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/r/-deletion in simplex words
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It is generally assumed that in simplex words postvocalic /r/ has been deleted when preceding a coronal consonant (see Visser (2014) for an overview of the literature). This then implies that /r/ is only part of the orthographic, but no longer of the underlying (phonological) representation of such words. An example is the word kerscandle; cherry which, though spelled with <r>, is realized as [kɛs], without [r]. There seems to be evidence, however, that /r/ is still part of the underlying representation of words like these, hence that kers is to be represented as /kɛrs/. This topic deals with the status of postvocalic, precoronal /r/ in simplex words.

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It is generally assumed that in simplex words postvocalic /r/ has been deleted when preceding a coronal consonant (see Visser (2014) for an overview of the literature). This implies that /r/ is only part of the orthographic, but no longer of the phonological representation of such words, hence that /r/-deletion only holds in a historical sense here. Examples of the latter are given in (1):

Example 1

Examples of simplex words which have lost their postvocalic /r/ when it preceded a coronal consonant
a. Preceding /s/
hars /has/ resin; rosin
foars /fwas/ sturdy
dwars /dwas/ transverse; crossgrained
farsk /fask/ fresh
fers /fɛs/ verse
kers /kɛs/ candle; cherry
hoars /hoəz/ horse (obsolete)
boarstel /bwasəl/ brush
goarsel(je) /ɡwasəl/ qto drill, to urge (on) (obsolete)
b. Preceding /z/
lears /lɪəz/ boot
gers /ɡɛ:z/ grass
beurs /bøəz/ purse; scholarship; fair
oars /oəz/ different
floers /fluəz/ crape, crepe; veil
c. Preceding /d/
aard /a:d/ nature
swaard /swa:d/ rind
weard /vɪəd/ landlord
board /boəd/ collar; freeboard; (medium) hardboard
board /buad/ plate
akkoard /akoəd/ chord
moard /moəd/ murder
boerd /buəd/ shelf; board
burd /bød/ beard
hurd /hød/ hard; stove; hearth
murd /mød/ polecat
swurd /swød/ sword
wurd /vød/ word
ierde /iədə/ earth
keardel /kɪədəl/ fellow, guy
oarder /vwadər/ order
d. Preceding /t/
kaart /ka:t/ card
taart /ta:t/ cake; tart, pie
feart /fɪət/ canal
hart /hat/ heart
koart /kwat/ short
akkoart /akoət/ agreement; agreed!
swart /swat/ black
wart /vat/ wart, verruca
ploert /pluət/ cad, scab
beurt /bøət/ turn
fuort /fwot/ gone, away; immediately
sturt /støt/ tail
berte /bɛtə/ birth
soarte /soətə/ sort, kind
derten /dɛtən/ playful, wanton
e. Preceding /n/
earn /ɪən/ eagle
fearn /fɪən/ quarter
kearn /kɪən/ core
(dún)doarn - /doən/ sea buckthorn
(reid)foarn - /foən/ rudd
hoarn /hoən/ horn
koarn /koən/ barley
moarn /moən/ morning; tomorrow
bern /bɛ(:)n/ child
jern /jɛn/ thread, yarn
earne /ɪənə/ somewhere
lantearne /lɔntɪənə/ lantern; streetlamp
boarne /bwanə/ well, spring; source
herne /hɛnə/ corner
skerne /skɛnə/ dunghill
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Also the nominalizing suffix -ert is never realized with [r], see the examples in (2):

Example 2

leffert [lɛfət] coward (next to lef [lɛf] cowardly )
rikert [rikət] rich man (next to ryk [rik] rich, wealthy )
liepert [liəpət] slyboots (next to liep [liəp] cunning, sly )
swietert [swiətət] darling (next to swiet [swiət] sweet )

The same holds for the ending -wert in placenames, see the examples in (3):

Example 3

Boarnwert [bwã:vət]
Ferwert [fɛrvət]
Holwert [holvət]
Wânswert [vɔ̃:zvət]
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The liquid /l/ is also a coronal consonant. This means that /r/ should have been deleted in words ending in <-rl>. See word-final sequences of a liquid and a liquid for an approach in which the word-final sequence <-rl> − as in kjirl(big) fellow, (big) guy and guorl(je)to gargle− is analyzed as /-rəl/ in underlying representation, so that <-rl>does not have reality beyond the purely orthographic.

