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The obstruents: the fricatives
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This section deals with the distribution of the voiced and voiceless fricatives, which is quite the opposite of symmetrical. An overview is given, going from more specific to more general distributional statements. A reformulation appears to be possible, once the role of final schwa in simplex words is taken into account.

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Not all fricatives can occur in all positions of the word, i.e. word-initially, word-medially, and word-finally. In this respect, they markedly differ from the plosives. Their distribution is fundamentally asymmetrical. The following overview of the distribution of the fricatives (first version), going from more specific to more general distributional statements, makes this clear:

  • As to the coronal fricatives: the voiced fricative /z/ neither occurs in word-initial position nor in the onset of a stressed word-medial syllable; it is voiceless /s/ which occurs in these positions.
  • As to the dorsal fricatives: voiced /ɣ/ and voiceless /x/ neither occur in word-initial position nor in the onset of a stressed word-medial syllable; it is the voiced velar plosive /ɡ/ which occurs in these positions.
  • As to the labiodental fricatives: voiced /v/ occurs in word-initial position and in the onset of a word-medial syllable, where it usually has a realization with diminished frication. Voiceless /f/, which is always realized with frication, also occurs in these positions.
  • In word-medial and word-final position, the voiced fricatives — /v/, /z/, and /ɣ/ — show a preference for being preceded by a long sequence, viz. a long monophthong, a falling or centring diphthong or a short vowel + a liquid (/l/ or /r/), while the voiceless fricatives — /f/, /s/, and /x/ — prefer to follow a short sequence, i.e. a short monophthong or a (short) rising diphthong.
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    Due to final devoicing, underlying voiced fricatives in word-final position end up as voiceless in actual realization.

Primarily on the basis of distributional regularities, it can be shown that in simplex words final schwa and the sequence schwa + (sonorant) consonant act as a word boundary; see Visser (1994), Visser (1997:235-248) as to Frisian and Kager and Zonneveld (1986), Kager (1989), Zonneveld (1993) and Van Oostendorp (1995) for Dutch. This implies that the consonants and consonant sequences preceding final schwa are possible in word-final position, hence that they can be the coda of a syllable. That is, phonotactic constraints concerning the rhyme of the syllable are not violated before schwa. Taking this role of schwa into account allows for a pretty simple, and elegant, reformulation of the distribution of the voiced and voiceless fricatives in word-medial and word-final position, which is given below:

  • A voiceless fricative occupies the second rhyme position.
  • A voiced fricative occupies the third rhyme position.
Combined with the facts concerning the distribution of the fricatives in word-initial position and in the onset of a word-medial syllable, it can be concluded that the voiced and voiceless fricatives have a complementary distribution.

More details on the fricatives of Frisian can be found in the following topics:

References:
  • Kager, René1989A Metrical Theory of Stress and Destressing in English and DutchDordrechtForis
  • Kager, René & Zonneveld, Wim1986Schwa, Syllables and Extrametricality in DutchThe Linguistic Review5197-221
  • Oostendorp, Marc van1995Vowel Quality and Phonological ProjectionTilburg UniversityThesis
  • Visser, Willem1994Schwa-appendixen in het FriesBooij, Geert Evert & Marle, J. van (eds.)DialectfonologieAmsterdamP.J. Meertens-Instituut116-137
  • Visser, Willem1997The Syllable in FrisianVrije Universiteit AmsterdamThesis
  • Zonneveld, Wim1993Schwa, Superheavies, Stress and Syllables in DutchThe Linguistic Review1061-110
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