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Onset: complex onsets
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Frisian allows for complex onsets, i.e. initial consonant sequences of either two or three members. This topic discusses complex onsets in general and complex initial onsets in particular.

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Consonants do not form sequences in an arbitrary way. In the first place, there must be a sonority contrast between two adjacent consonants. In the second place the inherent sonority of the consonants must increase towards the nucleus, which is the most sonorous element of the syllable by definition. This is expressed by the Sonority Sequencing Constraint:

Sonority Sequencing Constraint
between any member of a syllable and the syllable peak, only sounds of higher sonority rank are permitted ( Clements (1990:285))

The following Sonority Scale is adopted:

sonority scale
obstruents < nasals < liquids < vowels (where '<' means: has a smaller inherent sonority than)

Because the sonority of consonants must decrease towards the edges of the syllable, initial and final consonant sequences are often each other's mirror image.

Preferably, a syllable has a sonority profile that rises maximally toward the peak and falls minimally towards the end, proceeding from left to rightClements (1990:301). This constitutes an onset-coda asymmetry. The Complex Onset Sonority Constraint expresses this preference:

Complex Onset Sonority Constraint
the segments of a complex onset may not belong to adjacent sonority classes

The Complex Onset Sonority Constraint is an onset-specific and strict instantiation of the general Sonority Sequencing Constraint above.The implication is that the unmarked word-initial sequence of two consonants is an obstruent followed by a liquid, yielding a complex onset with a maximal sonority contrast between its members. Frisian is in accordance with the Complex Onset Sonority Constraint, see onsets: sequences of obstruent and liquid.

References:
  • Clements, George N1990The role of the sonority cycle in core syllabificationPapers in Laboratory Phonology1Cambridge University Press283-333
  • Clements, George N1990The role of the sonority cycle in core syllabificationPapers in Laboratory Phonology1Cambridge University Press283-333
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