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Schwa deletion as a synchronic process: final remarks

This topic closes the section on schwa deletion with some concluding remarks.


Schwa deletion is a highly variable process.

  • From a purely linguistic point of view, it seems to be governed by an interplay of morphological, phonological and semantic factors. As yet, these factors and their relative weight are only partially (and/or poorly) understood. A question to be addressed, for instance, is whether auxiliary verbs more readily lose their final schwa than main verbs. Another question is, whether an infinitive can lose its final schwa at all.
  • There may also be dialectal and individual differences. It is said, for instance, that it is less common in the village of Grou than in other areas (Tiersma (1979:140). Individual differences may be related to age and sex, for instance.
  • It is likely to be conditioned by performance factors as well. Obviously, one thinks of speech rate − the faster the speech, the more schwa deletes − and speech style/register − the more formal the speech style/the higher the register, the less schwa deletes or, more generally, the more formal the speech style/the higher the register, the less the spoken forms deviate from their underlying representation. As to this, a research question is also whether a verb with a high token frequency more readily loses its final schwa than an infrequent one.

  • Tiersma, Pieter M1979Aspects of the phonology of Frisian based on the language of GrouMeidielingen fan de stúdzjerjochting Frysk oan de Frije Universiteit yn Amsterdam4