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The relation between short /ɪ/ and long /ɪ:/

This section deals with the relation between the short vowel /ɪ/ and its long counterpart /ɪ:/, which only shows up as a nasalized vowel.


It is only before the sequence [ns], viz. in the context of Vowel Nasalization (see nasal vowels and vowel length), and only when preceded by the glide [j] that long /ɪ/ shows up as [ɪ:] ( [jɪ̃] (< [jɪ:n])). Thus, attaching the nominalizing suffix -st to the verbal stem tsjin(je) /tsjɪn/ to serve yields tsjinst [tsjɪ̃:st] service; attaching the nominalizing suffix -sel ( /-səl/) to the verbal stem begjin(ne) /bəɡjɪn/ to begin yields begjinsel [bəɡjɪ̃:sl̩] principle; attaching the adjectivizing suffix -sum ( /-səm/) to the broken form of the numeral ien /iən/ one, viz. /jɪn/, yields iensum [jɪ̃:sm̩] lonely. This reflects a genuine pattern, witness the place name Jirnsum [jɪ̃:sm̩].

Whereas /e:/ is more open and also more central than /ɪ/, the sequence underlying (nasal) [ɪ̃:], i.e. /ɪ:n/, contains the purely long (oral) counterpart of /ɪ/. Nasalization is responsible for the length of [ɪ̃:], co-articulation with the glide [j] for its quality.

The influence of preceding [j] is also shown by the following. Whereas half close long vowels tend to become more close, i.e. less sonorous, in their final phase, [ɪ̃:] does not. This cannot be due to its nasal character, for in words like grins /ɡre:nz/ [ɡrẽ:s] border and keunst /kø:nst/ [kø̃:st] art the long nasalized vowels do become more close in their final phase. This means that the preceding glide is crucial here. A purely long [ø:] is found in (de) Bjuzze [bjø:zə], the name of a road in the Northwestern part of Fryslân, and a purely long [ɛ̃:] in the noun earnst [jɛ̃:st] earnest(ness) and the family name Jensma [jɛ̃:sma]. Finally, the family names Jansen and Jansma may be realized as either [jɔ̃:sn̩]/ [jɔ̃:sma] or as [jõ:sn̩]/ [jõ:sma], with purely long [ɔ:] and [o:]. It seems undeniable that [j] plays a crucial role here, the exact nature of which, however, is unclear.