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The velar plosives /k/ and /g/
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Afrikaans /k/ is a voicelessvelarplosive; its voiced counterpart is the loan phoneme /g/ (Van Wyk 1977; Le Roux and Pienaar 1927; Kent 1992; MacKay 1987; Rietveld and Van Heuven 1997).

Table 1
Consonant Place Manner Feature specification
/k/ velar fricative -sonorant, -voice, -labial, -coronal, +velar, -continuant
/g/ velar fricative -sonorant, +voice, -labial, -coronal, +velar, -continuant
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[+]Introduction

Unlike the situation with the other two voiced plosives, /b/ and /d/, /g/ is not susceptable to the phonological process of final devoicing, as /g/ is not likely to occur in syllable final position, bar some highly restricted occurrences in proper names. The occurrence of /g/ is restricted to loanwords in a few Afrikaans onsets (such as in gholf golf). In addition, [g] is sometimes the result of regressive voicing assimilation (see Alternation with /g/ below). The velar plosives may, due to V-to-V coarticulation, become palatal in onset position, when followed by high or mid-high front vowels, for example kies /kis/ [cis] to choose .

[+]Phonotactic behaviour of /k/

Like the other two voiceless plosives, /t/ and /p/, the velar consonant /k/ regularly functions as a singleton onset consonant (1a); furthermore, an onset cluster of two or three consonants is possible, in which case C2 is one of the liquidsonorants /l/ and /r/ as in (1b).

Example 1

Onset
a. kat cat
b. krag strength; power  ; klag complaint

Next to the common occurrence of /r/ and /l/ in (1b), [w] occurs as second consonant in the onset in the same position in a small number of Afrikaans words, like kweek /kvek/ [kwek] to cultivate. In some idiolects, the approximant [ʋ], as an allophone for /v/, is not unlikely.

Other than in Dutch, where /x/ functions as second consonant in triconsonantal clusters ( [sxr]), in Afrikaans /k/ takes up this position, with /r/ the sole possibility as third member, e.g. in (2a).

Example 2

a. skree to shout

The /k/ can occur in simple and complex codas, such as in (3a) and (3b).

Example 3

Coda
a. tak branch
b. hark rake

In complex codas such as (3b), apart from /r/ as first consonant, /l/ (in dalk perhaps) and the velar nasal /ŋ/ (in lank long) are regular possibilities.

The phoneme /k/ is also a common segment intervocalically, as in (4).

Example 4

Intervocalically
a. seker surely  ; wakker awake  ; suiker sugar
[+]Alternation with /g/

The [g] in Afrikaans can be the phonetic result of voicing assimilation as in sak+doek sa[gd]oek handkerchief.

In a number of cases [g] alternates with /x/, as in the plural form of berg /bɛrx/ mountain, viz. [bær.gə], or in some derivations of words ending on /x/, as in (ver)erg to get annoyed this [g] becomes [g] in ergernis annoyance.

[+]Phonotactic behaviour of /g/

The phoneme /g/ occurs in a restricted number of loanwords, mainly in onset position, as in garage id. and in gholf golf, from English, as well as from some indigenous African languages, for example ghaai and ghaap plant name.

[+]Acoustic information

Figure 1 includes the sound wave forms (upper window) and spectrograms (lower window) of the voiceless velar plosive /k/ (in the nonsense word kakakak) and the voiced bilabial plosive /g/ (in the nonsense word gagagag).

Table 2: Example
Sound Sound waves and spectrogram

Figure 1

[click image to enlarge]

  1. The vowel of the second syllable of gagagag ( [gɑ'gagɑk] is long; the rest of the vowels in this word as well as in [kɑ'kɑkɑk] are short.
  2. Release bursts of the onset plosive portion of both consonants, [k] and [g], are not clearly visible in these examples.
  3. Intervocalicsilence gaps of voiceless [k] in kakakak are visible; no positive voice onset time (VOT) is present between plosive release burst and start of vowel, indicative of absence of aspiration of Afrikaans [k].
  4. In voiced [g], VOT is clearly visible in periodic waveforms in Window A, and in the black bars at the bottom of Window B.
  5. If released in word-final position, the /k/ or /g/ is visible in the form of a silence gap between the end of a vowel and a word-final plosive burst (marked in dark blue).
  6. Final devoicing of /g/ in gagagag results in [gɑ'gagɑk], in which case absence of either wave patterns in A or black bars in B is evident.

References:
  • Kent, Ray D. and Charles Read1992The acoustics analysis of speechSingular Publishing Group
  • Le Roux, T.H. & Pienaar, P. de V1927Afrikaanse fonetiek.Juta
  • MacKay, Ian R.I1987Phonetics: the science of speech productionCollege-Hill
  • Rietveld, Antonius C.M. & Heuven, Vincent J. van1997Algemene FonetiekUitgeverij Coutinho
  • Van Wyk, E.B1977Praktiese fonetiek vir taalstudente: 'n inleiding.Butterworth
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