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Nasal assimilation
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In Dutch, like in many other languages, nasal consonants are often homorganic with a following obstruent. Especially in tautosyllabic clusters, this holds true.

In monomorphemic tautosyllabic coda clusters, nasals can only be followed by plosives, except /b/ (Booij 1995; Trommelen 1984):

Example 1

ramp /rɑmp/ disaster
hand /hɑnd/ hand
rank /rɑŋk/ slender
*ramb /*rɑmb/

The exception to this pattern is a non-alveolar nasal followed by /t/. This cluster is allowed within a syllable (Booij 1995):

Example 2

hemd /hɛmd/ shirt

However, most of these heterorganic tautosyllabic clusters tend to be morphologically complex (Booij 1995):

Example 3

zingt /zɪŋt/ sings
remt /rɛmt/ brakes

In the examples in (3), the final nasal of the verbal stem is followed by the 3rd person singular present tense suffix /t/. A nasal in coda position cannot be followed by a fricative. Only /s/ is an exception to this pattern:

Example 4

*hanf /*hɑnf/
ons /ɔns/ us, our, ounce
kans /kɑns/ chance

Heterosyllabic monomorphemic clusters tend to be homorganic as well:

Example 5

amper /ɑmpər/ barely
contact /kɔntɑkt/ contact
anker /ɑŋkər/ anchor

There are only a few exceptions to this rule, for example:

Example 6

imker /ɪmkər/ bee keeper
hamster /hɑmstər/ hamster

In compound words, the underlying place features of the nasal and following consonant do not need to be the same:

Example 7

boomstam boom-stam /bomstɑm/ tree trunk
hangmat /hɑŋmɑt/ hammock
bruinkool /brœynkol/ brown coal

If the first element of a compound ends in a labial or velar nasal, no assimilation takes place. However, if the first element of the compound ends in an alveolar nasal, this nasal does assimilate in place to the following consonant:

Example 8

baanbrekend /banbrekənd/ [bambrekənt] ground-breaking
bruinkool /brœynkol/ [brœyŋkol] brown coal
bronwater /brɔnʋatər/ [brɔɱʋatər] spring water
boomstam /bomstɑm/ [bomstɑm] [*bonstɑm] tree trunk
hangmat /hɑŋmɑt/ [hɑŋmɑt] [*hɑmmɑt] hammock

The same generalisation holds at the phrasal level: only the alveolar nasal assimilates in place to a following consonant. The labial and velar nasal do not assimilate:

Example 9

de man praat /də-mɑn-prat/ [də.mɑm.prat] the man talks
haan kraait /han-krajt/ [haŋ.krajt] rooster crows
stom nieuws /stɔm-niws/ [stɔm.niws] [*stɔm.niws] stupid news
lang nat /lɑŋ-nɑt/ [lɑŋ.nɑt] [*lɑnnɑt] long wet

The final /n/ of the nominal and verbal plural morpheme and of the infinitival morpheme does not assimilate in place to the following obstruent, since it usually gets deleted. In the following, morphonphonological cases of nasal assimilation will be described.

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[+] Nasal assimilation in prefixes

A cluster of an obstruent or nasal preceded by a nasal-final prefix is not always homorganic underlyingly. Prefixes ending in an alveolar nasal do assimilate in place to the consonant:

Example 10

impliciet /ɪnplisit/ [ɪmplisit] implicitly
intolerant /ɪntolərɑnt/ [ɪntolərɑnt] intolerant
inconsistent /ɪnkɔnsistɛnt/ [ɪŋkɔnsistɛnt] inconsistent
onfatsoenlijk /ɔnfɑtsunlək/ [ɔɱfɑtsunlək] indecent
onmogelijk /ɔnmoγələk/ [ɔmoγɔlək] impossible
onwaar /ɔnʋar/ [ɔɱʋar] untrue
onjuist /ɔnjœyst/ [ɔɲjœyst] incorrect

Note that the assimilation is reflected in the spelling of the prefix in-, if the following consonant is a labial consonant (impliciet). If the following consonant is velar (inconsistent), assimilation is not reflected. This, however, is only true for the non-native prefix in-, a negative prefix. The native prefix in-, meaning in, does not reflect assimilation in the spelling:

Example 11

inpakken /ɪnpɑkən/ [ɪmpɑkən] to pack

Assimilation of the nasal only happens, however, if the final nasal of the prefix is the alveolar nasal /n/. Prefixes ending in /m/ do not undergo this type of assimilation:

Example 12

ompraten om-praten /ɔmpratən/ [ɔmpratən] to talk over
omdoen om-doen /ɔmdun/ [ɔmdun] [*ɔndun] to put on
omkopen om-kopen /ɔmkopən/ [ɔmkopən] [*ɔŋkopən] to bribe

Dutch has no prefixes ending in /ŋ/. Non-native prefixes ending in /n/ (in-, con-) do not only assimilate in place to the following obstruent or nasal. When the following phoneme is /l/ or /r/, /n/ also assimilates in manner to this phoneme (cf. also the account based on allomorphy):

Example 13

illegaal [in[legaal]] /ɪnləγal/ [ɪləγal] illegal
irregulair [in[regulair]] /ɪnreγylɛ:r/ [ɪreγylɛ:r] irregular
collaboratie [con[laboratie]] /kɔnlabɔratsi/ [kɔlabɔratsi] collaboration
correlatie [con[relatie]] /kɔnrəlatsi/ [kɔrəlatsi] correlation

This only holds for non-native prefixes ending in /n/; the native prefixes ending in /n/ do not show assimilation to /r/ and /l/ before, respectively, /r/ and /l/:

Example 14

inrijden /ɪnrɛidən/ [ɪnrɛidə] [*ɪrɛidə] to run in
inleven /ɪnlevən/ [ɪnlevə] [*ɪlevə] to empathise
[+] Nasal assimilation in prepositions

The final nasal of the Dutch prepositions inin, aanon, to and vanfrom, of assimilates in place to a following obstruent or nasal:

Example 15

in Parijs /ɪn-parɛis/ [ɪmparɛis] in Paris
in Kameroen /ɪn-kamərun/ [ɪŋkamərun] in Cameroon
van Wales /vɑn-wels/ [vɑɱwels] of Wales
aan Madrid /an-madrɪd/ [amadrɪt] to Madrid

Prepositions ending in /m/ or /ŋ/ do not show assimilation:

Example 16

om de kerk /ɔm-də-kɛrk/ [ɔmdəkɛrk] [*ɔndəkɛrk] around the church
[+] Nasal assimilation and the indefinite article

The final nasal of the indefinite article eenan assimilates in place to a following consonant (Cohen 1961:52; Booij 1977:160):

Example 17

een aap /ən-ap/ [ən.ap] a monkey
een paard /ən-pard/ [əm.part] a horse
een mand /ən-mɑnd/ [ə.mɑnt] a basket
een fiets /ən-fits/ [əɱ.fits] a bicycle
een want /ən-ʋɑnt/ [əɱ.ʋɑnt] a mitten
een kaart /ən-kart/ [əŋ.kart] a card
[+] Nasal assimilation and the diminutive morpheme

A non-velar nasal preceded by an A-class vowel, diphthong or schwa takes a diminutive suffix that starts with a plosive. This plosive is homorganic with the preceding nasal (Trommelen 1984:8):

Example 18

boompje boom-pje /bom.pjə/ [ˈbompjə] little tree
traantje traan-tje /tran.tjə/ [ˈtrantjə] little tear
deken-tje deken-tje /de.kən.tjə/ [ˈdekəntjə] little blanket

The velar nasal preceded by unstressed /ɪ/ usually takes the diminutive morpheme -kje:

Example 19

koningkje koning-kje /ko.nɪŋ.kjə/ [ˈkonɪŋkjə] little king

The velar nasal preceded by unstressed /ɪ/ can also take the diminutive morpheme -etje:

Example 20

wandelingetje wandeling-etje /wɑn.də.lɪ.ŋə.tjə/ [wɑndəˈlɪŋətjə] little walk
koninginnetje [[koningin][n]etje] /ko.nɪŋɪ.nə.tjə/ [konɪŋˈɪnətjə] little queen

The selection of the diminutive suffix depends also on the stress pattern of the word at hand. Furthermore, dialectal variation can be found.

References:
  • Booij, Geert1977Dutch morphology. A study of word formation in generative grammarLisse / DordrechtThe Peter de Ridder Press / Foris Publications
  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Cohen, Antonie1961Fonologie van het Nederlands en het Fries. Inleiding tot de moderne klankleerMartinus Nijhoff
  • Trommelen, Mieke1984The Syllable in DutchDordrechtForis
  • Trommelen, Mieke1984The Syllable in DutchDordrechtForis
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