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/r/-deletion in complex words derived with a suffix containing the vowel schwa

The subject of this topic is /r/-deletion in complex words derived with a suffix which contains the vowel schwa. This appears to be a less restricted process than with a consonantal suffix.


Many suffixes have schwa as their vowel. The schwa suffixes are divided here into two classes, viz. those beginning with a coronal and those beginning with a non-coronal consonant.

Example 1

Examples of complex words derived with a coronal-initial schwa-suffix
a. -er
- The comparative of adjectives
djoerder /djuər+ər/ [djuədr̩] more expensive
goarder /ɡoər+ər/ [ɡoədr̩] more filthy
toarder /twar+ər/ [twadr̩] more withered
helderder /hɛldər+ər/ [hɛldr̩dər] clearer
- Subject nouns from verbs
ballonfarder - /far+ər/ - [fadr̩] balloonist
fluorder /flwor+ər/ [flwodr̩] paviour
- Inhabitant names and relational adjectives from place names
Langwarder - /var+ər/ - [vadr̩] inhabitant of, related to Langwar
Sumarder - /mar+ər/ - [madr̩] inhabitant of, related to Sumar
[Note: Though this suffix begins with a vowel, it must be mentioned here. See /d/-insertion in the sequences /nər/, /lər/, and /rər/) for the process of /d/-insertion between stem-final /r/ and /ər/ and the subsequent deletion of /r/ before (inserted) /d/.]
[Note: A syllabic (sonorant) consonant does not delete (see the phonological behaviour of syllabic sonorant consonants), as illustrated by the comparative helderder /hɛldər+ər/ [hɛldr̩dər] clearer.]
b. -de-den
- The past tense (plural and singular) of verbs of the first weak class
hy bearde /bɪər+də/ [bɪədə] dat er it net wist he feigned that he didn't know
se bearden /bɪər+dən/ [bɪədn̩] dat se it net wisten they feigned that they didn't know
hy warde /var+də/ [vadə] him flink he really has exerted himself
se warden /var+dən/ [vadn̩] har flink they really have exerted themselves
c. -lik
- Adjectives derived from nouns, verbs, and adverbs
bestjoerlik /bəstjuər+lək/ [bəstjuə(r)lək] managerial
dierlik /diər+lək/ [diə(r)lək] animal
earlik /ɪər+lək/ [ɪə(r)lək] honest; sincerely
foarlik /foər+lək/ [foələk] or /fwar+lək/ [fwalək] precocious; early-ripening
gefaarlik /ɡəfa:r+lək/ [ɡəfa:(r)lək] dangerous
hearlik /hɪər+lək/ [hɪə(r)lək] delightful, lovely
natuerlik /natyər+lək/ [natyə(r)lək] natural
stjerlik /stjɛr+lək/ [stjɛrlək] or /stjɛ:r+lək/ [stjɛ:lək] mortal
[Note: In case these words receive extra prominence, as in it iten wie HEARLIK it was a DELICIOUS meal, /r/ is always realized. This also holds for dierlik animal, when used in a non-literal and non-neutral sense, as in hy joech him oer oan in dierlik libben he then led a bestial, brutish life, in dierlik geraas horrible shouting, yelling and hy sûpt dierlik he boozes it up.]
[Note: When preceded by schwa, stem-final /-r/ is always realized, either as a plain [r], together with schwa, or as a syllabic [r̩], in which case schwa is not realized. The following examples illustrate this pattern: dichterlik /dɪxtər+lək/ [dɪxt{ər/r̩}lək] poetic(al), efterlik /ɛftər+lək/ [ɛft{ər/r̩}lək] backward; retarded, letterlik /lɛtər+lək/ [lɛt{ər/r̩}lək] literal; literally and ridderlik /rɪdər+lək/ [rɪd{ər/r̩}lək] chivalrous(ly)]
d. -liks
- Adjectives derived from nouns (one instance)
jierliks /jɪr+ləks/ [jɪləks] annual, yearly
e. -ling
- Nouns derived from verbs
bekearling /bəkɪər+lɪŋ/ [bəkɪə(r)lɪŋ] convert, proselyte
hierling /hiər+lɪŋ/ [hiə(r)lɪŋ] hireling
stjerling /stjɛr+lɪŋ/ [stjɛrlɪŋ] or /stjɛ:r+lɪŋ/ [stjɛ:lɪŋ] mortal
f. -sel
- Nouns derived from verbs
siersel /siər+səl/ [siə(r)səl] ornamentation
kleursel /kløər+səl/ [kløə(r)səl] colouring
smarsel /smar+səl/ [smarsəl] ointment
g. -ske
- Nouns denoting a female derived from nouns denoting the male counterpart
pastoarske /pastoər+skə/ [pastoə(r)skə] the minister's wife; woman minister
skroarske /skroər+skə/ [skroə(r)skə] seamstress; tailor's wife
masterske /mastər+skə/ [mast{ə(r)/r̩}skə] the schoolmaster's wife
skipperske /skɪpər+skə/ [skɪp{ə(r)/r̩}skə] the skipper's wife
h. -ster
- Nouns denoting a female derived from nouns denoting the male counterpart
kreamwarster - /var+stər/ - [vastr̩] (dry) nurse
koerierster /kuriər+stər/ [kuriə(r)str̩] woman courier
- Nouns denoting the (male and female) inhabitant of a place or a location derived from the place name in question or from the noun denoting the location concerned
buorster /bwor+stər/ [bwostr̩] one who lives in the village centre (de buorren)
Froubuorster /bwor+stər/ - [bwostr̩] inhabitant of Froubuorren
Poppenwierster - /viər+stər/ - [viə(r)str̩] inhabitant of Poppenwier
Wierster /viər+stər/ [viə(r)str̩] inhabitant of Wier
- Adjectives relating to a place or a loccation derived from the place name in question or from the noun denoting the location concerned
buorster /bwor+stər/ [bwostr̩] related to the village centre (de buorren)
Froubuorster- /bwor+stər/ - [bwostr̩] related to Froubuorren
Poppenwierster - /viər+stər/ - [viə(r)str̩] related to Poppenwier
Wierster /viər+stər/ [viə(r)str̩] related to Wier
[Note: The above pattern is deviant in as far as /r/ is not realized following a short vowel (kreamwarster, buorster, Froubuorster), whereas it is optional following a (long) centring diphthong (koerierster, Poppenwierster, Wierster). In general, this is just the other way around, as with stjerlik /stjɛr+lək/ mortal and stjerling /stjɛr+lɪŋ/ mortal, realized as either [stjɛrlək] [stjɛrlɪŋ] (with [r] following a short vowel) or [stjɛ:lək] [stjɛ:lɪŋ] (without [r] following a long vowel).]
i. -sum
duorsum /dwor+səm/ [dworsm̩] durable; enduring
learsum /lɪər+səm/ [lɪə(r)sm̩] instructive, informative
manearsum /manɪər+səm/ [manɪə(r)sm̩] obedient, tractable
sparsum /spar+səm// [sparsm̩] thrifty
stjoersum /stjuər+səm/ [stjuə(r)sm̩] amenable (to reason)
j. -te
- Nouns derived from adjectives, nouns, and verbs
dierte /diər+tə/ [diətə] animals, beasts
djoerte /djuər+tə/ [djuətə] expensiveness
fierte /fjɪr+tə/ [fjɪtə] distance
gefaarte /ɡəfa:r+tə/ [ɡəfa:tə] monster, colossus
stjerte /stjɛ(:)r+tə/ [stjɛ(:)tə] mortality
swierte /swɪr+tə/ [swɪtə] heaviness
tsjusterte /tsjøstər+tə/ [tsjøstr̩tə] darkness
[Note: Underlying /r/ is never realized here. The only exception is tsjusterte, where it surfaces as syllabic [r̩]. The non-realization of /r/ in tsjusterte would result in [tsjøstətə]; due to the double [tə]-sequence; this is a less favoured form.]
Example 2

