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Vowel Shortening
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A stem with a long vowel may show up with a short vowel in inflected forms, in derivations, and when it is the left-hand member of a compound. Just like Breaking, Vowel Shortening is an irregular process, both as to its contexts and the stems it applies to. Since it has also left its traces in Frisian, it merits a discussion here.

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The contexts in which Vowel Shortening occurs are enumerated and exemplified in the overview in (1), which is largely based on Tiersma (1979:71-97):

Example 1

Vowel shortening in inflected forms: noun plurals
kaam /ka:m/ comb ~ kammen [kamm̩] combs
faam maid
laam lamb
baarch pig
bân /bɔ:n/ tyre ~ bannen [bɔnn̩] tyres
hân hand
lân land
strân beach
hûs /hu:z/ house ~ hûzen [huzn̩] houses , huzen [hyzn̩] houses
lûs louse
mûs mouse
beest /be:st/ animal ~ bisten [bɪstn̩] animals
rôt /rɔ:t/ rat ~ rotten [rɔtn̩] rats
[In a pair like hûs/hu:z/house ~ huzen[hyzn̩]houses, shortening links up with a qualitative change, viz. between the back vowel /u:/ and the central vowel /y/. The same alternation is found in case these words are involved in derivation and compounding.]
Example 2

Vowel shortening in inflected forms: verbal forms
lig(e) /li:ɣ/ to lie, tell a lie
do lychst [lixst] / [likst] you lie, you tell a lie
hy lycht [lixt] he lies, he tells a lie
ik lygde [liɣdə] I lied, I told a lie
wy hawwe lygd [lixt] we have lied, we have told a lie
mig(e) /mi:ɣ/ piss
bried(e) /briəd/ to fry, to bake, to roast
bliede bleed
liedesound ring, toll
riede advise; guess
sliepe sleep
do bretst [brɛst] you fry, bake, roast
hy bret [brɛt] he fries, bakes, roasts
hja bretten [brɛtn̩] they fried, baked, roasted
hja hawwe bret [brɛt] they have fried, baked, roasted
Example 3

Vowel shortening in inflected forms: adjectival forms
grut /ɡr{øə/ø:}t/ big, large, tall
grutte [ɡrøtə] big, large, tall (inflected)
grutter [ɡrøtr̩] bigger, larger, taller
grutst [ɡrøst] biggest, largest, tallest
in grutten ien [ɡrøtn̩] a big one
Example 4

Vowel shortening in derived forms: diminutives
kaam /ka:m/ comb ~ kamke [kamkə] small comb
faam maid
laam lamb
baarch pig
paad path, track
bân /bɔ:n/ tyre ~ bantsje [bɔntsjə] small tyre
hân hand
lân land
strân beach
hûs /hu:z/ house ~ hûske [huskə] small house , húske [hyskə] small house
lûs louse
mûs mouse
bêd /bɛ:d/ bed ~ bedsje [bɛtsjə] small bed
glês glass
nêst nest
rêch back, spine
stêd town; city
piip /pi:p/ pipe ~ pypke [pipkə] small pipe
priis price
tsiis cheese
wiif woman; wife; bitch
twa /twa:/ two ~ twake [twakə] two eggs in one nest
amer bucket
lape piece; rag
tafel table
rôt /rɔ:t/ rat ~ rotsje [rɔtsjə] small rat
trôch troug
drúf /dry:v/ grape ~ drúfke [dryfkə] small grape
skúf slide
aai /a:j/ egg ~ aike [ajkə] small egg
kaai key
[The only cases of shortening of the long vowel /o:/ are found in knoop/kno:p/button ~ knopke[knopkə]small button, hoon/ho:n/dog ~ hontsje[hontsjə]small dog, and stoom/sto:m/steam ~ stomboat[stom#bo.ət]steamboat. It should be noted that knopke and stomboat have become obsolete ‒ today's forms are knoopke and stoomboat, with a long vowel −, whereas hoon ~ hontsje is a dialectal pair (elsewhere: hûn/hu(:)n/ ~ hûntsje[huntsjə]).]
[A tendency concerning the occurrence of Breaking is that when the plural form of a noun shows Breaking, the diminutive tends to do so as well. The implicational relation is thus from plural to diminutive. If there is a comparable tendency as to Vowel Shortening at all, it works just the other way around: if the diminutive shows shortening, the plural form tends to do so as well.]
Example 5

Vowel shortening in derived forms: diminutive verbs (with -/k/-)
a. From nouns
gers /ɡɛ:z/ grass ~ gersk(je) /ɡɛsk/ to graze
piip /pi:p/ pipe ~ pypk(je) /pipk/ smoke a pipe
b. From adjectives
fiis /fi:z/ dirty, filthy ~ fysk(je) /fisk/ to fart
c. From verbs
aai(e) /a:j/ to stroke ~ aik(je) /ajk/ stroke softly
drav(e) /dra:v/ to run, to trot ~ drafk(je) /drafk/ run along, to trot
gniz(e) /gni:z/ to smirk (at) ~ gnysk(je) /gnisk/ to smirk
gnuv(e) /gny:v/ to look, to spy ~ gnúfk(je) /gnyfk/ to look, to spy
Example 6

