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Onsetless syllables

Onsets are optional syllable constituents in Afrikaans. They precede an obligatory nucleus, which is itself part of the rhyme (see figure below). If present, onsets can consist of singleton consonants or consonant clusters of two or three. The following is based on the equivalent Dutch topic.


Figure 1: The syllable σ and its constituents
[click image to enlarge]

Any syllable in Afrikaans can be onsetless, regardless of the quality of the vowel in the nucleus position and the syllable's position within a word. We confine the account of onsets to the syllable level.

As indicated elsewhere in Onset, in those cases where a glottal stop as consonant is commonly present, the notion of an onsetless syllable can be excluded. On this basis, immer will be Ɂimmer. See Gussenhoven (1992:45) and Reker (1983) in this regard. He states that word-initial vowels are obligatorily preceded by a glottal stop if the initial syllable is stressed, while this glottal stop is optional in words in which the first syllable is unstressed, as in Afrikaans immer above. Cases of hiatus are also relevant in this regard. An Afrikaans example is chaos /ˈxaɁɔs/ chaos. Contrary to Dutch and Frisian, schwa is taken as a full vowel, for example in words like immer /ˈəmər/ always.

[+]Examples of onsetless initial syllables in Afrikaans (possible glottal stops omitted)
Table 1: Examples of onsetless initial syllables in Afrikaans (possible glottal stops omitted)
immer /əmər/ always
en /ɛn/ and
os /ɔs/ ox
urn /œrn/ urn
agt /ɑxt/ eight
iets /its/ something
oefen /ufən/ train
uur /yr/ hour
oor /or/ over
eend /end/ duck
aand /and/ evening
Euro /øro/ Euro
einde /əində/ end
oud /œud/ old
uit /œyt/ out
  • Gussenhoven, Carlos1992DutchJournal of the International Phonetic Association2245-47
  • Reker, S1983De fonologische status van de glottisslagTabu13121-142
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