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The long vowels
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Here the long vowels of Afrikaans are described. See The Afrikaans Vowel System for an overview of the Afrikaans vowel system. With regards to the Dutch vowel system, refer to The Nucleus in Dutch. Long vowels (and also diphthongs) occupy two structural positions (X X) in a rhyme, as shown in (i) (in an open syllable, as in (s)ee) and (ii) (in a closed syllable, as in een) (see Figure 1). See The Short Vowels for examples of syllable trees for short vowels.

In terms of distinctive features of segments, X depending on N is represented here by [-cons], while X depending on C by [+cons]. Long vowels thus equals [-cons] [-cons]; the same applies to diphthongs.


Figure 1: Syllable trees of long vowels

[click image to enlarge]

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In the following examples of the four long vowels of Afrikaans (/o, e, a, ø/) are presented, indicating position in syllables (in onset or in (onset +) nucleus), as well as stress. a = closed syllables and b = open syllables (i. word-initially; ii. word-medially; iii. word-finally).

In this section special attention is given to the vowels /o, e, ø, a/. The examples are restricted to simplex words. Many multimorphemic, derived cases exist.

Example 1

/o/
a. oorsaak
cause
'or.sak
a.' origens
furthermore
'o.rə.xətns
b. behoorlik
properly
bə.'hor.lək
b.' metode
method
mə.'to.də
c. framboos
raspberry
frɑm.'bos
c.' Karoo
Karoo (geogr. name)
kɑ.'ro
Example 2

/e/
a. eensaam
alone
'en.sam
a.' ewig
ever
'e.vəx
b. gemeente
congregation
xə.'men.tə
b.' afwesig
absent
ɑf.'ve.səx
c. alleen
alone
ɑ.'len
c.' trofee
trophy
tru.'fe
Example 3

/a/
a. aambei
hemorrhoid
'am.bəi
a.' arend
eagle
'a.rənd
b. geraamte
skeleton
xə.'ram.tə
b.' papawer
poppy
pɑ.'pa.vər
c. barbaar
barbarian
bɑr.'bar
c.' karba
carba
kɑr.'ba
Example 4

/ø/
a. deuntjie
tune
'døn'.ci
a.' Europa
Europe
ø'.ro.pɑ
b. geneugte
delight
xə.'nøx.tə
b.' sigeuner
gypsy
si.'xø.'nər
c. museum
museum
my.'zøm
c.' adieu
adieu
ɑ.'dø

As was stated elsewhere, /i, y, u/ are not included here, as is the case with Dutch. Dutch Nucleus; (Le Roux and Pienaar 1927); (De Villiers 1949); (Coetzee 1982); (Combrink and De Stadler 1987); (Wissing 2014). Also keep in mind the motivation in The Short Vowels for acceptance of short /ɑ/ instead of long /a/ in open syllables, especially in word-final position. Central to this is the rejection of the notion of ambisyllabicity. Also see (Aarts 1994)

Note that /a/ is the only long vowel considered as a true monophthong. As is the case in Dutch, the other three long vowels /e, o, ø/ are very generally, though not exclusively, realised as semi-diphthongs in the case of Afrikaans ([iə, uə, yə]), with off-glides in the region of schwa. In some non-standard varieties, such as those heard in the northern regions of Namakwaland, Northern Cape, it is more readily heard as monophthongs. Apart from the phonetic evidence, there is sufficient phonological reasons for accepting these three long vowels as underlying monophthongs. This is why we transcribe them as monophthongs, as is generally being done for the same vowels in the case of Dutch and Frisian. It could, however, be a possibility for these three vowels to, over time, develop into a separate set of primary phonemic diphthongs, viz. /iə, uə, yə/, replacing the standard set of long mid vowels /e, o, ø/.

In contrast to the other positions, all of the long vowels lack frequency in open, word final position. This is in contrast to the frequent most common word-final open syllable occurrence of some of the short vowels, especially /ə/ and /ɑ/, but also /i/ and /u/, that both is considered to be long in the case of Dutch, and Afrikaans. This fact strongly serves as extra motivation for deeming /i/ and /u/ as being short.

Long vowels in unstressed position frequently reduce in either duration or vowel quality, or both. This is taken care of elaborately elsewhere, where these phonological processes are handled. Here are some examples:

  • Shortening: Afrika/'a.fri.ka/Africa becomes /ɑ.fri.'kans/Afrikaans (first syllable).

  • Reduction to schwa: Namib/'na.məp/Namib (place name) becomes /'nə.'mi.bi.(j)ə/.

  • Vowel heightening (and at the same time shortening): eties/'e.tis/ethic becomes /i.'tik/methodology (first syllable).

    Pretoria/pre.'to.ri.(j)ɑ/place name becomes /pri.'tor.jɑ/.

For more on vowel reduction see Vowel reduction. Consult also Segment inventory for more on the Afrikaans long vowels.

References:
  • Aarts, Bas1994The syntax of binominal noun phrases in EnglishDutch Working Papers in English Language and Linguistics301-28
  • Coetzee, A.E1982Fonetiek vir eerstejaars.Academica
  • Combrink, J.G.H. & De Stadler, L.G1987Afrikaanse fonologie.Macmillan
  • De Villiers, M1949Die Afrikaanse foneme: (I) Die Afrikaanse vokale; (II) Die Afrikaanse konsonante.Tydskrif vir Wetenskap en Kuns. Nuwe reeks979-93
  • Le Roux, T.H. & Pienaar, P. de V1927Afrikaanse fonetiek.Juta
  • Wissing, D2014Fonetiek.Bundels
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