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Progressive voice assimilation

Other than is the case with regressive voice assimilation (RVA) in Afrikaans (see Regressive voice assimilation), progressive voice assimilation (PVA) as yet is still not fully investigated. Except for Wissing (1990), (2017) and Wissing and Du Plessis (1992) the existence of such a process has been either overlooked, or even explicitely denied. De Villiers and Ponelis (1987) describe a form like -te in veryste /fərəistə/ from verysde frozen and other, similar ones as morphologised and thus lexicalised forms. In this topic it is argued that this is not quite the case, i.e. PVA seems to be a productive phenomenon in Afrikaans.


As per PVA, an Afrikaans voicedplosive becomes voiceless when preceded by one of the voicelessfricatives /s/, /f/ and /x/. This happens especially, though not exclusively, to the /d/ of the past participle acting as attributive adjectival suffix -de. Examples are:

  1. verenigde /fərenəxdə/ [fərʔiənəxtə] united
  2. verliefde /fərlifdə/ [fərliftə] loved
  3. verysde /fərəisdə/ [fərʔəistə] frozen

Apart from -de, -te occurs in the same function in words ending on a voiceless fricative, /f/, /s/ and /x/ (cf. Afrikaanse Woordelys en Spelreëls (AWS-11), Rule 19.19: "By voltooide deelwoorde wat op  f, g  en s uitgaan, word attributiewe vorme met -te of –de erken". Although it might therefore seem that these two morphemes are in free variation, Wissing & Du Plessis (1992) show this not to be the case in spoken Afrikaans, where PVA causes [tə] to dominate. They report a RAP index of 0.70 in favour of the phonetic representation of -de as [tə] in the words gebuigde; gehaasde; geheiligde; geneesde; geploegde; gesaagde; gevreesde; halfgerysde; ongeleesde; ongeveinsde; toegevoegde; verenigde; verfoesde; verliefde; verysde. Note that the participants in a separate task responded in writing overwhelmingly with de for these same words, supporting the assumption that [tə] has /də/ as basic, underlying representation. On the other hand, the reverse situation is not found: -te morphemes are never pronounced as [də] in Afrikaans.

Figure 1: verysde /fərəisdə/ pronounced as [fərəistə] via PVA
[click image to enlarge]

The presence of a stop gap and a somewhat lengthened release, as indicated in the graph, clearly characterise the stop as voiceless.

[+]Examples within words

As already mentioned, /d/, when preceded by the three voiceless fricatives /f/, /s/ and /x/ is frequently affected by PVA when in past participles with an attributive adjectival function as well as in some ordinals and compounds:

  1. Examples within words include: <fde> /fdə/ > [ftə]: elffde; beloofde ; beskaafde ; gegriefde; geliefde; onthoofde; staatshoofde; twaalfde; verliefde; vyfde.
  2. The following examples also occur within words: <sde> /sdə/ > [stə]: beheersde; gesondheidsdepartement; gevreesde; onderwysdepartement; onverpoosde; regeringsdepartement; sesde; staatsdepartement; vervalsde; verkeersdepartement.
  3. More examples that occur in words are: <gde> /xdə/ > [xtə]: aangeklaagde; beskadigde; bevestigde; gevestigde; gewaagde; gewysigde; ingehuldigde; verenigde; vergiftigde; verhoogde.

  1. The most salient case of PVA in [-xtə] < <-gde> /-xdə/ is found in verenigde, as in Verenigde Nasies United Nations, that frequently features in news bulletins, also in Verenigde Krieketraad United Cricket Board. In these two cases a RAP index for PVA of 0.95 was measured.
  2. Words with departement in the compounds above may serve as a clear example of the fact that PVA may also affect grammatical entities other than morphemes such as -de. This is in line with instances where the onset consonant /d/ of -dorp, in place names like Krugersdorp, Ventersdorp as well as in normal compounds such as kusdorp, tuisdorp is readily pronounced as voiceless [t].
  3. Similar cases of PVA in highly frequently used words are dieselfde and terselfdertyd.

[+]Examples within phrases

A case of PVA that is frequently found in Afrikaans is that of phrases like is die /əs di/ [əs ti] is the, is dit /əs dət/ [əs tit] is it and op die /ɔp di/ [ɔp ti] on the, where function words, usually with a very high frequency usage, are involved. Note, however, that regressive voice assimilation is much more likely to occur here, rendering resp. [əz di], [əz dət] and [ɔb di].

Instances of PVA ( /s#b/ > [s#p]) across word boundaries are for example (restricted for the purposes of demonstration): bes bewaarde; is bereid; motors betrokke; plakkers betoog; slegs beëindig; slegs bekend; status bekend; toets begin; was bedek. Such instances of PVA were all found in the RSG speech data base, described elsewhere (see Introduction to phonological processes).

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