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Consonant cluster simplification

With respect to the number of permissable consonant combinations in the onset and coda positions before and after vowels in monomorphomic words, Afrikaans is classified as having a complex syllable structure (The World Atlas of Language Structures Online). In complex words, i.e. derivations and compound words, as well as in sentence phrases across word boundaries, the complex nature of these combinations is even more pronounced. However, it is the case that in Afrikaans, as in other Germanic languages, there is a tendency towards the reduction of consonant clusters of a variety of types into less complex structures.

In this section some of the most typical cases of consonant reduction processes are discussed. Consult De Stadler (1989), Combrink and De Stadler (1987) and Wissing (2017) for more examples.


Consider the following examples.

  1. Monomorphemes: CVCCCVC: pantser armor.
  2. Derivations: CVCCVCC: kinders children.
  3. Compounds: CVCCCCCVC: landstreek (land+streek) region.
  4. Phrases:
    1. VCCV: in die in the.
    2. CVCCVC: sal later shall later.
Complex consonant clusters like nts in intervocalic position (1) readily reduce via the deletion of the medial consonant, in this case resulting in a residual CC-cluster ns: panser. The phonological process involved here is called consonant cluster simplification (Afrikaans: konsonantklustervereenvoudiging).

In (2) the result of reducing a cluster is reached by /d/-deletion, resulting in one consonant only i.e. n.

In (3) a similar process as in the case of (1) is evident – here ndstr is simplified to nstr. Generally, the final consonant of the first constituent of a compound like the one in (3) – here the d of land, found between a sonorant consonant (here n) and an obstruent, usually s, is deleted, rendering a less complex pattern i.e. -CCCC-.

In a case like (4.1), /d/-deletion results in reducing the intervocalic CC to a single C, rendering, via a process of resyllabification, a new syllable structure: [ə.ni]. Note here that resyllabification operates in such as way as to recover the unmarked CV syllable-pattern, as in [ni].

In (4.2) the process of degemination (Afrikaans: identiekekonsonantamalgamasie) leads to [sɑ.latər], again with the recovery of an optimal umarked pattern CV.CV(C).

The processes sketched above are described in full detail under the following topics:

1; 3: Consonant Cluster Simplification

2; 4.1: d-deletion

4.2: Degemination.

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