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The relation between short /ɪ/ and long /e:/
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This section deals with the relation between the short vowel /ɪ/ and its long counterpart /e:/.

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Short /ɪ/ has the long counterpart /e:/, which is slightly more open (Tiersma (1985:12)). The relation between /ɪ/ and /e:/ can be illustrated by cases of shortening (from /e:/ to /ɪ/), lengthening (from /ɪ/ to /e:/), and dialectal variation (between /e:/ and /ɪ/).

Let us begin with shortening. First, the following pairs of morphologically related words show that /e:/ and /ɪ/ match: heech/he:ɣ/high - hichte/(he:ɣ+tə)/[hɪxtə]height, leech/le:ɣ/empty - lichte/(le:ɣ+tə)/[lɪxtə]lowness; hollow, breed/bre:d/wide, broadbridte/(bre:d+tə)/[brɪtə]width, breadth, reek/re:k/smoke - rik(je)/rɪk/to smoke. The noun beest/be:st/beast; animal has the dialectal variant bist/bɪst/ . Tiersma (1993:111) maintains that the latter, with unetymological /ɪ/, has developed from the plural bisten/(be:st+ən)/[bɪstn̩].

Second, secondarily stressed long vowels in loan words regularly shorten. When this happens to /e:/, the result is /ɪ/, witness the following examples: risseltaat[rɪsl̩ta:t]result (from and alongside resultaat/re:sølta:t/ ), oer 't ginneraal[ɡɪnəra:l]generally (from and alongside generaal/ɡe:nəra:l/ ), tillefoan[tɪləfoən]telephone (from and alongside telefoan[te:ləfoən]).

Regular vowel lengthening in Frisian only occurred in the context of nasalization, more specifically, when the sequence short vowel + /n/ was followed by /s/ or /st/ (see nasal vowels and vowel length). Thus, attaching the nominalizing suffix -st to the verbal stem win/vɪn/to win yielded winst/ve:nst/[vẽ:st]profit, attaching the superlative suffix -st to the adjective min/mɪn/bad yielded minst/me:nst/[mẽ:st]worst.

There are also dialectal instances of vowel lengthening. In the verb stems lizz(e)/lɪz/to lay (down); to lie and sizz(e)/sɪz/to say as well as in the demonstrative pronoun dizze/dɪzə/this; these, a short monophthong precedes /z/. In some dialects, this exceptional sequence has been 'repaired' by lengthening the vowel /ɪ/: lizz(e)/le:z/, sizz(e)/se:z/, and dizze/de:zə/ (Boersma (1972:72), Tiersma (1985:25)). The verbs skel(e)/ske:l/to make a difference; to matter, to concern and skill(e)/skɪl/ show dialectal variation as well, as do ferskel(e)/fərske:l/to differ and ferskill(e)/fərskɪl/ and the deverbal adjectives ferskelend/ferskillend and ferskelich/ferskillichdifferent.

Finally, there are near-minimal pairs which only differ in the presence of /ɪ/ followed by a voiceless fricative vs. /e:/ followed by a voiced fricative, see the table below:

Table 1
Words with meaning difference Words with the same meaning
wif/vɪf/unsteady - wev(e)/ve:v/to weave rif/rɪf/ - reef/re:v/reef
klif/klɪf/cliff - klev(e)/kle:v/to stick tichel/tɪxəl/ - tegel/te:ɣəl/tile
kich/kɪx/cough - keech/ke:ɣ/high land outside the dike(s)
richel/rɪxəl/ledge - regel/re:ɣəl/rule
pis/pɪs/piss - pees/pe:z/tendon
wis/vɪs/certain - wees/ve:z/orphan
fris/frɪs/fresh - frees/fre:z/fear
These cases once more show that /e:/ is the long counterpart of /ɪ/.

References:
  • Boersma, Johannes. & Woude, Goasse van der1972Spraeklear I. Lesboekje foar de oplieding ta de Fryske AkteLjouwertAfûk
  • Tiersma, Pieter M1985Frisian reference grammarDordrechtForis Publications
  • Tiersma, Pieter M1985Frisian reference grammarDordrechtForis Publications
  • Tiersma, Pieter M1993Lokale markearders yn it Frysk [Local markedness in Frisian]Tydkskrift foar Fryske Taalkunde8111-114
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