• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Saterfrisian
  • Afrikaans
Show all

In general, the phonotactics of Afrikaans allows multiple consonants to be adjacent to each other, both in monomorphemic and complex words. The phonological process of degemination, also called amalgamation of identical consonants (Carstens and Bosman 2017; Combrink and De Stadler 1987; De Stadler 1989; Coetzee 1992; Booij 1995; Wissing 2017; Zonneveld 1978) has the effect of reducing two identical consonants to a single one. The result of this process is a less complex syllable pattern. This process is discussed in the present section.


    Whereas degemination is obligatory within prosodic words (in effect in monomorphemic words), in other contexts (e.g. across morpheme or word boundaries) identical consonants are only allowed to be adjacent to each other in extremely careful speech. In casual speech at high tempo, geminates are not likely to be present at all. An exception to this rule is when a speaker has to pronounce both consonants in a deliberate way in order to avoid ambiguity, or when speaking at a deliberate tempo. Representative examples are provided below. Some sound files and associated sound waves are also given, demonstrating (1) degemination and (2) some instances where no degemination is present at all.

    In many instances, especially in casual speech, the application of Regressive Voice Assimilation (see RVA) may result in identical consonant pairs, that, in turn, are input to the rule of degemination. Examples are provided in (4).

    Consider the examples in (1) – (4):

    1. Monomorphemic words: kennis; onmiddellik
    2. Derivations: -lik; -loos; -skap; -te: adellik; ydellik; beginselloos; doelloos; gevoelloos; peilloos; stylloos; talloos; willoos; baasskap; pousskap; grootte
    3. Compounds and phrases:
      1. /-p#p-/: op plekke
      2. /-t#t-/: stryd tussen
      3. /-k#k-/: Springbokkaptein; kwik kan
      4. /-f#f-/: landdroshof verskyn
      5. /-s#s-/: protessaamtrek; weerdiens sê
      6. /-x#x-/: oorloggetreisterde; beslaggelê
      7. /-l#l-/: hoërskoolleerling; wil liewer
      8. /-m#m-/: ommisdadige
      9. /-n#n-/: ennoord
      10. /-r#r-/: swakkerrand
    4. Results of RVA as input:
      1. [f#v] > [v]: afwagting; motief was
      2. [p#b] > [b]: opbouend; vragskipby
      3. [t#d] > [d]: voortdurend; grootdele
    • All examples in (3) and (4) are taken from real radio broadcasts (RSG database), while those in (1) and (2) are found in VivA-KPO and other available electronic lists.
    • In (3), compounds are mentioned first, followed by phrases. The absence of relevant compounds in the RSG database is indicated by a dash .
    • Identical consonants are underlined. Note that phonetic rather than phonemic transcriptions are used; in the orthographic texts v = [f], and w = [v]. Final devoicing is responsible for transcribing [t] as the coda of stryd battle in 3.2.

    • Evidence of identical consonant clusters in (1) is limited to pseudo-monomorphemic words, of which kennis ken+nis know + noun forming morpheme -nis is an example.

    Figure 1: Sound waves (Window A) and spectrograms (Window B) of the phrases swaar reën heavy rains and doktor Robertson. Recordings are from the same RSG radio presenter.
    [click image to enlarge]

    In Figure 1, the [r] of swaarreën is not fully degeminated and thus significantly longer (92 ms) than the fully degeminated [r] of doktor Robertson (65 ms). Listen to a recording of swaar reën and dr. Robertson. . In a small number of cases the relevant consonants are in fact pronounced as two separate consonants and therefore separated by pauses (see Figure 2 below).

    The RAP of all instances of degemination in the RSG was not calculated. However, a sample test on t#d cases in the RSG database resulted in an index of 0.89 – that is 40 out of the possible 45 cases. One instance of Progressive Voice Assimilation (see Progressive Voice Assimilation was found, viz. in diep bekommerd deeply worried, resulting in an slightly elongated [p] instead of [b]. A number of instances where degemination did not apply in the RSG data are groep#boeremaglede, kamp#Bucca, kusdorp#Beira, drukgroep#binne; here two p's occur adjacent to each other. In the data, Nasal Assimilation of alveolar [n] to adjacent bilabial [m] sometimes results in a single consonant [m], in particular in words like onmiddelik immediately. In connected speech nasal assimilation of this type was rarely present, even in the fast reading of passages of prose.

    Figure 2 provides an example, top#partye, which consists of two separate words seperated by a pause. Other cases in the RSG database of this kind are front#teen, Donald#Trump ( d = [t], due to Final Devoicing); dat#duisende; diep#bekommerd and a few others. Listen to a recording of top partye inserted here .

    Figure 2: Sound waves (Window A) and spectrograms (Window B) of the two words top and partye separated by a pause. Recordings are from the same RSG radio presenter.
    [click image to enlarge]

    • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
    • Zonneveld, Wim1978A formal theory of exceptions in generative phonologyDordrechtForis
    printreport errorcite