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The coronal fricatives

This section deals with the distribution of the coronal fricatives, /s/ and /z/.


The distribution of the coronal fricatives is such that voiceless /s/ is confined to the word-initial position and the onset of a stressed word-medial syllable, while voiced /z/ occurs in all other positions. For the behaviour of /s/ and /z/ in word-initial and word-final clusters, see onset: singleton consonants, onsets: sequences of obstruents and nasals, onset: sequences of two obstruents, onset: sequencers of more than two consonants, extra-syllabic consonants, words with a sequence of /s/ + (voiceless) plosive (in both orders), sequences of /s/ + (voiceless) plosive as single units (complex segments), the phonological status of /ts/, or is /ts/ an affricate?, word-final single consonants, word-final clusters of a liquid and an obstruent, word-final clusters of a nasal and an obstruent, word-final clusters of two obstruents, word-final clusters of two fricatives, word-final clusters of three segments, words with a coronal as final segment of a four-positional word-final sequence, words with /st/ and /ts/ as final clusters of a five-positional word-final sequence, and words with a four- or five-positional final sequence of the shape long vowel + /n{s/z}/ or /ns{t/k}/. The above distribution also manifests itself in the adaptation of loan words: when [z]-initial, they are invariably realized with initial [s], witness the examples below:

Table 1
Dutch Frisian
zone /zɔ:nə/ zone [s]ône zone
muziek /myzik/ music mu[s]yk music
When Frisians speak Dutch, they quite often realize Dutch word-initial [z-] as [s-]. So, the phrase zes gezonde zeugen /zɛs ɣəzɔndə zø:ɣən/ six able-bodied sows is mostly realized as [sɛs xəsondə sø:ɣən].

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Some loan words have neither a fully voiced initial coronal fricative nor a fully voiceless one, i.e. they have something in between [z] and [s]. The latter, however, is also a possible realization. Examples of such words are zjeny genius, zjenre genre, zjeste gesture, rezjym regime, and súzjet skunk. A striking thing is that [z] is always part of the cluster [zj]. The fact that these words have the voiced postalveolar fricative [ʒ] in French, the (indirect) source language, may play a role here. This does not hold for the loan word wizânsje [vi'zɔ̃:sjə] custom, common practice, whose [z] — the onset of a stressed word-internal syllable! — is hard to explain.

There are, however, also some native words with [z] in the same position. These are the place names Wâldsein [və'zajn] (literally: the wood's end) and Swarteweisein [swatəvə'zajn] (literally: the black road's end), the lexicalized phrase oarsom [oə'zom] the other way round (literally: otherwise around', and the genitive compound koositen [kə'zitn̩] the amount of hay a cow needs during the winter period (literally: a cow's eating'. These words had more than one full vowel, as is also clear from their etymological spelling. This is indicative of their phrasal origin, since a native simplex word has one full vowel at most. It also implies that rules of external sandhi could operate upon them. In the words at hand, [z] is the result of regressive voicing assimilation, which only operates at word edges (see regressive voice assimilation: type 2). The remarkable thing, however, is that the effect of this process was not undone once the phrases had been lexicalized.