Vowel shortening in derived forms with certain suffixes
a. With -lik -/lək/
iis /i:z/ ice ~ yslik [islək] hideous, dreadful
siik /si:k/ ill ~ syklik [siklək] sickly; morbid
tiid /ti:d/ time ~ tydlik [tidlək] temporary
hûs /hu:z/ house ~ húslik [hyslək] domestic
b. With -te -/tə/
breed /bre:d/ broad ~ bridte [brɪtə] breadth, width
heech /he:ɣ/ high ~ hichte [hɪxtə] height; pitch
leech /le:ɣ/ low ~ lichte [lɪxtə] hollow; valley
grut /ɡr{øə/ø:}t/ big ~ grutte [ɡrøtə] size
siik /si:k/ ill ~ sykte [siktə] illness; disease
[If leech means empty, it has the nominalization leechte[le:xtə]emptiness; leechte, however, can also mean hollow; valley, which is the only meaning of lichte.]
[The pair heech/he:ɣ/high ~ hichte[hɪxtə]height; pitch has the dialectal variant heuch/hø:ɣ/ ~ huchte[høxtə]; this is one of the few instances of shortening of /ø:/.]
c. With -ens -/əns/
grut /ɡr{øə/ø:}t/ big ~ gruttens [ɡrøtn̩s] largeness, size
[Sipma (1913:30) mentions the pair siik/si:k/ill~sikens[sikŋs]illness.]
d. With -ling -/lɪŋ/
hûs /hu:z/ house ~ húsling [hyslɪŋ] helve hole (of an axe), handle hole (of a hammer, hoe, etc.)
e. With -eftich -/ɛftəɣ/
bern /bɛ:n/ child ~ berneftich /bɛn/ childlike; childish
[-eftich has all the morphological properties of a suffix, but phonologically it behaves as a word. berneftich, therefore, is both a derivation and a (kind of) compound.]
f. With -ich -/əɣ/
haast /ha:st/ haste ~ hastich [hastəx] hasty
lêst /lɛ:st/ trouble ~ lestich [lɛstəx] difficult
g. With -skip -/skɪp/
bliid /bli:d/ cheerful ~ blydskip [blitskɪp] joy, gladness
h. With -sk -/sk/
grut /ɡr{øə/ø:}t/ big; proud ~ grutsk [ɡrøtsk] proud; haughty
i. With -tich -/təɣ/
fiif /fi:v/ five ~ fyftich [fiftəx] fifty
sân /sɔ:n/ seven ~ santich [sɔntəx] seventy
j. With -t(s)jin -/t(s)jən/
fiif /fi:v/ five ~ fyft(s)jin [fift(s)jən] fifteen
sân /sɔ:n/ seven ~ sant(s)jin [sɔnt(s)jən] seventeen
k. With -de -/də/
fiif /fi:v/ five ~ fyfde [fivdə] fifth
sân /sɔ:n/ seven ~ sande [sɔndə] seventh
[fyfde[fivdə] has the (voiceless) variant fyfte[fiftə].]
l. With -enis -/ənɪs/
begrav(e) /bəɡra:v/ bury ~ begraffenis [bəɡrafənɪs] burial
m. With -y -/i/ (in hypocoristics) full form of the name hypocoristic form
Saapke [sa:pkə] ~ Sappy [sapi]
Jabik [ja:bək] ~ Jappy [japi]
Haring [ha:rɪŋ] ~ Harry [hari]
Wibe [vi:bə] ~ Wipy [vipi]
Rinse [rẽ:sə] ~ Rinny [rɪni]
n. From nouns
baarch /ba:rɣ/ pig ~ barg(je) /barɣ/ make a mess
hûs /hu:z/ house ~ ferhúz(je) /fərhyz/ move (house)
reek /re:k/ smoke ~ rik(je) /rɪk/ to smoke
o. From adjectives
grut /ɡr{øə/ø:}t/ big ~ fergrut(sje) /fərɡrøt/ to increase; to enlarge
begrut(sje) /bəɡrøt/ find too expensive; to pity, feel sorry for
[The pairs Rinse[rẽ:sə] ~ Rinny[rɪni] (b3m.) and reek/re:k/ ~ rik(je)/rɪk/ (b3n.) show once more that /ɪ/ is the short counterpart of /e:/ (see the realtion between short /ɪ/ and long /e:/).]
Example 7

