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The dorsal nasal /ŋ/

Unlike the bilabial nasal /m/ and the coronal nasal /n/, which occur in both word-initial, word-medial and word-final position, the dorsal nasal /ŋ/ has a most limited distribution. It is only allowed in word-medial and word-final position, after a short vowel; not, however, after schwa, which, also in this respect, behaves as a long vowel. There is one exception: the word eang /ɪəŋ/ frightened; frightening; rough (of teeth), cf. eangst /ɪəŋ+st/ fear. It may not be without significance that eang is becoming obsolete and that it has the variants ang /aŋ/ and ing /ɪŋ/, both with a short vowel.


In surface forms, however, [ŋ] is free to follow a long vocalic sequence (and schwa) in case it is the assimilatory product of /n/ (see regressive place assimilation (nasal assimilation)). Examples are given in (1), where [ŋ] is preceded by the centring diphthong [oə], schwa, and the long monophthong [e:], respectively.

Example 1

oangean /oən#ɡɪən/ [oəŋɡɪ.ən] to go (towards); to call in; to take on; to concern
oankomme /oən#komə/ [oəŋkomə] to arrive
(it is) in gemeen kring /ən ɡəme:n krɪŋ/ [əŋ ɡəme:ŋ krɪŋ] (it's a) bastard, (it's a) rotten beast

Furthermore, in the contracted forms eink [ajŋk] really, in fact and weenk [ve:ŋk] really, in fact, [ŋ] follows the falling diphthong [aj] and the long monophthong [e:], respectively. The full forms (derivatives) underlying these contractions are einlik /ajn+lək/ and winlik /ve:n+lək/(< wezenlik /ve:zən+lək/).

The distributional generalization that /ŋ/ occurs after a short vowel only pertains to free morphemes. We are therefore dealing with a (sequential) morpheme structure constraint of Frisian here, viz. a constraint on the segmental make-up of the morphemes of the language (see Booij (2011)). This is expressed in the following (positive) dorsal nasal constraint:

Dorsal Nasal Constraint
The distribution of /ŋ/ finds a straightforward explanation if /ŋ/ is considered as a cluster in underlying representation, an option which is explored in is the dorsal nasal /ŋ/ a cluster underlyingly?

  • Booij, Geert2011Morpheme Structure Constraintsvan Oostendorp, Marc and Ewen, Colin J and Hume, Elizabeth and Rice, Keren (ed.)The Blackwell Companion to Phonology4: Phonological interfacesMaldenWiley-Blackwell2049-2069