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Codas are part of the rhyme constituent of a syllable and follow the nucleus. Coda positions can be occupied by consonantalsegments or glides.

Dutch allows for coda consonants. The consonant /h/ cannot occur in codas since it needs to receive its place specification from the following vowel(Booij 1995:40; `parasitic on a next vowel'). In contrast, the velarnasal/ŋ/ can exclusively occur in codas, and more specifically only after B-class vowels as in ring/rɪŋ/ring, eng/ɛŋ/daunting or tango/tɑŋ.go/[ˈtɑŋgo] or/tɑŋ.xo/[ˈtɑŋxo]tango. Glides can occur in coda position but only if they follow A-class vowels; they cannot be part of coda clusters other than glide + coronal consonant(s) as in ooit/ojt/sometime. For more information on restrictions on nucleus + coda sequences see co-occurrence restrictions in rhymes.

The maximum number of possible coda consonants depends on the preceding vowel and whether the syllable is word-medial or word-final. Word-medially, the number of coda consonants differs between zero, i.e. open syllable (see also hiatus), and two as in werkloos/ʋɛrk.los/unemployed. Word-finally, the number of allowed coda consonants seems to be higher, differing again from zero to up to five consonants as in herfst/hɛrfst/autumn, fall or promptst/prɔmptst/[prɔmp(t)st]most prompt. Examples are given in (1-3):

Example 1

a. A-class vowel in open syllable
      knie /kni/ knee
      thee /te/ tea
      la /la/ drawer
      zo /zo/ so, just
      moe /mu/ tired
      accu /ɑky/ battery
      beu /bø/ weary
b. Diphthong in open syllable
      bij /bɛi/ bee
      trui /trœy/ jumper
      blauw /blɑu/ blue
Example 2

a. B-class vowel in closed syllable with one coda consonant
      lip /lɪp/ lip
      bed /bɛd/ [bɛt] bed
      kat /kɑt/ cat
      zon /zɔn/ sun
      put /pʏt/ well
b. B-class vowel in closed syllable with ambisyllabic consonant
      lippen /lɪpən/ [ˈlɪpə(n)] lips
      bedden /bɛdən/ [ˈbɛdə(n)] beds
      katten /kɑtən/ [ˈkɑtə(n)] cats
      zonnen /zɔnən/ [ˈzɔnə(n)] suns
      putten /pʏtən/ [ˈpʏtə(n)] wells

Since B-class vowels may only occur in closed syllables, minimally one coda consonant is mandatory (see 2a). Word-medially, these coda consonants can be ambisyllabic (see 2b). A-class vowels and diphthongs may occur in open syllables; a coda consonant is therefore optional (see 1 and 3).

Example 3

a. A-class vowel + one coda consonant
      piek /pik/ peak
      zeep /zep/ soap
      baas /bas/ boss
      boot /bot/ boat
      schoen /sxun/ shoe
      puur /pyr/ pure
      beuk /bøk/ beech
b. Diphthong + one coda consonant
      wijk /ʋɛik/ neighborhood
      luik /lœyk/ shutter
      paus /pɑus/ pope
[+] Bisegmental coda clusters

Besides singleton coda consonants (see above), Dutch also allows for coda consonant clusters. However, consonants cannot be combined randomly. According to the Sonority Sequencing Principle(Clements 1990), the sonority should steeply rise for onset + nucleus sequences and (mildly) decrease or not decrease at all in rhymes, i.e. nucleus + coda consonants.

Sonority hierarchy
Vowels > glides > rhotics > laterals > nasals > fricatives > stops (decreasing sonority).

As a consequence of the sonority hierarchy given above, the following bisegmental coda consonant clusters are possible: sonorant + sonorant coda clusters (see table 1), sonorant + obstruent coda clusters (see tables 2 and 3) - examples were taken from Booij (1995:40/41) - and obstruent + obstruent coda clusters (see examples in 4). Notice that in sonorant + sonorant coda clusters the liquid, i.e. lateral or rhotic consonant, precedes the nasal.