Examples of complex words derived with a non-coronal-initial schwa-suffix
a. -ber
- Adjectives derived from verbs
hantearber /hɔntɪər+bər/ [hɔntɪə(r)br̩] manageable
ûnbestjoerber /unbəstjuər+bər/ [umbəstjuə(r)br̩] uncontrollable
ûnfersteurber /unfərstøər+bər/ [ũfəstøə(r)br̩] imperturbable
ûnbefarber /unbəfar+bər/ [umbəfarbr̩] unnavigable
hearber /hɪər+bər/ [hɪə(r)br̩] or /jɛr+bər/ [jɛrbr̩] audible
warber /var+bər/ [varbr̩] diligent; busy
b. -ke
- Diminutives derived from nouns
bearke /bɪər+kə/ [bɪərkə] little bear
bierke /biər+kə/ [biərkə] pint of beer
doarke /dwar+kə/ [dwarkə] small door
fearke /fjɛr+kə/ [fjɛrkə] small feather
karke /karə+kə/ [karkə] wheelchair
papierke /papiər+kə/ [papiərkə] piece of paper
sigaarke /siɡa:r+kə/ [siɡa:rkə] little cigar
tuorke /twor+kə/ [tworkə] small tower
[Note: It is only following a long vocalic sequence that /r/ may delete here, as in bearke [bɪəkə] little bear and papierke [papiəkə] piece of paper. Deletion, however is far from common and the resulting forms sound (somewhat) strange.]
c. -kert
- Nouns derived from verbs and adjectives
gluorkert /glwor+kərt/ [glworkət] live coal
skierkert /skiər+kərt/ [skiərkət] greybeard

The pattern of /r/-deletion which emerges from the above overview resembles the one found for complex words derived with a consonantal suffix in as far as there is more deletion preceding a coronal than a non-coronal consonant. Deletion, however, is not impossible with non-coronal consonants. This means that the process is less restricted here, which seems to go hand in hand with a wider domain of application.

Lacking a vowel, consonantal suffixes must form one (phonological) word with the stem they attach to. A schwa suffix cannot stand on its own, hence it is 'cohering' by its very nature. Schwa, however, does form the core of a syllable, which implies a certain degree of phonological independence. As to /r/-deletion, then, there appears to be a difference between mono and polysyllabic words: it is more restricted in the former context than in the latter. In monosyllabic words the process is categorical: obligatory with coronal and non-applicable with non-coronal consonants. In polysyllabic words, on the other hand, there is a good deal of variation.

For the greater part, this variability can be atrributed to independent factors. The fact that deletion is more variable following a long vocalic sequence than following a short one can be ascribed to restrictions on the size of the syllable rhyme. According to the Rhyme Constraint, the rhyme of a word-internal syllable must occupy two structural phonological positions. A stem-final /r/ following a long vowel therefore can freely delete, but deletion results in a one-positional rhyme in case the vowel is short, so that the Rhyme Constraint is no longer obeyed.

However, it may also be the case that a suffix induces /r/-deletion, irrespective of vowel quantity, as with -te.

Finally, though this has never been investigated, performance factors like speech rate and careful or careless articulation are likely to have an influence on /r/-deletion in actual speech.