Vowel shortening in compounds
NaN. The left-hand part
a. With the noun as such
aai /a:j/ egg ~ ai#sykje /aj/ look for eggs
amer /a:mər/ bucket ~ ammer#fol /amər/ bucketful
bêd /bɛ:d/ bed ~ bed#stee /bɛd/ box bed
bêd /bɛ:d/ bed ~ bed#tiid /bɛd/ bedtime
bôle /bɔ:lə/ bread; loaf ~ bol#koer /bɔl/ breadbasket
hân /hɔ:n/ hand ~ han#fol /hɔn/ handful
hûs /hu:z/ house ~ hús#frou /hyz/ housewife
hûs /hu:z/ house ~ hús#hâlding /hyz/ household
hûs /hu:z/ house ~ hús#hin /hyz/ stay-at-home
tiid /ti:d/ time ~ tyd#skrift /tid/ periodical
piip /pi:p/ pipe ~ pyp#skoft /pip/ short rest
piper /pi:pər/ pepper ~ piper#nút /pipə(r)/ ginger nut
blêd /blɛ:d/ leaf ~ bled#side /blɛd/ page
stêd /stɛ:d/ town; city ~ sted#frysk /stɛd/ Town Frisian
stêd /stɛ:d/ town; city ~ sted#hûs /stɛd/ town hall
stoom /sto:m/ steam ~ stom#boat /stom/ steamboat
b. With the noun extended
bern /bɛ:n/ child ~ berne#boek /bɛnə/ children's book
bern /bɛ:n/ child ~ berne#tiid /bɛnə/ childhood (days)
bern /bɛ:n/ child ~ berne#wein /bɛnə/ pram
mûs /mu:z/ mouse ~ mûze#biter /muzə/ marsh harrier
mûs /mu:z/ mouse ~ mûze#hol /muzə/ mouse hole
rôt /rɔ:t/ rat ~ rotte#krûd /rɔtə/ rat poison
rôt /rɔ:t/ rat ~ rotte#sturt /rɔtə/ rat's tail
c. With the noun extended with /s/
stêd /stɛ:d/ town; city ~ steds#bern /stɛds/ urban child
stêd /stɛ:d/ town; city ~ steds#hûs /stɛds/ town hall
Example 8

Vowel shortening in compounds
tiid /ti:d/ time ~ altyd [ɔltit] always
tiid /ti:d/ time ~ hieltyd [hiltit] all the time
tiid /ti:d/ time ~ krysttyd [kristit] Christmas time
tiid /ti:d/ time ~ maityd [ma.jtit] spring(time)
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It is only the word tiidtime which shows up in these compounds. This is an indication that we are dealing with an uncommon pattern here. Besides, the compounds at hand have compound stress, so there is vowel shortening in an unstressed syllable. Just like Breaking, however, shortening is associated with stressed syllables, which renders vowel shortening all the more exceptional here. The adverbs altyd and hieltyd have the variants altiten[ɔltitn̩] and hieltiten[hiltitn̩], in which word-final [-ən] makes for a favourable context for shortening.

Not all instances of shortening mentioned in the above overview are realized by all speakers. There is a great deal of individual and dialectal variation. Shortening is also receding in its spread; there has been extensive leveling, favouring the forms with the same vowel length as the Dutch homophone Tiersma (1979:79). Clearly, shortening no longer is a productive process.

Shortening and Breaking can be characterized as 'functionally equivalent'. This is also evident from the fact that they occur in by and large the same contexts.

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Vowel shortening was a common tendency in the whole of the Frisian language area. Tiersma (1979:72-73) gives examples from the (now extinct) East-Frisian dialect of the island of Wangeroog and from the (conservative) Frisian dialect of the town of Hylpen.

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One specific form of shortening affects the (long) vowel of the antepenultimate syllable of trisyllabic words, with a stressed final syllable and a penultimate schwa syllable (Tiersma (1979:92), Visser (2000:153-154)). This pattern is exemplified below:

Example 9

kollesaal [ˌkoləˈsa:l] < [ˌko:lɔˈsa:l] colossal
liddekant [ˌlɪdəˈkɔnt] < [ˌle:diˈkɔnt] bedstead
risseltaat [ˌrɪsl̩ˈta:t] < [ˌre:sølˈta:t] result
tillefoan [ˌtɪləˈfoən] < [ˌte:ləˈfoən] telephone
tillegram [ˌtɪləˈɡram] < [ˌte:ləˈɡram] telegram

In order to fit in with the above pattern, the original form of the word gereformeard(Dutch) Reformed, viz. [ɡəˌre:fɔrˈmɪ.ət], had to be diminished by one syllable. This was the fate of the intial, unstressed syllable (bringing the incorporation of initial /ɡ/ into (the onset of) the syllable /(re:)./ in its wake). The vowel of the penultimate syllable, /(fɔr)./, had to undergo reduction (bringing the deletion of final /r/ in its wake). This resulted in the form griffermeard[ˌɡrɪfəˈmɪ.ət] − see Booij (1981:150-151; 1995:130 (footnote 6), 136 (footnote 13)) for the similar realization of the word gereformeerd in Dutch. The word dippetearre[dɪpəˈtjɛrə] < [ˌde:pyˈtjɛrə]delegate, deputy has four syllables, but for the rest it is in accordance with the pattern. The word serieus[ˌsɪriˈjø:s] < [ˌsɪəriˈjø:s]serious shows that also a centring diphthong can take part in shortening, by the deletion of its schwa portion. In the word dikketon[ˌdɪkəˈton] < [ˌdykaˈton]ducat, a silver coin (representing an amount of three guilders and fifteen cents), shortening of /y/ resulted in [ɪ]; this may be indicative of the fact that the close vowels /i,y,u/, despite their short duration, behave as long vowels phonologically.

According to Tiersma (1979:92) this kind of shortening has limited productivity. This is illustrated by the recent loanword kolesterol[ˌko:lɛsto:ˈrɔl]cholesterol, which may be realized as [ˌkoləˈstrɔl]. A likely course of events here seems to be that pre-stress [o:] reduced first, both in quantity and quality: [ˌko:lɛstəˈrɔl]. This form had to be diminished by one syllable (the penultimate schwa syllable): [ˌko:lɛsˈtrɔl]. As can be gleaned from the transcription, this caused the incorporation of /t/ into (the onset of) the final syllable). The vowel of the new penultimate syllable, [(lɛs)], had to reduce (bringing the resyllabification of final /s/ in its wake): [ˌko:ləˈstrɔl]. Finally, the long vowel of the antepenultimate syllable, [o:], underwent shortening: [ˌkoləˈstrɔl].

The initial part tele-[te:lə-] only underwent reduction when secondarily stressed, as in tillefoan[ˌtɪləˈfoən]telephone and tillegram[ˌtɪləˈɡram]telegram. In a word like telekommunikaasjetelecommunication, with primary stress on tele-, the realization [*ˈtɪlə-] is out, so that only [ˈte:lə-] is allowed. The decisive role of stress sets this vowel shortening apart from the type of shortening dealt with in this section, for which it is crucial that the shortened vowel is part of a stressed syllable.

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Shortening is absent from the context preceding the word-final sequence /-n(s/z}/, where the vowel a) undergoes Vowel Nasalization and b) is systematically long. The noun kâns/kɔ:ns/[kɔ̃:s]chance, for instance, retains its long vowel in the plural kânsen[kɔ̃:sn̩][*kɔ̃sn̩]chances and the diminutive kânske[kɔ̃:snkə][*kɔ̃snkə]small chance.

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Some words have either a long or a short vowel, examples of which are provided below:

Example 10

dwaan to do
j/a(:)/n to give
d/ɪ/zze or d/e:/ze this; these
s/ɪ/zze or s/e:/ze to say
l/ɪ/zze or l/e:/ze to lie; to lay (down)
st/ɔ(:)/k stick
b/i(:)/bel bible
f/u(:)/gel bird
f/a/rre or f/a:/re to sail
skr/a(:)/bje to scrape
gl/i(:)/de to slide
s/i(:)/kje look for, search for
f/ɔ/lle or f/ɔ:/le to fall
stj/ɛ/rre or stj/ɛ:/re to die

This alternation is the result of diachronic vowel lengthening or vowel shortening; from a synchronic point of view, however, it is a matter of dialectal variation.

References:
  • Booij, Geert1981Generatieve fonologie van het NederlandsAula paperbacksUtrecht / AntwerpenHet Spectrum
  • Sipma, Pieter1913Phonology and Grammar of Modern West FrisianLondon, New YorkOxford University Press
  • Tiersma, Pieter M1979Aspects of the phonology of Frisian based on the language of GrouMeidielingen fan de stúdzjerjochting Frysk oan de Frije Universiteit yn Amsterdam4
  • Tiersma, Pieter M1979Aspects of the phonology of Frisian based on the language of GrouMeidielingen fan de stúdzjerjochting Frysk oan de Frije Universiteit yn Amsterdam4
  • Tiersma, Pieter M1979Aspects of the phonology of Frisian based on the language of GrouMeidielingen fan de stúdzjerjochting Frysk oan de Frije Universiteit yn Amsterdam4
  • Tiersma, Pieter M1979Aspects of the phonology of Frisian based on the language of GrouMeidielingen fan de stúdzjerjochting Frysk oan de Frije Universiteit yn Amsterdam4
  • 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, Willem2000Frjemd wurdt eigener. Oer de âlde Frânske lienwurden yn it FryskIt Beaken62141-218
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