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Assimilation is the name of the process which makes adjacent consonants more similar to each other (see assimilation). Its counterpart then makes adjacent consonants less similar. This is called dissimilation. In Frisian, the latter is much less common than the former. To be more precise, there is only one instance of it, concerning the voiceless final sequence /-xs/ (see word-final sequences of two fricatives). Dissimilation is the subject of this topic.


Examples of words with the final sequence /-xs/ are given in (1):

Example 1

Examples of words ending in the sequence /-xs/
dochs /dɔɣ+s/ nevertheless, all the same
flaachs /fla:xs/ flax
sachs /saxt+s/ easily, in any case, at least
waachs /va:xs/ wax

The above words can be pronounced with final [-xs], but they have a variant pronunciation with final [-ks]: [dɔks] (dochs), [fla:ks] (flaachs), [saks] (sachs), and [va:ks] (waachs) (see Tiersma (1985:37), Tiersma (1999:33)), and Popkema (2006:78)) for this 'fricative dissimilation'). The other way around, words ending in /-ks/, like seks /sɛks/ sex and biks /bɪks/ dried pet food (for domestic animals, like horses, dogs, and rabbits) do not have an alternant ending in /-xs/. This is indicative of the marked status of the sequence /-xs/ vis-à-vis /-ks/.

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The sequence /-xs/ may also result from derivational and/or inflectional processes, examples of which are given in (2):

Example 2

(do) lychst /li:ɣ+st/ [lixst] / [likst] (you) lie
heechst /he:ɣ+st/ [he:xst] / [he:kst] highest
nachs /naxt+s/ [naxs] / [naks] at night
dochs /dɔɣ+s/ [dɔxs] / [dɔks] all the same

As indicated, derived /-xs/ may undergo dissimilation as well.

This, however, is not an exceptionless pattern. The sequence [-xs] may also show up a) in partitive genitive constructions, like wat droechs /druɣ+s/ [druxs] something dry, b) in nominal compounds, like gesachsfakuüm /ɡəsaɣ+s#fa:kyjəm/ [ɡəsaxsfa:kyjəm] power vacuum, and in synthetic compounds like foaroarlochs /fwar+oərlɔɣ+s/ [fwaroəlɔxs] prewar. These are never realized as [*druks], [*ɡəsaksfa:kyjəm], and [fwaroəlɔks]. An explanation for this difference in behaviour does not seem to be readily available.

  • Popkema, Jan2006Grammatica FriesUtrecht/ LjouwertUitgeverij Het Spectrum BV Prisma Woordenboeken en Taaluitgaven/ Fryske Akademy
  • Tiersma, Pieter M1985Frisian reference grammarDordrechtForis Publications
  • Tiersma, Pieter M1999Frisian Reference GrammarAfûk, Ljouwert