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Onsetless syllables

Though a vowel-initial syllable is a marked option, vowel-initial words are not uncommon in Frisian. This section gives an overview of the possibilities.


The table below lists the vowels and vowel sequences which occur in word-initial position (non-occurring vowel sequences are starred).

Table 1
With an initial short vowel With an initial long vowel With an initial falling diphthong With an initial centring diphthong With an initial sequence of long vowel + glide
yn /in/ in iis /i:z/ ice ein /ajn/ duck iel /iəl/ eel aai /a:j/ egg, stroke, caress
ik /ɪk/ I eker /e:kər/ acre eide /ajdə/ harrow oer /uər/ teat, dug (of a cow) oaie /o:jə/ dope, twerp
ek /ɛk/ also êbe /ɛbə/ ebb-tide uis /ʌɥz/ eye (e.g. in a canvas) ea /ɪə/ ever iuw /i:w/ century, age
út /yt/ out (of) ús /y:z/ us, our outer /ɔwtər/ old reeds (as roof covering) oan /oən/ on /*u:j/
urn /ørn/ urn euvel /ø:vəl/ fault /*oj/ Euro /øəro:/ Euro
acht /axt/ eight aak /a:k/ barge /*yə/
ûle /ulə/ owl oe /u:/ oh
om /om/ around, about oper /o:pər/ hay cock
al /ɔl/ already ôf /ɔ:/ off, away
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As to Dutch, Reker (1983) asserts that words which on the face of it do not have an initial consonant in fact begin with the glottal stop (see: the glottal plosive /ʔ/). He adduces several arguments for this view, which for the most part carry over to Frisian. This would entail that there are no words without an initial consonant or, put differently, that there are no vowel-initial words at all. An unfavourable consequence of this approach seems to be that one can no longer invoke vocalic hiatus as a means of phonological explanation.

  • Reker, S1983De fonologische status van de glottisslagTabu13121-142