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Homorganic consonant deletion in CCC clusters

There is a tendency for languages with multiple consonant clusters to reduce such clusters via the deletion of some of the cluster members. Reduction of this kind is not arbitrary, but follows specific principles, and generally results in more 'natural' syllable structures in line with unmarked phonotactic patterns as found in the majority of languages world wide.

Afrikaans thus exhibits a number of consonant cluster reduction processes. In this section, we focus on the reduction of CCC clusters into CC pairs. Elsewhere, similar types of cluster simplification are handled, vis. d-deletion and degemination; see also Consonant deletion. As is evident in the case of many other phonological processes, the current one is to be expected more in casual speech than in formal styles. Speech rate is also an important factor: the faster someone speaks, the more likely this type of consonant cluster simplification is to be observed.

(Le Roux and Pienaar 1927; Carstens and Bosman 2017; Combrink and De Stadler 1987; De Stadler 1989; De Villiers and Ponelis 1992; Wissing 2017)


Combrink and De Stadler (1987), as well as De Stadler (1989), deal with the process in Afrikaans whereby a CCC-cluster reduces to CC, as in the example of sinds /sənts/ since reducing to [səns]; more particularly, these authors deal with cases of "homorganiese plofferskrapping" – i.e. the "deletion of homorganic plosives". Here we follow their exposition in broad terms. First consider the examples in (1) – (6):

  1. [nts] nds > [ns]: bedroewendste; binnensmonds; brandstof; fonds; grondslag; handsak; handskoen; handskrif; landskap; pantser; sinds; tweerandstuk; verbrands; vernederlandsing; vriendskap; weersinwekkendste.
  2. [nts] nts > [ns]: agentskap; muntstuk; ontseend; ontspan; ontsteking; oorkantste; rantsoen; verwantskap.
  3. [ŋks] nks > [ŋs]: danksy; funksie; links; ondanks; pinkster; slinks.
  4. [ŋkt] nkt > [ŋt]: distinktief; konjunktief; tinktinkie.
  5. [mps] mps > [ms]: ampswoning; hempsboordjie; Kampsbaai; konsumpsie; rampspoed; rampsalig.
  6. [mpt] mpt > [mt]:amptenaar; amptelik; beampte; simptoom; temptasie; verkrampte.
  • In all cases, C1 is a nasal consonant [n], [ŋ] and [m], C2 is a phonetically voiceless plosive [t], [k] and [p] and C3 a voiceless fricatives or plosive [s] and [t]. Of importance is that C1 is homorganic to C2 in articulatory terms: [n] and [t] = alveolar; [ŋ] and [k] = velar; [m] and [p] = bilabial.
  • In view of the previous note, the assimilatory nature of the process is evident.
  • In most cases, clusters consist of consonants across syllable boundaries; simpification therefore most often occurs across syllable boundaries, e.g. in the monomorphemic word brandstof (CCV CC.CCVC > CCV C.CCVC), or in a complex word like amptenaar (V CC.CVCVC > V C.CVCVC) or handskoen (CV CC.CCVC > CV C.CCVC). Only a few words are monomorphemic fonds, funksie, links, sinds, rantsoen, slinks, tinktinkie, simptoom. Other cases comprise either derivations (e.g. bedroewendste, agentskap and ontspan) or are compound words (e.g. handskoen, muntstuk and ampswoning). In the case of derivations, the multisyllabic words are generally derived via use of the prefix ont- or the suffixes -ste, -skap, -s, -sing and -tief. However, the morpheme boundary does not appear to restrict the operation of the process.
  • As mentioned above, this simplification process is in accordance with the general tendency of moving towards a more natural, unmarked phonological structure.

  • Carstens, W.A.M. & Bosman, N., reds2017Kontemporêre Afrikaanse taalkunde.Van Schaik
  • Combrink, J.G.H. & De Stadler, L.G1987Afrikaanse fonologie.Macmillan
  • Combrink, J.G.H. & De Stadler, L.G1987Afrikaanse fonologie.Macmillan
  • De Stadler, L.G1989Die Afrikaanse fonologie: 'n oorsig.Bundels
  • De Stadler, L.G1989Die Afrikaanse fonologie: 'n oorsig.Bundels
  • De Villiers, M. & Ponelis, F.A1992Afrikaanse klankleer.Tafelberg
  • Le Roux, T.H. & Pienaar, P. de V1927Afrikaanse fonetiek.Juta
  • Wissing, Daan2017FonologieVan Schaik
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