Table 1: Sonorant + sonorant coda cluster
sequence example
/-lm/ zalm/zɑlm/salmon
/-rm/ arm/ɑrm/arm
/-rn/ karn/kɑrn/to churn
/*-ln/ cf. Köln (German) - Keulen (Dutch)Cologne
/*-lŋ/ -
/*-rŋ/ -
/*-rl/ cf. Karl/Carl (German) - Karel (Dutch)name

More generally, possible coda consonant clusters seem to be `mirrors' of onset clusters(Booij 1981; mirror principle). However, the number of coda clusters is slightly larger than the number of permitted onset clusters. Whereas /-lm, -rm, -lt/ are possible coda clusters, the inversely ordered sequences /ml-, mr-, tl-/ are impossible onset clusters. The opposite holds for the two onset clusters /bl-, br-/; the mirrored coda clusters /-lb, -rb/ occur exclusively in loanwords such as stilb/stɪlb/[stɪl(ə)p]old unit of luminance, sorb/sɔrb/[sɔr(ə)p]sorb apple or blurb/blʏrb/[blʏr(ə)p]blurb but are otherwise disallowed in Dutch.

Table 2: Liquid + obstruent coda cluster
sequence example
/-lf/ elf/ɛlf/[ɛl(ə)f]elf, fairy
/-lv/ elf/ɛlv/[ɛl(ə)f]eleven (cf. elfde[ˈɛlv.də]eleventh
/-ls/ als/ɑls/if, as
/-lz/ hals/hɑlz/[hɑls]neck (cf. halzen [ˈhɑl.zən]neck (plural))
/-lx/ mulch/mʏlx/[mʏl(ə)x]mulch (cf. mulchte[ˈmʏlx.tə]mulched)
/-lɣ/ balg/bɑlɣ/[bɑl(ə)x]bellows
/-lp/ hulp/hʏlp/[hʏl(ə)p]help
/*-lb/ -
/-lt/ asfalt/ɑsfɑlt/asphalt
/-ld/ held/hɛld/[hɛlt]hero (cf. helden[ˈhɛl.dən]hero (plural))
/-lk/ elk/ɛlk/[ɛl(ə)k]every
/-rf/ smurf/smʏrf/smurf (cf. smurfen[ˈsmʏr.fən]smurfs)
/-rv/ korf/kɔrv/[kɔr(ə)f]basket (cf. korven[ˈkɔr.vən]basket (plural))
/-rs/ mars/mɑrs/march
/-rz/ vers/vɛrz/[vɛrs]verse, poem (cf. verzen[ˈvɛr.zə(n)]verses
/-rx/ monarch/mo.nɑrx/monarch, king
/-rɣ/ erg/ɛrɣ/[ɛr(ə)x]very
/-rp/ harp/hɑrp/[hɑr(ə)p]harp
/*-rb/ -
/-rt/ art/ɑrt/art
/-rd/ hard/hɑrd/[hɑrt]hard (cf. harder[ˈhɑr.dər]harder)
/-rk/ ark/ɑrk/[ɑr(ə)k]ark

Nasal + obstruent coda clusters (table 3) are subject to more restrictions. First, nasals cannot combine with fricatives within the same coda in Dutch (but compare heterosyllabic nasal + fricative clusters as in kamfer/kɑm.fər/camphor). Second, the nasal and the succeeding obstruent must be homorganic. So, only nasal + homorganic stop coda clusters are possible. The (written) sequence -mb occurs only in the loanword aplomb/a.plɔm/[aˈplɔm]self-assurance; the sequence /-ŋg/ does not occur. The non-homorganic sequence /-md/ as in hemd/hɛmd/shirt or vreemd/vremd/strange is not very frequent; for an account see section below.

