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Onset: single consonants

The topic of this section are words with a single initial consonant. In principle, a word-initial single consonant may precede any vowel and vowel sequence, though there are a few exceptions.


The table below lists examples of words with a single initial consonant (consonants not occurring in word-initial position are starred):

Table 1
With an obstruent With a nasal With a liquid With a laryngeal
par/par/pear mosk/mosk/sparrow lea/lɪə/limbs hûs/hu:z/house
beam/bɪəm/tree nei/naj/after; to; according to ried/riəd/advice; council
tosk/tosk/tooth /*ŋ/
In principle, a single word-initial consonant may precede any vowel and vowel sequence. Co-occurrence restrictions between consonants and vowels are not likely to exist here, since the onset and the nucleus are different constituents of the syllable (see: the phonotactics of Frisian - introduction). Therefore, if the combination of a word-initial consonant with some vowel (type) is not attested, this is considered to be an accidental gap. There is one notable exception: for independent reasons, /h/ cannot precede schwa (see: the glottal fricative /h/).

The unmarked single word-initial consonant is an obstruent, which yields a maximal sonority contrast between the onset and the nucleus. In Frisian, any consonant type (obstruent, nasal, liquid, laryngeal) can occur in word-initial position. The fricatives /z/, /ɣ/, /x/, however, are not allowed there (see the table above). Of the fricatives, this leaves /f/, /s/, and /v/. With respect to the word-initial position then the fricatives behave unsystematically, as opposed to the plosives (see also the obstruents: the plosives and the obstruents: the fricatives).

None of the velar consonants ‒ the fricatives /ɣ/ and /x/ and the nasal /ŋ/ ‒ occurs in word-initial position, a fact for which no ready explanation seems to be available.

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