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The obstruents: the plosives

This section deals with the distribution of the voiced and voiceless plosives, which is almost symmetrical.


The obstruents divide into plosives and fricatives, both of which come in a voiced and a voiceless series. The voiced and voiceless plosives have distinctive value, as shown by the examples in the table below:

Table 1
pear /pɪər/ pairbear /bɪər/ bear
plom /plom/ plume - blom /blom/ flower
prûk /pruk/ wig - brûk(e) /bruk/ to use
sip /sɪp/ glum, sour - sib /sɪb/ related
drippel /drɪpəl/ drop(let) - dribbel /drɪbəl/ in: op'e – wêze be on a spree, be on a loose
toer /tuər/ tower - doer /duər/ duration
tril(je) /trɪl/ to tremble - dril /drɪl/ jelly
graat /ɡra:t/ (fish) bone - graad /ɡra:d/ degree
akkoart /akoət/ agreement - akkoard /akoəd/ chord
liter /litər/ litre - lider /lidər/ in: de – wêze be the victim, be left holding the baby
kear /kɪər/ time; turn - gear /ɡɪər/ done, cooked
klei /klaj/ claw (hoofed animals) - glei /ɡlaju/ inflamed, fiery
krom /krom/ bent, crooked - grom /ɡrom/ coffee grounds; fishguts
The plosives have an almost symmetrical distribution, i.e., the voiced and voiceless ones occur in word-initial, word-medial, and word-final position. Though there are not many words ending in the bilabial voiced plosive /b/, the latter is not excluded in word-final position. This is different for the voiced velar plosive /ɡ/, which only occurs in word-initial position and at the beginning of a word-medial stressed syllable; as such it is exceptional among the plosives.
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The symmetrical distribution between the voiceless and voiced plosives pertains to the underlying level (see the table above). Due to Final Devoicing (see final devoicing), the voiced plosives in word-final position end up as voiceless in actual realization. This means that the phonological distinction is neutralized.