as the syllable or the
The suprasegmental length is not indicated in the standard orthography except for the plosives for which a single voiceless letter represents a half-long consonant while a double voiceless letter represents an overlong consonant. There are many minimal pairs and also some minimal triplets which differ only by length:
The extra length distinction has a number of origins: