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The labiodental fricatives /f/ and /v/

The voiceless labiodental fricatives of Afrikaans are /f/, and its voiced counterpart/v/. They share the features -Sonorant, +Anterior, -Coronal, +Continuant . /v/turns voiceless in word-final position , due to to the phonological process of final devoicing (See also (Le Roux and Pienaar 1927)(Van Wyk 1977)

[+] Phonological analysis of /f/

Phonotactic behaviour
As a prototypical voiceless alveolar, /f/ can occur as a singleton consonant in onset position (1)(a), or as first member of a cluster of two or three initial consonants, such as in (1)(b) - (1)(c):

Example 1

a. fiets bicycle ; volk nation
b. fluit wistle ; vrede peace

Note that /f/ is spelt as either "f" or "v". In the case of (2)(b) the second consonant position is occupied by one of the two anterior sonorant nonnasal (liquid) consonants /r/, l/.

Simple codas (2)(a) and complex codas (2)(b), are commonly found in Afrikaans:

Example 2

a. kalief caliph
b. elf fairy

Except for /l/, in (2)(b), /r/ is also common as preceding consonant, less so the nasal /m/ in limflymph, , nimfnymphand triomftriumph - the only three existing Afrikaans examples.

Finally, /f/ regularly appears intervocalically, as in (3):

Example 3

a. tafel table ; buffel buffalo ; twyfel doubt
[+] Phonological analysis of /v/

Phonotactic behaviour
As a voiced fricative, /v/ can occur as a singleton onset consonant as in (4)(a), and in (4)(b) as first member of a cluster, in combination with the liquid consonants /l/ and /r/. Furthermore, /v/ can occur in simple and complex codas underlyingly, such as in (4). /v/ neutralizes to [f] in word-final position because of final devoicing. In Afrikaans quite a number of labiodentals in final position may be underlyingly voiced, as can be seen in the plural form -we in words such as boef ('villain') or skaaf ('charf') (alternating with boewe and skawe), or in derived adjectives laf ('silly') or lief ('lovely') (alternating with lawwe and liewe). The onset consonant is therefore always phonetically a voiced labiodental fricative; word-finally an underlying /v/ surfaces as a voiceless [f], resulting from final devoicing.

Example 4

a. wolk cloud
b. vrees fear ; vlees flesh

Simple codas (5)(a) and complex codas (5)(b), are commonly found in Afrikaans:

Example 5

a. laf silly
b. kolf bat ; korf hive

As first member of the final cluster in (5)(b), only the liquid consonants /l/ and /r/ are allowed, which is a mirror image of cases like (5)(b). In a few words like triomftriumph (see above) C1 may be /m/.

[+] Alternation of /f/ and /v/
Example 6

a. oewer table ; stowwe substances ;
b. klawer clover ; stowe stoves ; duiwel devil

/v/ is clearly the voiced counterpart of /f/. Voicing assimilation of the latter segment yields [v]. Note that voiced fricatives, unlike in Dutch, also may trigger such assimilation, as in (7)(b):

Example 7

a. af+dra ɑ /fd/ ra; ɑ [vd] ra deliver
b. afweeg ɑ /fv/ eeg ɑ [v] consider

Note that in (7)(b) [vv] could be a geminate voiced fricative resulting from identical consonant amalgamation , that could in its turn shorten via degemination, especially in fast speech, to single [v].

[+] Articulatory information

Afrikaans /f/ is a voiceless and /v/ a voicedlabiodentalfricative. There is light contact between the inside of the lower lip and the upper front teeth, at a point somewhat more retracted than that in English (MacKAy 1987)(Kent 1992)(Rietveld 1997)

speech sounds produced at a labiodental place of articulation, i.e. by a constriction between the upper teeth and the lower lip.

consonant involving turbulent airflow through a narrow channel produced by the close approximation of the active and passive articulators. See
Figure 1

[click image to enlarge]

[+] Acoustic information

Sound waves (upper window) and spectrogram (lower window) of the nonsense words fafafaf and vavavav.

Table 1
Sound Sound waves and spectrogram
[click image to enlarge]

Figure 2: Sound wave forms (upper window) and spectrograms (lower window) of the voiceless labiodental fricative /f/ (in the nonsense word fafafaf) and the voiced labiodental fricative /v/ (in the nonsense word vavavav).

  1. The vowel of the second syllable of both fafafaf ([fɑ'fafɑf]) and vavavav ([vɑ'vavɑf]) are long [a] , the rest of the vowels are all short [ɑ].
  2. /f/ and /v/ are members of the nonstrident group of fricatives (/s/ and /z/ are stridentsibilants). This group of fricatives is generally characterised by low relative energy and thus have less energy than stridents. This difference is usually visible in their spectrograms, and more clearly in LPC spectra (SEE (Kent 1992)).
  3. Compared to the strident fricative /s/ every voiceless /f/ segment in fafafaf is characterised by notable overall diffuse low frequency energy in the spectrograms in Window A, indicated with blue rectangles. Less energy is visible in the wave forms of Window A, though the aperiodic nature of these voiceless fricatives is more salient in the associated wave forms of Window A.
  4. The voiced consonants of [v] in [vɑ'vavɑf] show far less relative noise energy than [f], also in [fɑ'fafɑf]. The overall weak presence of energy in /v/ (and also in /f/) is characteristic of all nonstrident fricatives.
  5. Voicedness of [v] is furthermore to be seen in the periodic striations of Window A, as well as in the quasiperiodic modulation of the noise by glottal pulses in the bars at the bottom of Window B, similar to those created for the voiced stop [b] (SEE ) and in [b] .

  • Hoekstra, Eric2000Grammaticale functies van -E en -EN in het Westfries en het Fries en taalcontactgestuurde veranderingenTaal en Tongval52136-149
  • Rietveld, Antonius C.M. & Heuven, Vincent J. van1997Algemene FonetiekUitgeverij Coutinho
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