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Deletion of /r/ preceding coronal consonants affected loanwords as well. The older loanwords in (4) testify to this (as with native words, <r> is still written):

Example 4

apart [apat] separate; special; unusual
biljert [bɪljɛt] billiard table
foarsje [fwasjə] energy, drive
kefert [kəfɛt] envelope
lúsjefers [lysjəfɛs] match
oarder [vwadr̩] order
party [pati] many; some

More recent loanwords no longer drop their /r/, which is exemplified in (5):

Example 5

arts [arts] doctor
eksport [ɛkspɔrt] export
ekstern [ɛkstɛrn] external
erts [ɛrts] ore
fjord [fjɔrt] fjord
fort [fɔrt] fort, fortress
katern [katɛrn] quire
kazerne [kasɛrnə] barracks
konsert [kõsɛrt] concert
luzerne [lysɛrnə] lucerne
mars [mars] march
miljard [mɪljart] billion
modern [mo:dɛrn] modern
nokturne [nɔktørnə] nocturne
port [pɔrt] port(-wine)
rapport [rapɔrt] report; school report
sport [spɔrt] sports
start [start] start
urn [ørn] urn
ymport [impɔrt] import, importation
yntern [intɛrn] internal

Words like rekordrecord, dessertdessert and ekspertexpert, though written with final <-r{d/t>, are realized with a long vowel + [r]: [rəkɔ:r], [dɛsɛ:r], [ɛkspɛ:r]. This equals the Dutch pronunciation.

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The deletion of /r/ before coronal consonants could evoke the insertion of /r/ in that position, a case of rule inversion. This occurred with the place name Ternaard (from older Tunnawerth), the suffix -ernôch (from older -ānoch), the word sinterscosting a cent (< sintes//sɪnt+əs//), and the loanwords obsternaatobstinate, stubborn (< obstinaat) and otterdoksorthodox (< ottedoks, < ortedoks, < ortodoks), to give a few examples.

There is a good deal of evidence that in earlier stages of Frisian /r/ was part of words like those in (1) (see Visser (2014)). But it is also clear that a postvocalic /r/ has been deleted when preceding a coronal consonant with which it is tautomorphemic. Several pieces of evidence testify to this.

Firstly, words with <r> before a coronal consonant rhyme with words which lack <r>, as exemplified in (6):

Example 2

Examples of rhyming words with and without <r> before coronal consonants
fers [fɛs] ~ les [lɛs] verse~lesson
lears [lɪəs] ~ kreas [krɪəs] boot~good-looking
hurd [høt] ~ nut [nøt] hard~usefulness
feart [fɪət] ~ neat [nɪət] canal~naught, nothing
moarn [moən] ~ soan [soən] morning~son
woartel [vwatl̩] ~ skoattel [skwatl̩] root~bolt

Secondly, the sequence of an oral vowel + the coronal nasal /n/ is turned into a nasal vowel when preceding one of the consonants /f,v,s,z,r,l,j,w/ (see the vowel nasalization scheme). Now, <r> before /n/ does not prevent vowel nasalization from applying, which means that the condition that the vowel and /n/ should be adjacent is met. Some examples are given in (7):

Example 3

Examples of vowel nasalization with words having <r> before /n/ in their orthography
moarn sill' [mõə̃ sɪ] wy de hjouwer slaan tomorrow will we reap the oaths (first line of a popular folk song)
sok jern rekket [jɛ̃ rɛkət] samar yn 'e tiis such thread easily ends up in a tangle
bern wolle [bɛ̃: volə] altyd wat oars children always want something else
de Boarn rint [bõə̃ rɪnt] hjir lykop mei de dyk the road follows the course of the river de Boarn here
fearnsjier [fɪ̃ə̃ziər] quarter (of a year)
bernsk [bɛ̃:sk] senile

With respect to vowel nasalization then words ending in <-rn> behave like words ending in /-n/, like soan/soən/son, sjen/sjɛn/to see, and lean/lɪən/pay, wages.

The pattern is different for (recent) loanwords ending in the sequence /-rn/, see (8):

Example 4

Examples of loanwords in -/rn/, which do not undergo vowel nasalization
de urn fan [ørn fɔn] [*ø̃r fɔn] ús pake sil hjoed ynmitsele wurde today my grandfather's urn (ashes) wille be placed in the urn wall
in modern stik [mo:dɛrn stɪk] [*mo:dɛ̃r stɪk] a modern piece (of art, music)

In the above examples, the vowel and /n/ are not adjacent. They are separated by /r/, as a result of which vowel nasalization is prevented from applying, so urn and modern are realized with an oral vowel.

