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Afrikaans phonology

This section of Taalportaal is about the phonetics and phonology of Afrikaans, with the following main sub-sections:

  • Segment inventory:

    In this section an overview is given of the vowels and the consonants of Afrikaans. In each instance the phonetic and phonological characteristics of each segment are provided. In the case of the phonetics, both articulatory and acoustic features are highlighted. Regarding the phonology, the phonotactic and main phonological facets of each phoneme are emphasised.

  • The phonotactics of Afrikaans:

    The phonotactic properties of the Afrikaans syllable, viz. those of the onset, the rhyme and the coda, are discussed in detail. According to the concept of ambisyllabicity, Dutch has ambisyllabic consonants, i.e. intervocalic consonants that belong simultaneously to two syllables. In the current description of Afrikaans phonotactics, the notion of ambisyllabic consonants, and consequently also ambisyllabicity, is not adhered to.

  • Word stress:

    A main stress rule, valid for monosyllabic words, is proposed. It is motivated that Afrikaans should no longer be considered an initial stress language like English (also a Germanic language).

  • Phonological process: The most important productive processes are discussed in detail, covering a range of vowel- and consonant-related processes. This includes topics such as vowel reduction and derounding, and several more recent processes, such as /u/ centralisation and /a/ rounding. In the case of consonants, different types of assimilation are described, as well as consonant deletion and insertion, degemination, palatalisation of /s/, cluster simplification, and others.

[+]Afrikaans phonology research: a brief history

The field of Afrikaans phonology has been and still is a relatively small field (compared to, for instance, Afrikaans syntax). Historically the seminal work of Le Roux and Pienaar, Afrikaanse fonetiek ( Afrikaans phonetics) (1927), might be considered to be on a par with the work of the Dutch linguists Zwaardemaker and Eijkman (1928). While it is true that Le Roux and Pienaar focused on the phonetics of Afrikaans, many of their observations were also on the phonology of the language. After them, De Villiers's work has been the most influential, culminating in his book Afrikaanse klankleer: fonetiek, fonologie en woordbou ( The Afrikaans sound system: phonetics, phonology and morphology) (1965), later revised by Ponelis (De Villiers and Ponelis 1987). Wissing (1971) spearheaded work within the framework of generative phonology, which was the dominating theoretical paradigm for most of the 1970s and 1980s. Also noteworthy, is Combrink and De Stadler's book, Afrikaanse fonologie ( Afrikaans phonology) ((1987), written within a generative framework, as well as Lubbe's work on especially metrical phonology.

In recent times, Andries Coetzee of the University of Michigan made a significant contribution to the field of Afrikaans phonology. The Dutch linguists Hans den Besten, Wim Zonneveld, and Frans Hinskens contributed some interesting and noteworthy research, as did Andreas Baumann (Austria) and Gerald Stell (Hong Kong). Since the beginning of this century, Wissing published a range of articles within the realm of socio-phonetics, specifically with acoustic phonetics as basis. In this regard, the work of Bertus van Rooy should also be mentioned.

In addition to the work of these authors, and in addition to several masters and doctoral dissertations that could have been mentioned here as well, contributions of the following Afrikaans linguists could serve as starting points for further study (in alphabetical order): Alewyn Lee, Anna Coetzee, Christo van Rensburg, E.B van Wyk, Kas Landman, M. Posthumus, Rembrandt Klopper. A comprehensive list of typical sources can be obtained from the Digitale Bibliografie van die Afrikaanse Taalkunde (Digital Bibliography of Afrikaans Linguistics).

[+]Research ideas and topics
Interesting research themes and topics for students and scholars might be identified in Taalportaal. A grossly neglected facet of the Afrikaans phonology, that merely has been touched upon in Taalportaal, is the description of variants other than the standard or general variety. While the current version of Taalportaal is confined explicitly to usage varieties that can be heard in modern day media, hopefully more attention will be paid to other varieties of spoken Afrikaans in future editions of Taalportaal.
[+]Symbols, abbreviations and glossing conventions

See the section on phonetics/phonology on the page about notations and symbols for presenting examples.

Also see this page for a list of IPA symbols used in this section.

  • Zwaardemaker, H. & Eijckman, L.P.H1928Leerboek der PhonetiekHaarlemDe Erven Bohn
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