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Phonological processes

Sometimes, morphemes have (slightly) different shapes in one kind of context than in another. A very common way to describe this in phonology is to assume that morphemes have one ‘underlying form’ which sometimes corresponds to different surface forms. An underlying form is linked to a surface form by a phonological process. Seen in this way, Dutch displays a number of phonological processes. We concentrate here only on the processes which are productive, i.e. which seem to turn one sound into another one whenever the conditions are met.


Many processes in Dutch involve the difference between voiced and voiceless obstruents: these are final devoicing, and regressive and progressive voicing assimilation. Another important process concerns place of assimilation with nasals. These processes are usually and typically described at the level of the word; there are no processes of external sandhi in Dutch that would apply exclusively at the boundary between words. However, the assimilation processes often apply optionally also across word boundaries; the optionality is linked to style register in the sense that they apply more frequently in more casual registers (cf. topic about casual speech). The processes are often also sensitive to the ‘strength’ of the morphosyntactic boundary, for instance, word-final devoicing is sometimes blocked before a clitic (see topics about clitics; Voicing in clitics), but not elsewhere.