Thirdly, the voiced alveolar plosive /d/ may alternate with /r/, provided a) it is in intervocalic position and b) it is the onset of an unstressed syllable (see intervocalic /d/ and /r/). Some examples are given in (9):

Example 5

Examples of the alternation between /d/ and /r/
Fedde / Fêde /fɛ(:)də/ men's name ~ [fɛ(:)rə]
noadich /noədəɣ/ necessary ~ [noərəx]
pudding /pødɪŋ/ pudding ~ [pørɪŋ]
hâlde /hɔ:də/ hold ~ [hɔ:rə]

This /d/-rhotacism has also affected words with <rd>, see (10):

Example 6

Words with <rd> affected by /d/-rhotacism
aardich /a:dəɣ/ nice ~ [a:rəx]
oardel /o.ədəl/ one and a half ~ [o.ərəl]
wurde /vødə/ to become ~ [vørə]

For the words in (10) to meet the conditions on /d/-rhotacism, /r/ had to delete first.

All in all then there seems to be strong evidence that /r/ is no longer part of the words in (1), (6), (7), and (10) or, put differently, that it is no more than an orthographic reality.

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Those who are not used to writing Frisian often misspell the quantifier (in) soad[soət]a lot, lots, heaps as (in) soart, so with <-rt>. This is a strong indication that (in) soad and soartsort, kind are homophonous.

However, there also seems to be evidence to the contrary, viz. that <r> preceding coronal consonants, though not realized, has phonological reality and that /r/ is part of the underlying representation of the morphemes in question (see Visser (2014)). This evidence pertains to generalizations concerning phonotactic restrictions and sound patterns.

Firstly, /r/ may not be preceded by a (short or long) close or a long half-close vowel. In effect, the sequences /{i(:),y(:),u(:),e:,ø:,o:}r/ are out. It appears to be the case that these vowels do not occur before coronal consonants if the latter are preceded by a written <r>, whereas most of them can precede coronals, as exemplified in (11):

Example 7

Examples of close vowels and long half-close vowels preceding a coronal consonant
bliid /bli:d/ glad
rizel /ri:zəl/ lard
ridel(je) /ridəl/ to shiver, to tremble
húd /hy:d/ skin (of a living creature)
húl /hyl/ skin (of berries and dried vegetables)
hûd /hu:d/ skin (of a living creature)
hûs /hu:z/ house
poes /puz/ (pussy)cat
skeel /ske:l/ dispute, disagreement
freze /fre:zə/ fear, fright
reus /rø:z/ giant
heul /hø:l/ whole; very (much)
soon /so:n/ healthy; sound
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húd, heul, and soon are dialectal forms, the Standard Frisian counterparts of which are hûd, hiel, and sûn, respectively.

So, whereas bliid and hûd are fine, *bliird and *hûrd are out. A general distributional statement is only possible here if /r/ is assumed to be part of the underlying representation of the morphemes concerned.

Secondly, the distribution of the long half-close monophthong /e:/ and the 'corresponding' centring diphthong /ɪə/ is such that both can precede /d/ and /t/, as the minimal pairs in (12a) show. When followed by /r/, only /ɪə/ is allowed, a pattern which also holds before <rt> and <rd>, as shown in (12b) and (12c), respectively.

Example 8

The distribution of /e:/ (<ee>) and /ɪə/ (<ea>) preceding /{t/d}, /r/, and <r{t/d}>
a. Minimal pairs preceding /t/ and /d/
sleat ditch ~ sleet sale
keat pastern, link ~ keet hut, shed
lead lead ~ leed sorrow; grief
read red ~ reed skate; dirt road
b. No minimal pairs preceding /r/
fear feather ~ *feer
wear wether, doctored ram ~ *weer
c. No minimal pairs preceding <rt> and <rd>
feart canal ~ *feert
Geart man's name ~ *Geert
weard landlord ~ *weerd
sweard lee board ~ *sweerd
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sweard is a dialectal form, the Standard Frisian counterpart of which is swurd.

Assuming /r/ to be part of the underlying representation of morphemes like those in (12c) enables us to arrive at a uniform explanation of the distributional differences between /e:/ en /ɪə/. Without underlying /r/ such an explanation is hardly possible, if at all. In any case will it be much more complex.

