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Schwa deletion as a synchronic process: other syntactic configurations than hiatus
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Schwa deletion also manifests itself in other contexts than those of hiatus in syntactic configurations. For instance, in the sentence it binne baas reedridersthey are excellent skaters the part binne baas[bɪnə ba:s] may also be realized as [bɪm ba:s], so without schwa (and with regressive place assimilation). This kind of schwa deletion is the subject of this topic.

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Word-final schwa may also delete when preceding a consonant-initial word. This kind of deletion is much more diffuse than the one treated in the topic schwa deletion as a synchronic process: how to deal with hiatus in syntactic configurations. Though there are some subregularities, the bigger picture is still lacking. Some examples, with verbs, are given in (1):

Example 1

Examples of the deletion of verb-final schwa preceding a consonant-initial word
wy binne se sêd [bɪnə zə] [bɪ̃ zə] (< [bɪn zə] ) we are fed up with them
it binne baas reedriders [bɪnə ba:s] [bɪm ba:s] (< [bɪn ba:s] ) they are excellent skaters
jim binne koart fan stof [bɪnə kwat] [bɪŋ kwat] (< [bɪn kwat] ) you (pl.) are short-winded

Deletion of schwa may trigger the application of phonological processes; in (1) these are vowel nasalization (the first example) and regressive place assimilation (the second and third examples).

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In it binne baas reedridersthey are excellent skaters, the [r] of reedriders induces Regressive Voice Assimilation onto the final [s] of baas. This has not been indicated.

In the examples in (1), deletion affects the verb form binne(we/you/they) are. Though rinne(we/you/they) walk has an almost identical phonological form, its final schwa seems to be less deletion-prone. We are inclined to think that both token frequency − binne is much more frequent than rinne − and verb class − binne is an auxiliary, rinne a main verb − play a role here. Also the form of the verb may be of influence. Tiersma (1979:138) says that it is his impression that the final schwa of a finite verb easily deletes, whereas this is hardly possible, if at all, with the final schwa of an infinitive. See the examples in (2):

Example 2

Examples of the deletion of the final schwa of a finite verb versus that of an infinitive
a. With a finite verb
jim rinne wolris temin [rɪnə voləs] [rɪ̃ voləs] (< [rɪn voləs] ) you (pl.) sometimes walk too little
se nimme kistfollen guod mei [nimə kɪstfoln̩] [nim kɪstfoln̩] they take chests full of things with them
b. With an infinitive
soenen jim net op it gers rinne wolle? [rɪnə volə] [*rɪ̃ volə] (< [rɪn volə] ) please, do not walk on the grass
soest har by de hân nimme kinne [nimə kɪnə] [*nim kɪnə] you might take her by the hand

Though it is less common than in (1), schwa deletion is fine in (2a). In (2b), however, it is impossible.

The sentences in (1) have declarative word order, that is, the subject precedes the (finite) verb. Now, schwa deletion is particularly favoured in the context of subject-verb inversion. This links up with the fact that this context also favours cliticization of personal pronoun subjects onto the finite verb. It is also the context in which verbs start(ed) to develop specific shorter forms, which may subsequently spread throughout the whole paradigm (see Tamminga (1963:145-148), Visser (1988:210-216)), Hoekstra (1997), Hoekstra (2001)). In this context, schwa deletion is also common in case the word following the verb begins with a consonant, that is, if there is not a configuration of vocalic hiatus, where schwa deletion is most common otherwise. This is exemplified in (3):

Example 3

Examples of schwa deletion in the context of subject-verb inversion (1)
a. wat binne se kâld! [bɪnə zə] [bɪ̃ zə]   (< [bɪn zə]  ) how cold they are!
b. komme wy noch op 'e tiid? [komə vi] [kom vi] do we still arrive in time?
c. dan falle dy bern om fan wurgens [fɔlə di] [fɔl di] then those children are dead tired
d. dat hearre dy bern net te witten [jɛrə di] [jɛ di]   (< [jɛr di]  ) those children shouldn't know that
e. dêrom bliuwe sokken altyd earm [bljo:wə sokŋ] [bljo: sokŋ]   (< [bljo:w sokŋ]  ) that's why such people will always remain poor

Here as well, deletion of schwa may trigger the application of phonological processes; in (3) these are Vowel Nasalization ((3a)) and /r/-deletion in the context of a sentence ((3d)).

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The verb bliuwe/bljo:+ə/ − in dêrom bliuwe sokken altyd earmthat's why such people will always remain poor ((3e)) − is realized with the glide [w] between stem-final /-o:/ and suffixal schwa: [bljo:wə]. Since the presence of this glide depends on the presence of both the stem vowel and schwa, it deletes together with schwa.

