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The unrounded high front vowel /i/
quickinfo

The unrounded, high, front A-class vowel/i/ is found in words such as:

Example 1

a. drie /dri/ three
b. ziel /zil/ soul
c. grimas /xri.mɑs/ [xriˈmɑs] grin, grimace

It is usually spelled with a single letter <i> in open syllables as in (1c, but notice 1a) and with the letters <ie> in closed syllables as in (1b).

Figure 1(cf. Gussenhoven 1992) depicts the (Dutch) vowel's position within the vowel chart.


Figure 1: Vowel chart

[click image to enlarge]

Articulation
/i/ is an unrounded, high, front, A-class vowel. The tongue body is fronted, the tongue tip is down (Collins and Mees 2003; Eijkman 1937).

Duration
/i/ is phonetically short, but it has a lengthened allophone before /r/. In Northern Standard Dutch, this allophone is also centralised and glides towards [ə] (Collins and Mees 2003). Absolute duration varies with the type of speech and speaking rate, but reported average durations have ranged from 85 ms in spontaneous speech (Jacobi 2009) to 93 ms in elicited read speech (Adank et al. 2004).

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[+] Acoustic properties of /i/

Formant values vary with the type of speech, gender of the speaker, and speech community (the Netherlands or Flanders). Below are some reported average F1/F2 values.

Table 1
F1 mixed female male
Netherlands 275 276 294
289 294 306
278
Flanders 274 317 278
308

Table 2
F2 mixed female male
Netherlands 2326 2510 2208
2309 2524 2494
2162
Flanders 2391 2647 2179
2391

Differences between NSD and BSD
/i/ has been said to have a somewhat longer duration in Belgian Standard Dutch than in Northern Standard Dutch, although Adank et al.’s (2004) results only show this for their female speakers.

Examples

Table 3: Soundfiles, waveforms and spectrograms of the above sound files, with indications of the relevant acoustic parameters of Northern Standard Dutch /i/
wordgroup phonological context soundfile waveform/spectogram
ik zie hetI see it word-final
[click image to enlarge]
hij trok een vies gezichthe made a weird face pre-obstruent
[click image to enlarge]
met vier kinderenwith four children pre-liquid
[click image to enlarge]

Table 4: Soundfiles, waveforms and spectrograms of the above sound files, with indications of the relevant acoustic parameters of Southern Standard Dutch /i/
wordgroup phonological context soundfile waveform/spectogram
ik zie wat jij niet zietI see what you don't see word-final
[click image to enlarge]
ik ben niet vies van werkenI'm not dirty from working pre-obstruent
[click image to enlarge]
nog vier jaar langstill for four years pre-liquid
[click image to enlarge]

More examples from Dutch (1, 2) and Flemish (3):

  1. Hij trok een vies gezichtHe made a weird face.
  2. met vier kinderenwith four children
  3. nog vier jaar langfour more years
[+] Phonological analysis of /i/

Features
A possible feature specification of /i/ is +high, -low, +tense, -round, -back.

/i/ as an A-class vowel

/i/ is most profitably seen as an A-class vowel, although it is not so clear what its B-class vowel alternant would be; /ɪ/ is sometimes mentioned as such, but this vowel seems more closely connected to /e/, both phonetically and phonologically. A further problem in analyzing /i/ (or the other high vowels /y/ and /u/) as an A-class vowel is that phonetically it is really short, and A-class vowels are sometimes analysed as ‘long’ vowels. An important reason to still see /i/ as an A-class vowel is phonotactic (see section Phonotactics).

Interaction with [j]
When followed by another vowel, /i/ typically develops a glide [j]: piano[pijano]piano. In casual speech (for some speakers) the j can also replace unstressed [i] in such circumstances: [pjano].

Glide insertion does not happen when the following vowel is also an [i]: Shiiet[ʃi.t], [*ʃijit]. The reason for this is possibly a more general ban on [ji] sequences; there are no Dutch words with these sequences, possibly due to a kind of OCP ban (see below) on them. It is believed that [j] is a consonantal version of /i/.

[show extra information]
x

The OCP (Obligatory Contour Principle) prohibits, or at least disfavours, the occurrence of identical feature specifications on adjacent autosegments(Trask 1996: 245).

Behaviour before /r/
When placed before an /r/ consonant in the same foot, /i/ lengthens to [iː] (Gussenhoven 1993).

Phonotactics
Like other A-class vowels /i/ can occur at the end of a syllable; and like other A-class vowels /i/ tends not to occur before two non-coronal consonants. However, the latter generalization has some exceptions, notably the past tenses of a few strong verbs such as wierp[wiːrp]threw and hielp[hiːlp]helped

References:
  • Adank, Patti, Hout, Roeland van & Smits, Roel2004An acoustic description of the vowels of Northern and Southern Standard DutchJournal of the Acoustical Society of America1161729--1738
  • Adank, Patti, Hout, Roeland van & Smits, Roel2004An acoustic description of the vowels of Northern and Southern Standard DutchJournal of the Acoustical Society of America1161729--1738
  • Collins, B. & Mees, I2003The Phonetics of English and DutchLeidenE.J. Brill
  • Collins, B. & Mees, I2003The Phonetics of English and DutchLeidenE.J. Brill
  • Eijkman, L.P.H1937Phonetiek van het NederlandsHaarlemDe Erven F. Bohn N.V.
  • Gussenhoven, Carlos1992DutchJournal of the International Phonetic Association2245-47
  • Gussenhoven, Carlos1993The Dutch foot and the chanted callJournal of Linguistics2937-63
  • Jacobi, Irene2009On Variation and Change in Diphthongs and Long Vowels of Spoken DutchUniversity of AmsterdamThesis
  • Landsbergen, Frank, Carole Tiberius & Roderik Dernison2014Taalportaal: an Online Grammar of Dutch and FrisianNicoletta Calzolari (Conference Chair) and Khalid Choukri and Thierry Declerck and Hrafn Loftsson and Bente Maegaard and Joseph Mariani and Asuncion Moreno and Jan Odijk and Stelios Piperidis (ed.)Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC'14)European Language Resources Association2206-2210
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