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The bilabial nasal /m/

The phoneme /m/ is a bilabialnasalsonorant consonant in Afrikaans (Le Roux and Pienaar 1927; Van Wyk 1977; Kent and Read 1992; MacKay 1987; Rietveld and Van Heuven 1997).

Table 1
Consonant Place Manner Feature specification
/m/ bilabial nasal +sonorant, +nasal, -coronal, -velar, +labial
[+]Phonotactic behaviour

The bilabial nasal /m/ can occur as singleton onset as in (1a) and as second consonant, following initial /s/, as in (1b).

a. man man
b. smeek to beg

Furthermore, it can occur in simple codas as in (2a), and in complex codas, such as in (2b), where the final consonant must be the homorganic voiceless plosive /p/. Underlying coda cluster /rm/ in (2c) becomes [rəm] due to schwa insertion, similar to the situation of /rn/ > [rən].

a. kam comb
b. lamp lamp
c. kerm to moan

The phoneme /m/ often appears intervocalically in Afrikaans, as in (3):

a. hamer hammer
b. rommel rubbish  ;
c. mymer to muse
[+]Acoustic properties

In the example below, the most important acoustic properties of /m/ are shown. For the purposes of comparison [nananan] and [ŋaŋaŋaŋ] are included.

Table 2
Sound Sound waves and spectrogram
[click image to enlarge]

  1. As in the case of the [n] nasal, some diffuse energy is visible in especially the spectrograph (Window B) of the second and third [m].
  2. The low amplitudes of the waveform (Window A) are indicative of a low level of general energy. Diffuse energy is also to be seen in Window B in the spectrogram.
  3. Strong F1 formants of about 300 Hz and weaker F2's (about 1100 Hz) are visible. This is especially the case in the second and third [m].
  4. Intervocalic [m] nasals are about 100 ms in duration in the present recording; the final [m] is notably longer.

  • Rietveld, Antonius C.M. & Heuven, Vincent J. van1997Algemene FonetiekUitgeverij Coutinho
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