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Restrictions on schwa insertion
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Schwa insertion is not a completely free process. The general restrictions on the process appear to largely link up with those on schwa deletion. They are the subject of this topic.

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Schwa is a minimally specified vowel, so the step from zero to schwa is relatively small. This does not mean that schwa insertion is completely free, as shown by the following overview:

Example 1

Restrictions on schwa insertion
a. schwa insertion does not occur at the end of the word.
b. schwa insertion does not occur following another vowel.
c. schwa insertion cannot split a homorganic consonant cluster (nasal-obstruent, coronal-coronal).
d. schwa insertion does not occur in a formal style of speech.
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See Van Oostendorp (1995:118-128) for an overview of the properties of 'e-schwa', the epenthetic vowel, in Dutch.

  1. Examples of the reduction of word-final vowels are hard to find (see vowel reduction in word-final position). This is all the more strange, since schwa is quite common in that position. Vowel reduction thus seems to avoid the edges of a word. In essence, then, it is a word-internal phenomenon. The same holds for schwa insertion. Though both processes seem to be each others counterpart, they appear to have much in common.
  2. If schwa is inserted after a vowel, this creates a configuration of two vowels in hiatus, which is forbidden in Frisian. The epenthetic vowel thus only serves to break up consonant sequences. The ban on schwa insertion in the above context finds a counterpart in the obligatory deletion of schwa in case this resolves vocalic hiatus (see schwa deletion as a synchronic process: how to deal with word-internal hiatus).
  3. A linked phonological structure is inseparable or, put differently, its integrity must be respected. It can be split by neither an epenthetic nor an underlying vowel. This means that schwa insertion is not allowed, whereas schwa deletion is simply not at stake.
  4. The more formal the speech style/the higher the register, the less the forms realized deviate from their underlying representation. This means that neither schwa deletion nor schwa insertion are likely to occur in a more formal speech style/a higher register.

References:
  • Oostendorp, Marc van1995Vowel Quality and Phonological ProjectionTilburg UniversityThesis
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