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Hiatus resolution: homorganic glide insertion

Dutch allows for sequences of two adjacent heterosyllabicvowels, a so-called hiatus. However, depending on the quality of the vowels involved and the stress pattern, hiatuses will be resolved by intervocalic homorganic glide insertion.


All word-internal hiatuses are the result of a clash of an open syllable and an onsetless syllable, as illustrated in the examples in (1) to (3). Hiatuses rarely occur in Dutch. Note that the first part of such a sequence is always an A-class vowel or a diphthong since it occurs in an open syllable.

chaos /xa.ɔs/ [ˈxaɔs] chaos
aorta /a.ɔr.ta/ [aˈɔrta] aorta
Ephraim /ɛf.ra.im/ [ˈɛfraim] (name)
farao /fa.ra.o/ [ˈfarao] Pharaoh

At the phonetic level, hiatuses in Dutch prosodic words are resolved by inserting an intervocalic homorganic glide: [j] is inserted after unrounded front vowels(2a), [ʋ] is inserted after back vowels(2b) (cf. the Homorganic Glide Insertion rule (Zonneveld 1978)). Motivated by the idea that a transitional glide has to agree in backness and roundness with the preceding vowel, Gussenhoven (1980) suggests a third transitional glide [ɥ] for Dutch which surfaces after front rounded vowels (see (2c); cf. Booij (1995:66) for discussion and implementation).

Hiatus resolution - homorganic glide insertion
hiaat /hi.at/ [hijat] hiatus
bioscoop /bi.ɔs.kop/ [bijɔskop] cinema
creool /kre.ol/ [krejol] creole
vijand /vɛi.ɑnd/ [vɛijɑnt] enemy
Ruanda /ru.an.da/ [ruʋanda] Rwanda
Boaz /bo.ɑs/ [boʋɑs] Boaz
uien /œy.ən/ [œyɥən] onions
januari /ja.ny.a.ri/ [janyɥari] January

Hiatuses in which the first element is either the low vowel /a/ or schwa behave differently. In these cases, no transitional glide is inserted. Instead, if the second vowel of the hiatus belongs to the syllable carrying main stress, i.e. foot-initial position, a glottal stop [ʔ] is inserted as illustrated in (3a). If that syllable does not carry main stress, the hiatus is kept, as shown in (3b).

Hiatus resolution - glottal stop insertion in foot-initial position
aorta /a.ɔr.ta/ [aˈʔɔrta] aorta
paella /pa.ɛl.ja/ [paˈʔɛlja] paella
beamen /bə.ˈa.mə(n)/ [bəˈʔamə(n)] confirm
chaos /xa.ɔs/ [ˈxaɔs] chaos
farao /fa.ra.o/ [ˈfarao] Pharaoh
  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Gussenhoven, Carlos1980Review of M. Trommelen and W. Zonneveld (1979)Inleiding in the generatieve fonologie: Gramma4174-183
  • Zonneveld, Wim1978A formal theory of exceptions in generative phonologyDordrechtForis
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