Table 3: Nasal + obstruent coda cluster
sequence example
/*-mb/ -
/-mp/ ramp/rɑmp/disaster
/-md/ hemd/hɛmd/[hɛmt]shirt (cf. hemden[ˈhɛm.dən]shirt (plural))
/-nd/ mond/mɔnd/[mɔnt]mouth (cf. monden[ˈmɔn.dən]mouth (plural))
/-nt/ munt/mʏnt/coin
/*-ŋg/ -
/-ŋk/ koninklijk/ko.nɪŋk.lək/royal

Lastly, Dutch also allows for obstruent + obstruent coda clusters in monomorphemic words. In all of these clusters, at least one of the two obstruents is a coronal (see also consonant cluster condition). With the exception of /-sC/ clusters (see also example 4), the coronal is usually found in final position. Table 4 provides some examples for possible obstruent + obstruent coda clusters:

Table 4: Obstruent + obstruent coda cluster
sequence example
/-pt/ intercept/ɪn.tər.sɛpt/intercept
/-ps/ rups/rʏps/caterpillar
/-ts/ muts/mʏts/hat
/-tʃ/ kitsch/kitʃ/kitsch, junk
/-kt/ pact/pɑkt/pact
/-ks/ heks/hɛks/witch
/-ft/ kaft/kɑft/(book) cover
/-fs/ -
/-sp/ wesp/ʋɛsp/wasp
/-st/ beest/best/beast
/-sk/ kiosk/ki.ɔsk/stall
/-xt/ macht/mɑxt/power
/-xs/ -

[+] Coda consonants and final devoicing

The phonological process of final devoicing is active in Dutch. This means that coda consonants which are underlyingly specified for the feature [voice] turn into their voiceless counterparts when occurring in coda position. This process results in seemingly homophonous word pairs such as elf/ɛlf/[ɛlf]elf, fairy vs. elf/ɛlv/[ɛlf]eleven (see also the discussion of incomplete neutralization). Evidence that there is indeed a voiced segment underlyingly present in coda position comes from related forms such as plural forms or past tense forms, in which the voiced segment shows up. Examples are given in tables 2 and 3 above.

[+] An alternative account of syllable structure and coda clusters

So far we have assumed a syllable structure like in the following figure:

Figure 1

[click image to enlarge]

Post-nuclear consonants are assigned to the coda position of a syllable (see phonotactics at the word level for the syllable assignment of intervocalic consonant clusters and the maximum onset principle). It has been noted that Dutch allows extra-long sequences of up to five consonants word-finally (see Moulton 1956 for a similar observation in German, the so-called 'edge of constituent phenomena';Booij 1983), as in herfst/hɛrfst/autumn, fall. Since those final consonants are always coronal obstruents, it has been proposed that these consonants do not belong to the coda but form a (syllable) appendix instead. Following this account, seemingly exceptional extra-long codas as in herfst or promptst[prɔmp(t)st]most prompt actually comprise two coda consonants (plus up to three appendix positions) in accordance with word-medial codas. All final coronals of `coda clusters' in the examples given in tables 2 and 3 above should thus be assigned to an appendix position.

An alternative account is presented in Van Oostendorp (1995,2000, see also references there). In addition to the appendix (called extra-prosodic consonants), it is suggested that a distinction should be made between the obligatory coda consonant following B-class vowels and the optional coda consonants following either A-class vowels or B-class vowel + obligatory-coda-consonant sequences. What these consonants have in common is that they do not need to be coronals. Van Oostendorp claims that these optional consonants do not actually belong to the coda / rhyme of the syllable but get assigned to a following degenerate syllable instead. These optional consonants are, therefore, called extra-syllabic consonants. Such an account allows, among other things, to unify the influence of syllable weight across word-positions for stress assignment.

The following figures illustrate the structures that are proposed for the words hulp/hʏlp/[hʏl(ə)p]help, kaft/kɑft/[kɑft][*kɑfət]cover, maart/mart/[mart][*marət]March and herfst/hɛrfst/[hɛr(ə)fst]autumn, fall (N^0 refers to the nuclear level, barred N refers to the syllable rhyme, double-barred N refers to the syllable level, Ft stands for foot; extra-prosodic consonants are directly linked to the higher-ranked prosodic word node which is not included in the figures):

Figure 2

[click image to enlarge]

