• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show full table of contents
The glottal plosive /ʔ/

The glottal plosive /ʔ/ and the glottal fricative /h/ share many properties. There are a limited number of contexts in which /ʔ/ must occur, in other contexts the occurrence of /ʔ/ seems to be optional. This means that it cannot be distinctive and that it is not a phoneme of Frisian.


The voiceless laryngeal plosive /ʔ/ is realized with a constricted glottis, in which respect it differs from /h/. Just like /h/,

  1. it does not have a voiced counterpart,
  2. it can only occupy the syllable onset,
  3. it cannot be part of a consonant cluster, hence it must immediately precede a vowel (which cannot be schwa), and
  4. it does not have supralaryngeal features of its own.

/ʔ/ primarily occurs before a stressed, word-initial vowel, as in (1a), but especially in exclamations, like the exhortations in (1b).

Example 1

a. amer /a:mər/ [ʔa:mər] bucket
      ien /i.ən/ [ʔi.ən] one
b. oanmeitsje! /oən#maitsjə/ [ʔo.əmajtsjə] hurry!
      opsjitte! /op#sjɪtə/ [ʔop#sjɪtə] hurry up!

Other contexts for the occurrence of the glottal stop are:

  • at the beginning of a word following the particle ta-, as in ta-eigenje /ta#ajɣənjə/ [taʔajɣə̃jə] to appropriate; to dedicate (infinitive; all plural persons present tense);
  • at the beginning of a word following the prefix be- ( /bə-/), as in beëagje /bə+ɪəɣjə/ [bəʔɪəɣjə] to descry; to aim at (infinitive; all plural persons present tense)
  • in between two [a]'s, as in the biblical names Aäron [aʔa:ron] and Izaäk [izaʔak].
These are contexts of vocalic hiatus. The latter is regularly resolved by glide insertion (see the resolution of vocalic hiatus in general). This, however, is impossible here, due to /a(:)/'s centralness and schwa's lack of supralaryngeal features. So it is the glottal stop which acts as a hiatus resolver in these contexts.

Apart from the above contexts, the occurrence of the glottal plosive seems to be optional. This means that it cannot be distinctive and that it is not a phoneme of Frisian. Fokkema (1948:32, footnote) asserts that [ʔ] has no phonological meaning, whereas Boersma and v.d. Woude (1972:73) call it a speech sound which does not stand on its own. Most speakers of Frisian are not aware of this sound's presence in their speech.

[hide extra information]

As to Dutch, Reker (1983) asserts that words which on the face of it are vowel-initial in fact begin with the glottal plosive, for which he adduces several arguments. For the most part, these carry over to Frisian. It would entail that there are no vowel-initial words at all. Not only would the glottal plosive have a phonetic status then, but also a phonological one.

  • Boersma, Johannes. & Woude, Goasse van der1972Spraeklear I. Lesboekje foar de oplieding ta de Fryske AkteLjouwertAfûk
  • Fokkema, Klaas1948Beknopte Friese SpraakkunstGroningenJ.B. Wolters
  • Reker, S1983De fonologische status van de glottisslagTabu13121-142