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Onset: singleton consonants
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Any singleton consonant of the Dutch segment inventory can constitute an onset in Dutch, with the exception of the velar nasal /ŋ/.

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[+] General information and examples

Apart from the velar nasal, there are no restrictions on singleton consonants in onset position, neither word-initially nor word-medially, independent of whether the syllable is stressed or unstressed. In general, a single word-initial consonant may precede any vowel.


Table 1
segment word-initial & monosyllable word-medial & stressed syllable word-medial & unstressed syllable
stops:
/p/ pen/pɛn/pen trompet/trɔm.pɛt/trumpet wimper/ʋɪm.pər/lash
/b/ boer/bur/farmer kabouter/ka.bɑu.tər/gnome album/ɑl.bʏm/album
/t/ tijd/tɛid/time patat/pa.tɑt/potato chips vector/vɛk.tɔr/vector
/d/ dag/dɑx/day radijs/ra.dɛis/radish saldo/sɑl.do/balance
/k/ kool/kol/cabbage orkest/ɔr.kɛst/orchestra iemker/im.kər/beekeeper
/g/ (only in loan words) goal(football term) regatta/re.gɑta/regatta slogan/slo.gən/slogan
fricatives:
/f/ fiets/fits/bicycle plafond/pla.fɔn(d)/ceiling lucifer/ly.si.fər/match
/v/ vos/vɔs/fox ivoor/i.vor/ebony canvas/kɑn.vɑs/canvas
/s/ sok/sɔk/sock arseen/ɑr.sen/arsenic sesam/se.sɑm/sesame
/z/ zus/zʏs/sister rozijn/ro.zɛin/raisin perzik/pɛr.zɪk/peach
/ʃ/ sjaal/ʃal/scarf artisjok/ɑr.ti.ʃɔk/artichoke poncho/pɔn.ʃo/poncho
/ʒ/ jus/ʒy/(also [ʃy])gravy budget/bʏd.ʒɛt/budget stage/sta.ʒə/internship
/x/ geit/xɛit/goat figuur/fi.xyr/figure zegel/ze.xəl/seal, stamp
/h/ huis/hœys/house mihoen/mi.hun/Chinese noodles alcohol/ɑl.ko.hɔl/alcohol
nasals:
/m/ maan/man/moon kameel/ka.mel/camel kermis/kɛr.mɪs/fair
/n/ neus/nøs/nose planeet/pla.net/planet koning/ko.nɪŋ/king
/ŋ/ - - engel/ɛŋəl/angel
liquids:
/l/ lak/lɑk/varnish piloot/pi.lot/pilot eland/e.lɑnd/elk
/r/ rat/rɑt/rat piraat/pi.rat/pirate wereld/ʋe.rəld/world
glides:
/ʋ/ wurm/ʋʏrm/worm karwats/kɑr.ʋɑts/whip kluwen/kly.ʋən/knot
/j/ jaar/jar/year triljoen/trɪl.jun/trillion ketjap/kɛt.jɑp/soy sauce
[+] The velar nasal constraint

The examples in the previous table illustrate that the distribution of the velar nasal differs from other Dutch consonants. The velar nasal /ŋ/ cannot constitute a word-initial singleton onset. However, the velar nasal can be found in onsets of word-medial syllables following B-class vowels as illustrated by the examples zwanger/zʋɑŋər/pregnant and engel/ɛŋəl/angel. Note that in all these cases the velar nasal occurs inter-vocalically, with the second vowel always being schwa (Kager 1986). According to Booij's (1995:36) analysis, the velar nasal is ambisyllabic, i.e. it belongs to the coda of the first syllable and the onset of the second syllable:


Figure 1

Figure: syllable structure of the word engelɛŋəlangel
[click image to enlarge]

[+] Co-occurrence restrictions on singleton onsets & nuclei

Since onsets and nuclei form different constituents of a syllable, co-occurrence restrictions between segments in onset and nucleus positions are very rare. The only restrictions that can be found in Dutch are: /h/ may not precede schwa, i.e. /*hə/, and glides may not precede vowels that are either too similar or identical with respect to place of articulation, i.e. /*ji/, /*ʋy/ and /*ʋø/ (see also pansyllabic constraints). Notice that schwa can only occur in unstressed syllables, whereas all other vowels can be found in stressed and unstressed syllables.


Table 2
/i/ /e/ /y/ /ø/ /u/ /o/ /a/ /ɪ/ /ʏ/ /ɛ/ /ɑ/ /ɔ/ /ə/
stops:
/p/ pier peer puur peul poel pool paal pit put pet pat pot (wim)per
/b/ bier beer buur beul boet boot baat bik buk bek bak bok (zwab)ber
/t/ tier teer tuur teut toen toon taal til tulp tel tal tol (be)ter
/d/ dier deel duur deur doel dool daal dik dun dek dal dol (a)dem
/k/ kier keer kuur keur koer koor kaar kin kun ken kan kon (te)ken
fricatives:
/f/ fier fee fuut feut foef fooi faam fiks fut fel fat fop (oe)fen
/v/ vier veer vuur veu(len) voer voor vaar vil vul vel val vol (ze)ven
/s/ sier safe (re)çu (mas)seur soes so(ber) saai sip suf cent sap sop (wis)sel
/z/ zier zeer zuur zeul zoel zool zaal zit zulk zet zat zot (no)zem
/x/ɣ/ gier geel guur geul goed goot gaas gil gul geld gal gold (ze)gel
/h/ hier heer huur heul hoed hoog haag hit huls hel hal hol -
nasals:
/m/ mier meer muur meug moet moot maat milt mul meld mal mol (zo)mer
/n/ nier neef nu neus noest nood naad nis nut net nap nok (zo)ne
liquids:
/l/ lied leed lu(ren) leuk loens loog laag lig lucht leg lach log (veu)len
/r/ riet reeds ru(ne) reuk roet rood raad rist rust rest ras ros (we)reld
glides:
/ʋ/ wied weet - - woest woog waag wil wulp wel wal wol (klu)wen
/j/ - je(gens) ju(bel) jeuk joel jool jaar jicht juk jek(ker) jas jok (ma)jem

(table adapted from Cohen et al. 1972:92)

[show extra information]
x

According to Booij (1995) and Gussenhoven (1999), many Standard Dutch speakers in the west of the Netherlands no longer pronounce the voicing contrast between the fricatives /f/ and /v/ in word-initial positions. As a result, in this area words like vos/vɔs/fox are often pronounced with the initial voiceless fricative. Booij (1995) and Trommelen (1984) argue that a similar development can be found for the underlyingly velar fricatives /x, ɣ/, whose articulations merge into the voiceless uvular fricative [χ].

References:
  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Cohen, Antonie, Ebeling, C.L., Fokkema, K. & Holk, A.G.F. van1972Fonologie van het Nederlands en het Fries. Inleiding tot de moderne klankleerMartinus Nijhoff
  • Gussenhoven, Carlos1999DutchIPA HandbookCambridge University Press45-47
  • Kager, René & Zonneveld, Wim1986Schwa, Syllables and Extrametricality in DutchThe Linguistic Review5197-221
  • Trommelen, Mieke1984The Syllable in DutchDordrechtForis
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