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The schwa of the verbal suffix -je (/-jə/) never deletes in this context. So, in sentences like wat helje se in jild op!how much money they collect!, the part helje se is never realized as [hɛlj zə]. In all likelihood, this is because deletion results in a floating [j], which is not easily incorporated into an adjacent syllable. This is markedly different from the hiatus configuration, in which the segmental content of schwa deletes, whereas its structural position remains.

If a finite verb ending in -je (/-jə/) precedes a vowel-initial word, however, the schwa portion of the suffix may delete. So, a sentence like wy helje altyd in protte jild opwe always collect much money the part helje op[hɛljə op] can be realized as [hɛlj op].

The finite verbs in (3) have a stem ending in a sonorant consonant or a vowel/glide. Since they are followed by a word beginning with an obstruent, schwa deletion results in a good syllable contact. The same verbs can also be followed by a word beginning with a sonorant consonant, as in the examples in (4):

Example 4

Examples of schwa deletion in the context of subject-verb inversion (2)
a. wat binne jim kâld! [bɪnə jɪm] [bɪ̃ jɪm]   (< [bɪn jɪm]  ) how cold you(pl.) are!
b. komme muoike-en-dy noch op 'e tiid? [komə mwojkə] [komwojkə] do aunt and her family still arrive in time?
c. dan falle myn bern om fan wurgens [fɔlə min] [fɔl min] then my children are dead tired
d. dat hearre myn bern net te witten [jɛrə min] [jɛ min]   (< [jɛr min]  ) my children shouldn't know that
e. dêrom bliuwe myn buorlju altyd earm [bljo:wə min] [bljo: min]   (< [bljo:w min]  ) that's why my neighbours will always remain poor

Though the resulting syllable contact is far worse, a realization without verb-final schwa is quite common here. Here as well, deletion of schwa may trigger phonological processes: Vowel Nasalization ((4a)), degemination ((4b)), and /r/-deletion in the context of a sentence ((4d)).

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In dan falle myn bern om fan wurgensthen my children are dead tired ((4c)), dat hearre myn bern net te wittenmy children shouldn't know that ((4d)), and dêrom bliuwe myn buorlju altyd earmthat's why my neighbours will always remain poor ((4e)), the final [n] of myn undergoes Regressive Place Assimilation, induced by the initial [b] of bern and buorlju. This has not been indicated.

Things become different in case the finite verb has a stem ending in an obstruent and the following word begins with an obstruent, examples of which are given in (5):

Example 5

Examples of schwa deletion in the context of subject-verb inversion (3)
wêrom begripe Teake-en-dy dat no net [bəɡripə tɪəkə] [*?bəɡrip tɪəkə] why on earth do not Teake and his people understand
wêrom begripe Durk-en-dy dat no net [bəɡripə dørk] [*?bəɡrib dørk] (< [bəɡrip dørk] ) why on earth do not Durk and his people understand
wêrom begripe Sjirk-en-dy dat no net [bəɡripə sjɪrk] [*?bəɡrip sjɪrk] why on earth do not Sjirk and his people understand
wêrom gripe dy lju sa'n kâns net [ɡripə di] [*?ɡrip ti] (< [ɡrip di] ) why on earth do not those people grab their chance

Schwa deletion yields a bad syllable contact here, since both the left-hand and the right-hand syllable end in an obstruent. This is likely to be the reason why deletion is disfavoured here.

There is one context in which schwa deletion does not occur: the sentence-final position. This is likely to link up with the fact that vowel reduction hardly occurs, if at all, in word-final position (see Vowel reduction in word-final position). The edges of phonological domains appear to be 'strong', that is, they appear to resist change.

References:
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1997Pro-drop, clitisering en voegwoordcongruentie in het WestgermaansHoekstra, E. & Smits, C. (eds.)Vervoegde voegwoorden: lezingen gehouden tijdens het Dialectsymposion 1994Amsterdam68-86
  • Hoekstra, Jarich2001Zu einem Problem der Frisistik: Der Übergang der Präs. Plur. Endung -ath zu -a'Menke, Hubertus, Peters, Robert, Pütz, Horst & Weber, Ulrich (eds.)Vulpis Adolatio: Festschrift für Hubertus Menke zum 60. GeburtstagGermanistische Bibliothek11HeidelbergC. Winter
  • Tamminga, Douwe Annes1963Op 'e taelhelling. Losse trochsneden fan Frysk taellibben. IBoalsertA.J. Osinga
  • Tiersma, Pieter M1979Aspects of the phonology of Frisian based on the language of GrouMeidielingen fan de stúdzjerjochting Frysk oan de Frije Universiteit yn Amsterdam4
  • Visser, Willem1988In pear klitisearringsferskynsels yn it FryskDyk, dr. S. & Haan, dr. G.J. (eds.)Wurdfoarried en Wurdgrammatika. In bondel leksikale stúdzjesLjouwertFryske Akademy, Ljouwert175-222
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