Thirdly, quite some words show a (dialectal) alternation between /ɛr/ and /ar/, exemplified in (13):

Example 9

Examples of the alternation between /ɛr/ (<er>) and /ar/ (<ar/)
berm ~ barm verge, side of the road
ferve ~ farve paint
herberge ~ harbarge inn
reberber ~ rebarber rhubarb
dwerrelje ~ dwarrelje to whirl, to swirl

Words with <r> followed by a coronal consonant may show the same alternation, see the examples in (14):

Example 10

Examples of the alternation between /ɛr/ (<er>) and /ar/ (<ar/) with words with <r> followed by a coronal consonant
hert ~ hart heart
herne ~ harne corner
skerne ~ skarne dunghill
hers ~ hars resin; rosin
fersk ~ farsk fresh
kers ~ karse candle; cherry
berst(e) ~ barst(e) to burst

Assuming /r/ to be part of the underlying representation of the words in (14) increases the scope of the /ɛr/~/ar/-alternation to a great extent. It enables us to arrive at a uniform, insightful analysis. Besides, in not doing so, we are forced to assume an /ɛ/~/a/-alternation before coronal consonants, which lacks any generality.

Fourthly, when preceding a nasal consonant, the short, half open front vowel /ɛ/ has for the most part turned into the short, half close front vowel /ɪ/ (Sytstra and Hof (192:15), Hoekstra (2001b:724)). This is exemplified in (15):

Example 11

Examples of the historical change from /ɛ/ (<e>) to /ɪ/ (<i>) before a nasal consonant
a. Words with only /ɪ/
rinne to walk (cf. Dutch rennen )
himd vest (cf. Dutch hemd )
kring carrion (cf. Dutch kreng )
b. Words which show an alternation between /ɛ/ and /ɪ/
st{e/i}mme to vote (cf. Dutch stemmen )
sw{e/i}mme to swim (cf. Dutch zwemmen )
bed{e/i}mje to suppress
p{e/i}nne pen; pin (cf. Dutch pen )
[Note: Since the Dutch cognates all have/ɛ/(<e>), the forms with/ɪ/(<i>) are propagated in Standard Frisian.]
c. Words which systematically have /ɛ/ preceding <rn>
beskern befallen, granted
jern thread, yarn
ferlern lost
jerne gladly, with pleasure
tsjerne milk churn
bern child (~ barn )
herne corner (~ harne )
skerne dunghill (~ skarne )

The words in (15c) are not in conformity with the generalization that the tautomorphemic sequence /ɛ/ + nasal consonant does not occur. Assuming /r/ to be part of the underlying representation of these words gives an explanation for their deviant behaviour in this respect. The final three words ‒ bern, herne, and skerne ‒ alternate with forms with /a/; this is another indication for an underlying /r/, since it enables these words to participate in the independently motivated /ɛr/~/ar/-alternation.

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As to their form, beskern and ferlern are past participles. The accompanying verb of beskern is no longer in use, in the case of ferlern, it is ferlieze. Both forms stand in a relation of allomorphy at best. Therefore, it can be safely assumed that both past participles are morphemes/words in their own right.

Fifthly, the centring diphthongs /ɪə/ (<ea>) and /iə/ (<ie>) and /oə/ (<oa>) and /uə/ (<oe>) may alternate when preceding /r/ (see Sytstra and Hof (1925:37,40)). The word pairs for which this is the case are enumerated in (16):

Example 12

Word pairs with the alternation /iə/ ~ /ɪə/ and /oə/ ~ /uə/ preceding /r/
a. With a plain centring diphthong
hier ~ hear hair (in: yn syn hiele hear en fear completely )
fier ~ fear far (in: fearrekiker binoculars , fearskoan beautiful at a distance )
ier ~ ear early (in: earder earlier , earst first )
kier ~ kear chink
manier ~ manear manner
riere ~ reare to stir
moar ~ moer mother
tsjoar ~ tsjoer tether
b. With a broken (centring) diphthong
stjir(re) ~ stjer(re) star
djirre ~ djerre (egg) yolk
boarrel ~ buorrel drink
goarrelje ~ guorrelje to gargle
hoarre! ~ huorre! call to urge on pigs
toarre ~ tuorre beetle
enoar ~ enuor each other, one another
snoarje ~ snuorje period, time
c. Preceding <r> + coronal consonant
ierde ~ earde earth
gjirde ~ gearde twig, sprig
foart ~ fuort gone, away
woartel ~ wuortel root, carrot

Assuming /r/ to be part of the underlying representation of the words in (16c) increases the scope of this alternation, at the same time enabling us to arrive at a uniform, insightful analysis. In not doing so, we are forced to assume an /iə/~/ɪə/- and /oə/~/uə/-alternation before coronal consonants, which lacks any generality.

