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The alveolar plosives /t/ and /d/

Afrikaans /t/ is a voiceless alveolar plosive; its voiced counterpart is /d/ . (Van Wyk 1977)(Le Roux and Pienaar 1927)A possible feature specification of /t/ is -sonorant, -voice, +anterior, +coronal, - continuant; that of /d/ -sonorant, +voice, +coronal, +anterior, - continuant. /t/ counts among the most frequent consonants of Afrikaans; due to the phonological process of final devoicing, /d/ cannot occur in syllable-final position; more generally itt also has a more restricted distribution in comparison to /t/.

[+] Phonotactic behaviour of /t/

Like /p/, the voiceless alveolar plosive, /t/is a common sound and in Afrikaans regularly functions as singleton onset consonant (1)(a); furthermore, onset clusters of two or three consonants are possible (1)(b) - (1)(c):

Example 1

a. tak branch
b. tree stride
c. streek region

Apart from the common occurrence of /r/, as in (1)(b), as second consonant after /t/, only /w/ is found in the same position in a small number of Afrikaans words, like tweetwo or twaalftwelve In some idiolects the approximant [ʋ] allophone of /v/ is not uncommon in these contexts.

/t/ can occur in simple and complex codas, such as in (2)(a) - (2)(b):

Example 2

a. kat cat
b. kant side ; hart heart ; bult hill

In (3)(b) the consonants /n/, /r/, /l/, preceeding the alveolar /t/, are all alveolar like /t/. More specifically they are all sonorants.

Finally, /t/ regularly positions itself intervocalically, preceeded by all kinds of vowel segments, as in (3):

Example 3

a. boete fine ; bitter bitter ; uiters utmost
[+] Phonotactic behaviour of /d/

The occurrence of voiced plosive /d/ is more restricted than that of its voiceless counterpart /t/. In onset position it functions only as singleton consonant (4)(a), or in combination with a second, alveolar nonnasal sonorant consonant (4)(b). Thus a complex onset dCC- is not allowed:

Example 4

a. daar there
b. dra carry

Unlike the combination of /b/ and /l/ in /bl-) (e.g. bly), only the /dr/ cluster is allowed here , thus /*dl-/).

As phoneme, /d/ is allowed in coda position, but in many instances turns into voiceless [t], due to final devoicing, for example:

Example 5

a. hand han [t] hand

In /hande/, the plural form of hand, /d/ surfaces as [d] in syllable-initial position, thus [hɑn.də].

Finally, /d/ regularly appears intervocalically, following every type of vowel segment, as in (6):

Example 6

a. dadel date (the fruit) middel middle ; ydel vain
[+] Alternation of /t/ and /d/

Due to the process of final devoicing, in word-final position the phonetic form of /d/ is [t]. This also applies in syllable final-position. That final devoicing is a productive process is evident in the final /d/ in proper names like David or Bagdad. Note that such devoicing is occassionally reversed or neutralised in cases such as han/d/bagasie ('hand baggage'), due to regressive voicing assimilation. In such cases the voiced and voiceless options regularly alternate with each other.

In intervocalic biconsonantal clusters with alveolar sonorants as first member, (/rd/ /nd/ and /ld), and when followed by schwa, /d/ is readily deleted, especially in fast speech - see (7)(a).

Example 7

a. perde horses ; sonder without ; kelder cellar
b. vir die for the ; in die in the ; wil die will the

Across word boundaries, as in (7)(b), /d/ in the definite pronoun die is omitted when preceeded by words ending in one of these three sonorants.

[+] More detail

(Kent 1992), (MacKAy 1987)

Speech sounds that are produced at the alveolum, between dental, palatalas well as palato-alveolum. See Figure 1: the human speech organs.

A consonant produced involving complete closure of the articulators, a raised velum, followed by a rapid releaseof built-up air pressure.

The alveolar plosives do not exhibit any meaningful variation in terms of place of articulation

Figure 1: The human speech organs

[click image to enlarge]

Sound waves (upper window) and spectrogram (lower window) of the nonsense words tatatat and dadadad.

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 bilabial plosive /t/ (in the nonsense word tatatat) and the voiced bilabial plosive/d/ (in the nonsense word dadadad).

  1. The sounds have been labelled using phonetic transcription; thus [t].
  2. Note that the vowels written as a are all short [ɑ], except for the vowel of the second syllable of dadadad, which is long.
  3. The final /d/ of dadadad is devoiced to phonetically voiceless [t], due to the phonological process of final devoicing.
  4. The voiceless plosives of [tɑ'tɑtɑt] are indicated with green rectangles; while the voiced ones of [dɑ'dadɑt] are indicated with blue rectangles, except for final devoiced /t/ < [d], which is marked with purple.
  5. The voiced [d] plosives have been indicated using blue rectangles; negative voice onset time (VOT; that is prevoicing or voicing lead), is visible in the form of regular wavelike patterns in Window A, and black bars at the bottom of Window B. These black bars represent e quasiperiodic modulations of the noise by glottal pulses in the case of voiced consonants.
  6. If released in word final position, a plosive burst is visible (marked in dark blue).
  7. Final devoicing of /d/ in dadadad results in [t], in which case absence of either wave patterns in A or in black bars in B is evident.
  8. Release bursts of the onset plosive portion of both consonants, [t] and [d], are not clearly visible in these examples.
  9. Intervocalic silence gapsof voiceless[t] in tatatat are visible as green rectangles; no positive voice onset time (VOT) is present here between the release burst and the start of the vowel, indicative of the absence of aspiration in Afrikaans [t].
  10. Negative voice onset time ( -VOT , -prevoicing/ voicing lead, ) is clearly visible in the form of periodic waveforms of [d] in Window A, and black bars at the bottom of Window B, i.e. quasiperiodic modulation of the noise by glottal pulses in the case of voiced consonants.
  11. If plosives are released in word-final position, a plosive burst is visible (marked in dark blue).

[show extra information]

Voicing feature in [d]
In the case of the voiced stop [d], a negative VOT (prevoicing or voicing lead) is in most cases present in Afrikaans. This feature is variable across speakers: some speakers always realise [d] (and other voiced plosives) as prevoiced, while others do so only half of the time, or even not at all. (Coetzee et al., 2014)


  • Hoekstra, Eric2000Grammaticale functies van -E en -EN in het Westfries en het Fries en taalcontactgestuurde veranderingenTaal en Tongval52136-149
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