So, according to this account the /t/ following a B-class vowel in kat/kɑt/cat, although being coronal, is a genuine coda consonant whereas the /k/ in taak/tak/task is an extra-syllabic consonant. This account receives additional support from phonetic data: consonant clusters consisting of a coda consonant + an extra-syllabic consonant are usually affected by schwa epenthesis in casual speech. This is illustrated by the words hulp/hʏlp/[hʏl(ə)p]help and herfst/hɛrfst/[hɛr(ə)fst]autumn, fall in the following figure (more examples can be found in table 2 above). Notice that schwa insertion is not possible in (coda or extra-syllabic) consonant + appendix / extra-prosodic consonant clusters. So, there is no optional schwa in words such as kaft/kɑft/[kɑft][*kɑfət]cover, paard/pard/[part][*parət]horse or herfst/hɛrfst/[hɛr(ə)fst][*hɛrfəst]autumn, fall. See Van Oostendorp (1995,2000) for more details, e.g. why [ˈhʏləp] is preferred to [*ˈhʏl.pə] (i.e. the prohibition of epenthetic schwa at word edges), and (grammatical) implementation.

Figure 3

[click image to enlarge]

[+] Exceptional bisegmental coda clusters

As mentioned above, coda consonant clusters follow the Sonority Sequencing Principle. However, exceptional sequences can be found that seem to escape this general principle. Notice that all of these exceptions involve s + stop sequences, which behaved differently in onset clusters as well. According to Booij (1995:41), word-final /-st/-sequences should be assigned to the appendix position(s). The remaining (word-medial) sequences /-sp, -st, -sk/ (examples are given in 4) do pose a problem for the traditional coda consonant cluster account, however, and should be accepted as violations of the Sonority Sequencing Principle.

Alternatively, following Van Oostendorp's (1995,2000) account, the word-final sequences /-sp, -sk, -st/ after B-class vowels are not problematic since the /s/ occupies the obligatory coda position and the final /p/ and /k/ get assigned to an extra-syllabic position (i.e. onset of a degenerate syllable) in analogy to the example hulp in the figure above and the final /t/ gets assigned to an extra-prosodic position. Word-medial /-stC-/ clusters might be analysed in a similar way with the /s/ belonging to a coda position and the coronal /t/ being extra-prosodic (word-internally).

Example 4

a. -sp
      wesp /ʋɛsp/ wasp
      gesp /xɛsp/ buckle
      rasp /rɑsp/ grater
b. -sk
      grotesk /xro.tɛsk/ [xroˈtɛsk] grotesque
      obelisk /o.bə.lɪsk/ [obəˈlɪsk] obelisk
      kiosk /ki.ɔsk/ [kiˈɔsk] stall
c. -st
      astma /ɑstma/ [ˈɑstma] asthma
      istmus /ɪstmʏs/ [ˈɪstmʏs] isthmus

Remaining problematic cases are words such as Weesp/ʋesp/city name or twaalf/tʋalf/twelve in which a non-coronal word-final consonant cluster follows an A-class vowel.

  • Booij, Geert1981Generatieve fonologie van het NederlandsAula paperbacksUtrecht / AntwerpenHet Spectrum
  • Booij, Geert1983Principles and parameters in prosodic phonologyLinguistics21249-80
  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Clements, George N1990The role of the sonority cycle in core syllabificationPapers in Laboratory Phonology1Cambridge University Press283-333
  • Moulton, William G1956Syllable nuclei and final consonant clusters in GermanFor Roman Jakobson: Essays on the occasion of his sixtieth birthdayMouton
  • Oostendorp, Marc van1995Vowel Quality and Phonological ProjectionTilburg UniversityThesis
  • Oostendorp, Marc van1995Vowel Quality and Phonological ProjectionTilburg UniversityThesis
  • Oostendorp, Marc van1995Vowel Quality and Phonological ProjectionTilburg UniversityThesis
  • Oostendorp, Marc van2000Phonological ProjectionNiemeyer
  • Oostendorp, Marc van2000Phonological ProjectionNiemeyer
  • Oostendorp, Marc van2000Phonological ProjectionNiemeyer
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