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The bilabial plosives /p/ and /b/
quickinfo

Features
A possible feature specification of /p/ is -sonorant, -voice, +labial, -coronal, -velar, - continuant.

Phonotactic behaviour
As a prototypical voiceless plosive, /p/ can occur in onset clusters of one, two or three consonants, such as in 1a, 1b and 1c respectively. Furthermore, it can occur in simple and complex codas, such as in 2a and 2b respectively. Unlike /t/, /d/ and /k/ it cannot occur in complex onsets followed by a /w/ however, possibly for reasons of the OCP.

Example 1

Onset
a. paard horse
b. praat speak
c. spreek speak
Example 2

Coda
a. hap bite
b. lamp lamp

Features
A possible feature specification of /b/ is -sonorant, +voice, +labial, -coronal, -velar, -continuant.

Phonotactic behaviour
As a prototypical voiced plosive, /b/ can occur in onset clusters of one or two consonants, such as in 3a and 3b, respectively. Unlike, /t/, /d/ and /k/ it cannot occur in complex onsets followed by a /w/ however, possibly for reasons of the OCP. Because of final devoicing, it also does not occur at the end of a syllable, unless it is followed by an onset starting with a voiced plosive in the same word (cf. 4 below). As a matter of fact, /b/ is very rare also underlyingly in coda positions, and basically absent in complex codas.

Example 3

a. bal ball
b. breek break

/p/ is clearly is the voiceless counterpart of /b/. Final devoicing of the latter segment renders [p], and inversely, voicing assimilation can turn /p/ into [b] as shown in 4a:

Example 4

a. op+delen o [bd] elen subdivide
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[+] Articulatory information

Dutch /p/ is a voicelessbilabialplosive and /b/ is a voicedbilabial.

Bilabial
Speech sounds that are produced at a bilabial place of articulation (at the lips). See the human speech organs.

Plosive
A consonant produced involving complete closure between the articulators, followed by a rapid release.


Figure 1: The human speech organs

[click image to enlarge]

[+] Acoustic information

Dutch /p/ is a voiceless and /b/ a voicedbilabialplosive. Dutch voicelessplosives have a voice onset time (VOT), or voice lag, of around 20 ms; voicedplosives have a negative VOT, a voice lead, of around -80 ms (Slis and Cohen 1969).

Bilabial
  • in obstruents, noise or noise bursts characterised by a relatively flat spectrum (diffuse energy), and formant transitions (all formants are lowered in the vicinity of a bilabial).
  • in nasals, indicated by the presence of low frequency (1000 Hz) anti-formants, or spectral valleys.

Plosive
  • consonant involving a silent phase, followed by a brief noise burst.

[+] Examples

Table 1: Soundfiles, waveforms and spectrograms of the above sound files, with indications of the relevant acoustic parameters of Northern Standard Dutch /p/
wordgroup phonological context soundfile waveform/spectogram
dat zo'n pil een uitkomst kan zijn word-initial
[click image to enlarge]
met je lepel in de jus intervocalic
[click image to enlarge]
met een trillende lip word-final
[click image to enlarge]

Table 2: Soundfiles, waveforms and spectrograms of the above sound files, with indications of the relevant acoustic parameters of Southern Standard Dutch /p/
wordgroup phonological context soundfile waveform/spectogram
de uitvinding van de pilthe discovery of the pil word-initial
[click image to enlarge]
met een gouden lepel in de mondwith a golden spoon in the mouth intervocalic
[click image to enlarge]
beet zich op de lipbit his lip word-final
[click image to enlarge]

Table 3: Soundfiles, waveforms and spectrograms of the above sound files, with indications of the relevant acoustic parameters of Northern Standard Dutch /b/
wordgroup phonological context soundfile waveform/spectogram
ik pakte het stuurwiel beetI grabbed the steering-wheel word-initial
[click image to enlarge]
ze hebben geen badkamerthey don't have a bathroom intervocalic
[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 /b/
wordgroup phonological context soundfile waveform/spectogram
maar de kastanje hielt hij beetbut he held the chestnut word-initial
[click image to enlarge]
de aartsen hebben een heleboel (...)the doctors have a lot (...) intervocalic
[click image to enlarge]
[+] More detail

Place
The bilabial plosives do not exhibit any meaningful variation in place of articulation (Collins and Mees 2003).

Manner
The first stop in a medial cluster across a syllable boundary (as in optellen, opdoen) is often unreleased, or the release takes place into the closure of the following stop (Collins and Mees 2003).

Voicing
Negative VOT (voicing lead) is variable across speakers: some speakers always realise /d/ (and other voiced plosives) as prevoiced, while others do so only half the time (Van Alphen and Smits 2004). When they do, the average VOT is around -100ms.

Regional variation
There is some variation with respect to aspiration and voicing. In northern and eastern accents, /p/ is usually aspirated, while in southern accents, /b/ is more strongly voiced.

References:
  • Alphen, Petra M. van & Smits, Roel2004Acoustical and perceptual analysis of the voicing distinction in Dutch initial plosives: The role of prevoicingJournal of Phonetics32455-491
  • Collins, B. & Mees, I2003The Phonetics of English and DutchLeidenE.J. Brill
  • Slis, Iman H. & Cohen, Antonie1969On the complex regulating the voiced-voiceless distinction ILanguage and Speech1280-102
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