Sixthly, Frisian has the phonotactic restriction that the open vowel /a/ is not allowed to precede a coronal consonant with which it is tautomorphemic (see gaps in the distribution of the single consonants in word-final position); this is illustrated in (17):

Example 13

Examples of words with <a> preceding a coronal consonant
fan /fɔn/ of, from
jas /jɔs/ coat
kat /kɔt/ cat
panne /pɔnə/ pan; tile; plate
bal /bɔl/ ball
kladde /klɔdə/ (paper) bag; (rough) draft
plasse /plɔsə/ puddle; brainpan
latte /lɔtə/ slat

The above words are written with <a>, but their (full) vowel is the half open back vowel /ɔ/. There are several classes of exceptions to this restriction. The one of interest for the issue at hand is the following:

One of the classes of exceptions to the /a/ + coronal-restriction
If the coronal consonant is preceded by <r>, the word in question is realized with the (full) vowel [a]

The words in (18) illustrate this pattern:

Example 14

Examples of wors illustrating the pattern of exceptions stated above
hart heart [hat]
wart wart, verruca [vat]
hars resin; rosin [has]
swart black [swat]
parse press [pasə]
flarde shred [fladə]
barte loose wooden bridge without rails [batə]
skarne dunghill [skanə]

Assuming /r/ to be part of the underlying representation of the words in (18) increases the scope of this class of exceptions to the /a/ + coronal-restriction to a considerable extent. If we do not assume this, these words have to be marked as exceptional on an individual basis, for the formulation of which written <r> must be invoked.

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When not assuming an underlying /r/ in wart, the word pair wat/vɔt/what ~ wart/vat/wart, verruca constitutes a full-fledged minimal pair. In the approach put forward here, it does not: /vɔt/ ~ /vart/.

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It is an inevitable consequence of the assumption that /r/ is part of the underlying representation of the words concerned that some procedure of /r/-deletion has to be assumed as well − from which loanwords must be exempted. This leads to questions concerning a) the level of abtractness in phonology, b) the learnability of phonological patterns, c) the relation between phonology and orthography (see, for instance, chapter 12 of Berent (2013)), d) the relation (and huge overlap) between the Dutch and Frisian lexicon. This will not be taken up here.

References:
  • Berent, Iris2013The Phonological MindCambridge
  • Hoekstra, Jarich2001An Outline History of West FrisianMunske, Horst Haider, Århammar, Nils, Hoekstra, J.F., Vries, O., Walker, A.G.H., Wilts, O. & Faltings, V.F. (eds.)Handbuch des Friesischen/ Handbook of Frisian StudiesMax Niemeyer722-734
  • Sytstra, Onno H. & Hof, Jan J1925Nieuwe Friesche SpraakkunstLeeuwardenR. van der Velde
  • Sytstra, Onno H. & Hof, Jan J1925Nieuwe Friesche SpraakkunstLeeuwardenR. van der Velde
  • Visser, Willem2014Hoe stom is de stomme /r/?Philologia Frisica anno 2012. Lezingen fan it njoggentjinde Frysk Filologenkongres fan de Fryske Akademy op 13, 14 en 15 juny 2012243-268
  • Visser, Willem2014Hoe stom is de stomme /r/?Philologia Frisica anno 2012. Lezingen fan it njoggentjinde Frysk Filologenkongres fan de Fryske Akademy op 13, 14 en 15 juny 2012243-268
  • Visser, Willem2014Hoe stom is de stomme /r/?Philologia Frisica anno 2012. Lezingen fan it njoggentjinde Frysk Filologenkongres fan de Fryske Akademy op 13, 14 en 15 juny 2012243-268
  • Visser, Willem2014Hoe stom is de stomme /r/?Philologia Frisica anno 2012. Lezingen fan it njoggentjinde Frysk Filologenkongres fan de Fryske Akademy op 13, 14 en 15 juny 2012243-268
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