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The phonotactics of Frisian

Phonotactics is the branch of  phonology which deals with the distribution of phonemes within prosodic-phonological and morpho-syntactic domains (syllable, foot, phonological word; stem, root, affix) in general and with regard to such domains in specific layers of the lexicon (e.g. those of native words and loan words). It seeks to define and explain in which phonological positions (initial, medial, final) individual phonemes may and may not occur and which permissible and non-permissible consonant, vowel, and consonant-vowel sequences there are, both in individual languages and cross-linguistically. This section provides a general introduction into the phonotactics of Frisian.

As the syllable plays an important role in the phonological structuring of language, it will be used as the main descriptive and explanatory tool in the treatment of the phonotactics of Frisian. Here, the syllable is assumed to consist of the following, hierarchically ordered constituents, shown in (1).

Figure 1

[click image to enlarge]

According to this structure, the nucleus and the coda are a phonological unit, viz. the rhyme, unlike the onset and the nucleus. This is reflected in more collocational restrictions between nucleus and coda segments than between onset and nucleus segments.

The syllable can be considered as a projection of the nucleus or, put differently, the nucleus can be considered as the head of the syllable. The nucleus therefore is the constituent which is obligatorily present in every syllable. The same goes for the rhyme, which is the intermediate nucleus projection. The onset and the coda, on the other hand, are optional constituents, which is why they have been put in parentheses. Syllables show up as different types.

The unmarked syllable has a simplex nucleus, a simplex onset, and no coda, so it equals the CV syllable. Frisian allows for all marked options:

By implication, it allows for the unmarked options as well.


See the following topics: