Afrikaans has a similar phonology to other West Germanic languages, especially Dutch.
Afrikaans has an extensive vowel inventory consisting of 17 vowel phonemes, among which there are 10 monophthongs and 7 diphthongs. There are also 7 marginal monophthongs.
The phonetic quality of the close vowels
- /y/ tends to be merged with /i/ into [i].
- /u/ is weakly rounded and could be more narrowly transcribed as [u̜] or [ɯ̹]. Thus, it is sometimes transcribed /ɯ/.
The phonetic quality of the mid vowels
- /ɛ, ɛː, ɔ, ɔː/ vary between mid [ɛ̝, ɛ̝ː, ɔ̝, ɔ̝ː] or close-mid [e, eː, o, oː].
- According to some scholars, the stressed allophone of /ə/ is actually closer than mid ([ɪ̈]). However, other scholars do not distinguish between stressed and unstressed schwas. This article uses the symbol [ə] regardless of the exact height of the vowel.
- The central /ə, əː/, not the front /ɛ, ɛː/, are the unrounded counterparts of /œ, œː/. Phonetically, /ə, əː, œ, œː/ have been variously described as mid [ə, əː, ɞ̝, ɞ̝ː] and open-mid [ɜ, ɜː, ɞ, ɞː].
- /œ, œː/ are rather weakly rounded, and many speakers merge /œ/ with /ə/ into [ə], even in formal speech. The merger has been noted in colloquial speech since the 1920s.
The phonetic quality of the open vowels
- In some words such as vanaand /faˈnɑːnt/ 'this evening; tonight', unstressed ⟨a⟩ is actually a schwa [ə], not [a].
- /a/ is open near-front [a̠], but older sources describe it as near-open central [ɐ] and open central [ä].
- /ɑː/ is either open near-back [ɑ̟ː] or open back [ɑː]. Especially in stressed positions, the back realization may be rounded [ɒː], and sometimes it may be even as high as the /ɔː/ phoneme. The rounded realization is associated with younger white speakers, especially female speakers of northern accents.
- As phonemes, /iː/ and /uː/ occur only in the words spieël /spiːl/ 'mirror' and koeël /kuːl/ 'bullet', which used to be pronounced with sequences /i.ə/ and /u.ə/ respectively. In other cases, [iː] and [uː] occur as allophones of /i/ and /u/ respectively before /r/.
- Close vowels are phonetically long before /r/.
- /ɛ/ contrasts with /ɛː/ only in the minimal pair pers /pɛrs/ 'press' – pêrs /pɛːrs/ 'purple'.
- Before the sequences /rt, rd, rs/, the /ɛ–ɛː/ and /ɔ–ɔː/ contrasts are neutralized in favour of the long variants /ɛː/ and /ɔː/, respectively.
- /əː/ occurs only in the word wîe 'wedges', which is realized as either [ˈvəːə] or [ˈvəːɦə] (with a weak [ɦ]).
- The orthographic sequence ⟨ûe⟩ is realised as either [œː.ə] or [œː.ɦə] (with a weak [ɦ]).
- /œː, ɔː/ occur only in a few words.
- As a phoneme, /æ/ occurs only in some loanwords from English, such as pêl /pæːl/ 'pal', or as a dialectal allophone of /ɛ/ before /k, χ, l, r/, most commonly in the former Transvaal and Free State provinces.
- /a/ has been variously transcribed with ⟨a⟩, ⟨ɐ⟩ and ⟨ɑ⟩. This article uses ⟨a⟩.
- /ɑː/ has been variously transcribed with ⟨ɑː⟩ and ⟨aː⟩. This article uses the former symbol.
- In some words, such as hamer, short /a/ is in free variation with long /ɑː/ despite the fact that the spelling suggests the latter. In some words, such as laat (vb. 'let'), the pronunciation with short /a/ occurs only in colloquial language, to distinguish from homophones (laat, adj. 'late'). In some other words, such as aan 'on', the pronunciation with short /a/ is already a part of the standard language. The shortening of /ɑː/ has been noted as early as 1927.
- The orthographic sequence ⟨ae⟩ can be pronounced as either [ɑː] or [ɑːɦə] (with a weak [ɦ]).
In some instances of the postvocalic sequence /ns/, /n/ is realized as nasalisation (and lengthening, if the vowel is short) of the preceding monophthong, which is stronger in some speakers than others, but there also are speakers retaining [n] as well as the original length of the preceding vowel.
- The sequence /ans/ in words such as dans (meaning "dance") is realised as [ãːs]. In monosyllabic words, that is the norm.
- The sequence /ɑːns/ in more common words (such as Afrikaans) is realized as either [ɑ̃ːs] or [ɑːns]. In less common words (such as Italiaans, meaning Italian), [ɑːns] is the usual pronunciation.
- The sequence /ɛns/ in words such as mens (meaning "human") is realized as [ɛ̃ːs].
- The sequence /œns/ in words such as guns (meaning "favour") is realised more often as [œns] than as [œ̃ːs]. For speakers with the /œ–ə/ merger, these transcriptions are to be read as [əns] and [ə̃ːs], respectively.
- The sequence /ɔns/ in words such as spons (meaning "sponge") is realised as [ɔ̃ːs].
Collins & Mees (2003) analyze the pre-/s/ sequences /an, ɛn, ɔn/ as phonemic short vowels /ɑ̃, ɛ̃, ɔ̃/ and note that this process of nasalising the vowel and deleting the nasal occurs in many dialects of Dutch as well, such as The Hague dialect.
|Starting point||Ending point|
|rounded||œɪ̯, ɔɪ̯, oːɪ̯||ʏə, ʊə||œʊ̯|
/ɪø, ɪə, ʊə/
- According to Lass (1987), the first elements of [ʏə, ɪə, ʊə] are close-mid, more narrowly transcribed [ë, ë, ö] or [ɪ̞, ɪ̞, ʊ̞]. According to De Villiers (1976), the onsets of [ɪə, ʊə] are near-close [ɪ, ʊ]. For simplicity, both variants will be written simply as [ɪø, ɪə, ʊə]. [ɪ, ʊ] are commonly used for centralized close-mid vowels anyway - see near-close near-front unrounded vowel and near-close near-back rounded vowel.
- Some sources prescribe monophthongal [øː, eː, oː] realizations of these; that is at least partially outdated:
- There is not a complete agreement about the realisation of /ɪø/:
- According to Lass (1987), it is realised as either rising [ɪ̯ø] or falling [ɪø̯], with the former being more common. The unrounded onset is a rather recent development and is not described by older sources. The monophthongal realisation [øː] is virtually nonexistent.
- According to Donaldson (1993), it is realised as [øə]. Its onset is sometimes unrounded, which can cause it to merge with /eə/.
- There is not a complete agreement about the realisation of /ɪə, ʊə/
- According to Lass (1987), they may be realised in four ways:
- Falling diphthongs. Their first element may be short [ɪə̯, ʊə̯] or somewhat lengthened [ɪˑə̯, ʊˑə̯].
- Rising diphthongs [ɪ̯ə, ʊ̯ə]. These variants do not seem to appear word-finally. The sequence /ɦʊə/ is commonly realised as [ɦʊ̯ə] or, more often, [ʊ̤̑ə̤], with /ɦ/ realised as breathy voice on the diphthong.
- Phonetically disyllabic sequences of two short monophthongs [ɪ.ə, ʊ.ə], which may occur in all environments.
- Monophthongs, either short [ɪ, ʊ] or somewhat lengthened [ɪˑ, ʊˑ]. The monophthongal realisations occur in less stressed words as well as in stressed syllables in words that have more than one syllable. In the latter case, they are in free variation with all of the three diphthongal realisations. In case of /ʊə/, the monophthongal [ʊ] also appears in unstressed word-final syllables.
- According to Donaldson (1993), they are realized as either [eə, oə] or [iə, uə].
- According to Lass (1987), they may be realised in four ways:
- There is not a complete agreement about the realisation of /ɪø/:
- /ɪə/ also occurs in words spelled with ⟨eë⟩, like reël /ˈrɪəl/ 'rule'. Historically, these were pronounced with a disyllabic sequence /eː.ə/ and so reël used to be pronounced /ˈreː.əl/.
- There is not a complete agreement about the dialectal realisation of /ɪə, ʊə/ in the Boland area:
- According to Lass (1987), they are centralized close-mid monophthongs [ɪ, ʊ], which do not merge with /i/ and /u/.
- According to Donaldson (1993) and De Villiers, they are close monophthongs, long [iː, uː] according to Donaldson (1993), short [i, u] according to De Villiers.
- The scholar Daan Wissing argues that /əɪ̯/ is not a phonetically correct transcription and that /æɛ̯/ is more accurate. In his analysis, he found that [æɛ̯] makes for 65% of the realisations, the other 35% being monophthongal, [ə], [æ] and [ɛ].
- Most often, /œɪ̯/ has an unrounded offset. For some speakers, the onset is also unrounded. That can cause /œɪ̯/ to merge with /əɪ̯/, which is considered non-standard.
- /ɔɪ̯, aɪ̯/ occur mainly in loanwords.
- Older sources describe /œu/ as a narrow back diphthong [ou]. However, newer sources describe its onset as more front. For example, Lass (1984), states that the onset of /œu/ is central [ɵu].
- In some words which, in English, are pronounced with /əʊ̯/, the Afrikaans equivalent tends to be pronounced with /œʊ̯/, rather than /ʊə/. That happens because Afrikaans /œʊ̯/ is more similar to the usual South African realization of English /əʊ̯/.
The long diphthongs (or 'double vowels') are phonemically sequences of a free vowel and a non-syllabic equivalent of /i/ or /u/: /iu, ui, oːi, eu, ɑːi/. Both /iu/ and /eu/ tend to be pronounced as [iu], but they are spelled differently: the former as ⟨ieu⟩, the latter as ⟨eeu⟩.
In diminutives ending in /ki/ formed to monosyllabic nouns, the vowels /u, ɪə, ʊə, ɛ, ə, œ, ɔ, a, ɑː/ are realised as closing diphthongs [ui, ei, oi, ɛi, əi, œi, ɔi, ai, ɑːi]. In the same environment, the sequences /ɛn, ən, œn, ɔn, an/ are realized as [ɛiɲ, əiɲ, œiɲ, ɔiɲ, aiɲ], i.e. as closing diphthongs followed by palatal nasal.
- The suffixes ⟨-aad⟩ and ⟨-aat⟩ (phonemically /ɑːd/ and /ɑːt/, respectively) and the diminutive suffix /ki/ are realised as [ɑːki] (with a monophthong), rather than [ɑːiki].
- In practice, the diphthong [əi] is realised the same as the phonemic diphthong /əi/.
- [œi], when it has arisen from diphthongisation of [œ], differs from the phonemic diphthong /œi/ by having a slightly different onset, although the exact nature of that difference is unclear. This means that puntjie 'point' sounds somewhat different than puintjie 'rubble'.
|Standard Dutch||Afrikaans||Standard Dutch||Afrikaans|
|short a /ɑ/||/a/||kat /ˈkɑt/||kat /ˈkat/|
|long a /aː/||/ɑː/||kaart /ˈkaːrt/||kaart /ˈkɑːrt/|
|short e /ɛ/||/ɛ/||bed /ˈbɛt/|
|long e /eː/||/ɪə/||weet /ˈʋeːt/||weet /ˈvɪət/|
|eu /øː/||/ʏə/||neus /ˈnøːs/||neus /ˈnʏəs/|
|short i /ɪ/||/ə/||kind /ˈkɪnt/||kind /ˈkənt/|
|long i, ie /i/||/i/||dief /ˈdif/|
|short o /ɔ/||/ɔ/||bok /ˈbɔk/|
|long o /oː/||/ʊə/||brood /ˈbroːt/||brood /ˈbrʊət/|
|oe /u/||/u/||boer /ˈbur/|
|short u /ʏ/||/œ/||kus /ˈkʏs/||kus /ˈkœs/|
|long u /y/||/y/||duur /ˈdyr/|
|ai /ɑɪ̯/||/aɪ̯/||ai /ˈɑɪ̯/||ai /ˈaɪ̯/|
|aai /aːɪ̯/||/ɑːɪ̯/||haai /ˈhaːɪ̯/||haai /ˈhɑːɪ̯/|
|au, auw /ɔʊ̯/
ou, ouw /ɔʊ̯/
|ou /œʊ̯/||dauw /ˈdɔʊ̯/
koud, vrouw /ˈkɔʊ̯t, ˈvrɔʊ̯/
koud, vrou /ˈkœʊ̯t, ˈfrœʊ̯/
|eeu, eeuw /eːʊ̯/||eeu /iʊ̯/||leeuw /ˈleːʊ̯/||leeu /ˈliʊ̯/|
|ieu, ieuw /iʊ̯/||ieu /iʊ̯/||kieuw /ˈkiʊ̯/||kieu /ˈkiʊ̯/|
|oei /uɪ̯/||/uɪ̯/||groei /ˈɣruɪ̯/||groei /ˈχruɪ̯/|
|ooi /oːɪ̯/||/oːɪ̯/||mooi /ˈmoːɪ̯/|
|ui /œʏ̯/||/œɪ̯/||huis /ˈhœʏ̯s/||huis /ˈhœɪ̯s/|
|uw /yʊ̯/||u /y/||schaduw /ˈsxaːdyʊ̯/||skadu /ˈskɑːdy/|
- All obstruents at the ends of words are devoiced so that, for instance, a final /d/ is realised as [t].
- /p, b/ are bilabial, whereas /f, v/ are labiodental.
- /p, t, k, tʃ/ are unaspirated.
- /k/ may be somewhat more front before front vowels; the fronted allophone of /k/ also occurs in diminutives ending in -djie and -tjie.
- /dʒ, z/ occur only in loanwords.
- /χ/ is most often uvular, either a fricative, [χ] or a voiceless trill [ʀ̥], the latter especially in initial position before a stressed vowel. The uvular fricative is also used by many speakers of white South African English as a realisation of the marginal English phoneme /x/. In Afrikaans, velar [x] may be used in a few "hyper-posh" varieties[which?] , and it may also, rarely, occur as an allophone before front vowels in speakers with otherwise uvular [χ].
- /ɡ/ occurs mostly in loanwords, but also occurs as an allophone of /χ/ at the end of an inflected root where G is preceded by a short vowel and /r/ and succeeded by a schwa such as in berg(e) ('mountain', /bæːrχ, ˈbæ(ː)rɡə/).
- /w/ occurs frequently as an allophone of /v/ after other obstruents, such as in kwaad ('angry').
|Standard Dutch||Afrikaans||Standard Dutch||Afrikaans|
voiced s /z/
|s /s/||zuid /ˈzœʏ̯t/
|starting v /v/||/f/||vier /ˈvir/||vier /ˈfir/|
|middle v /v/||w /v/||haven /ˈɦaːvən/||hawe /ˈɦɑːvə/|
|v (for Latin and French loanwords) /v/||v, w /v/||visueel /vizyˈeːl/
|w /ʋ/||/v, w/||weet /ˈʋeːt/
|g /χ/||acht /ˈɑxt/
|sch /sx/||sk /sk/||school /ˈsxoːl/||skool /ˈskʊəl/|
|-rgen /-rɣən/||-rge /-rgə/||bergen /ˈbɛrɣə(n)/||berge /ˈbɛrgə/|
|-rv- /-rv/||-rw- /-rv/||sterven /ˈstɛrvə(n)/||sterwe /ˈstɛrvə/|
|-tie /-tsi, -si/||-sie /-si/||actie /ˈɑktsi ~ ˈɑksi/||aksie /ˈaksi/|
|-st /-st/||-s /-s/||best /ˈbɛst/||bes /ˈbɛs/|
|-cht /-xt/||-g /-χ/||lucht, echtgenoot /ˈlʏxt, ˈɛxtxənoːt/||lug, eggenoot /ˈlœχ, ˈɛχənʊət/|
|-ct /-kt/||-k /-k/||contact /ˈkɔntɑkt/||kontak /ˈkɔntak/|
|-isch /-is/||-ies /-is/||Tsjechisch /ˈtʃɛxis/||Tsjeggies /ˈtʃɛχis/|
- /m/ is bilabial.
- /n/ merges with /m/ before labial consonants. Phonetically, this merged consonant is realized as bilabial [m] before /p, b/, and labiodental [ɱ] before /f, v/.
- /n/ merges with /ŋ/ before dorsals (/k, χ/).
- /l/ is velarised [ɫ] in all positions, especially noticeably non-prevocalically.
- /r/ is usually an alveolar trill [r] or tap [ɾ]. In some parts of the former Cape Province, it is realised uvularly, either as a trill [ʀ] or a fricative [ʁ]. The uvular trill may also be pronounced as a tap [ʀ̆].
- Dutch phonology
- Afrikaans - Dutch Phonology Comparison Chart (Open Learning Environment)
- ^ Donaldson (1993), pp. 2–7.
- ^ a b c d Donaldson (1993), p. 5.
- ^ Wissing (2016), sections "The unrounded mid-front vowel /ɛ/" and "The rounded mid-high back vowel /ɔ/".
- ^ Such as Donaldson (1993).
- ^ a b Donaldson (1993), pp. 4, 6.
- ^ Such as Le Roux & de Villiers Pienaar (1927) or Wissing (2016).
- ^ Swanepoel (1927), p. 38.
- ^ a b c Wissing (2016), section "The rounded and unrounded mid-central vowels".
- ^ Wissing (2012), p. 711.
- ^ Swanepoel (1927), p. 39.
- ^ Wissing (2016), section "The unrounded low-central vowel /ɑ/".
- ^ See the vowel chart in Le Roux & de Villiers Pienaar (1927:46).
- ^ a b c d Donaldson (1993), p. 7.
- ^ Lass (1984), pp. 76, 93–94, 105.
- ^ Wissing (2016), section "The unrounded low-central vowel /a/".
- ^ Donaldson (1993), pp. 4–6.
- ^ Donaldson (1993), pp. 5–6.
- ^ a b c d Donaldson (1993), p. 3.
- ^ Donaldson (1993), pp. 4, 6–7.
- ^ Donaldson (1993), pp. 3, 7.
- ^ For example by Le Roux & de Villiers Pienaar (1927) and Donaldson (1993).
- ^ For example by Lass (1984).
- ^ For example by Wissing (2016).
- ^ For example by Le Roux & de Villiers Pienaar (1927) and Lass (1984).
- ^ For example by Donaldson (1993) and Wissing (2016).
- ^ a b Donaldson (1993), p. 6.
- ^ Swanepoel (1927), p. 22.
- ^ Donaldson (1993), pp. 3, 5.
- ^ Collins & Mees (2003), p. 71.
- ^ Donaldson (1993), pp. 2, 8–10.
- ^ a b c d e f g Lass (1987), pp. 117–119.
- ^ De Villiers (1976), pp. 56–57.
- ^ a b c d Donaldson (1993), p. 8.
- ^ a b c Lass (1987), p. 117.
- ^ Donaldson (1993), pp. 8–9.
- ^ Lass (1987), p. 118.
- ^ a b Cited in Lass (1987:117–118). The preview on Google Books makes it unclear whether De Villiers' book is "Afrikaanse klankleer. Fonetiek, fonologie en woordbou" or "Nederlands en Afrikaans", as both are cited at the end of Lass's chapter.
- ^ Wissing (2009), p. 333.
- ^ a b c Donaldson (1993), p. 10.
- ^ a b Donaldson (1993), p. 9.
- ^ Swanepoel (1927), p. 44.
- ^ Lass (1984), p. 102.
- ^ Donaldson (1993), p. 12.
- ^ Donaldson (1993), pp. 10–11.
- ^ a b Donaldson (1993), p. 11.
- ^ Donaldson (1993), pp. 13–15.
- ^ For example Den Besten (2012).
- ^ Donaldson (1993), pp. 14–16.
- ^ a b c Donaldson (1993), p. 15.
- ^ Den Besten (2012).
- ^ "John Wells's phonetic blog: velar or uvular?". 5 December 2011. Retrieved 12 February 2015. Only this source mentions the trilled realization.
- ^ a b Bowerman (2004:939): "White South African English is one of very few varieties to have a velar fricative phoneme /x/ (see Lass (2002:120)), but this is only in words borrowed from Afrikaans (...) and Khoisan (...). Many speakers use the Afrikaans uvular fricative [χ] rather than the velar."
- ^ Donaldson (1993), pp. 13–14.
- Bowerman, Sean (2004). "White South African English: phonology". In Schneider, Edgar W.; Burridge, Kate; Kortmann, Bernd; Mesthrie, Rajend; Upton, Clive (eds.). A handbook of varieties of English. Vol. 1: Phonology. Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 931–942. ISBN 3-11-017532-0.
- Collins, Beverley; Mees, Inger M. (2003) [First published 1981]. The Phonetics of English and Dutch (5th ed.). Leiden: Brill Publishers. ISBN 9004103406.
- Den Besten, Hans (2012). "Speculations of [χ]-elision and intersonorantic [ʋ] in Afrikaans". In van der Wouden, Ton (ed.). Roots of Afrikaans: Selected Writings of Hans Den Besten. John Benjamins Publishing Company. pp. 79–93. ISBN 978-90-272-5267-8.
- De Villiers, Meyer (1976). Afrikaanse klankleer: fonetiek, fonologie en woordbou. Balkema.
- Donaldson, Bruce C. (1993). "1. Pronunciation". A Grammar of Afrikaans. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 1–35. ISBN 978-3-11-0134261. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
- Lass, Roger (1984). "Vowel System Universals and Typology: Prologue to Theory". Phonology Yearbook. Cambridge University Press. 1: 75–111. doi:10.1017/S0952675700000300. JSTOR 4615383.
- Lass, Roger (1987). "Intradiphthongal Dependencies". In Anderson, John; Durand, Jacques (eds.). Explorations in Dependency Phonology. Dordrecht: Foris Publications Holland. pp. 109–131. ISBN 9067652970. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
- Lass, Roger (2002). "South African English". In Mesthrie, Rajend (ed.). Language in South Africa. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521791052.
- Le Roux, Thomas Hugo; de Villiers Pienaar, Pierre (1927). Afrikaanse Fonetiek (7th ed.). Cape Town: Juta.
- Swanepoel, J.F. (1927). The sounds of Afrikaans. Their Dialectic Variations and the Difficulties They Present to an Englishman (PDF). Longmans, Green & Co.
- Wissing, Daan (2009) . "Die Afrikaanse diftong /E+/: 'n Eksperimentele ondersoek". Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies. Taylor & Francis Group. 23 (3): 319–334. doi:10.2989/16073610509486393. S2CID 145686875.
- Wissing, Daan (2012). "Integrasie van artikulatoriese en akoestiese eienskappe van vokale: 'n beskrywingsraamwerk". LitNet Akademies (in Afrikaans). Stellenbosch: LitNet. 9 (2): 701–743. ISSN 1995-5928. Archived from the original on 15 April 2017. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
- Wissing, Daan (2016). "Afrikaans phonology – segment inventory". Taalportaal. Archived from the original on 15 April 2017. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
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- Prinsloo, Claude Pierre (2000). A comparative acoustic analysis of the long vowels and diphthongs of Afrikaans and South African English (PDF) (Thesis). Pretoria: University of Pretoria.
- van der Merwe, A.; Groenewald, E.; van Aardt, D.; Tesner, H. E.C.; Grimbeek, R. J. (2012) . "The formant patterns of Afrikaans vowels as produced by male speakers". South African Journal of Linguistics. Taylor & Francis Group. 11 (2): 71–79. doi:10.1080/10118063.1993.9723910.
- van Wyk, E. B.; Odendal, F. F.; Nkatini, N. L. (2012) . "Comparison between the phonetic systems of Afrikaans and Tsonga". South African Journal of Linguistics. Taylor & Francis Group. 7 (1): 38–45. doi:10.1080/10118063.1989.9723787.
- Wilson, James Lawrence (1965). The Phonology of Afrikaans with Some Remarks on Contrasts with Standard Dutch Phonology. Indiana University.
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- Wissing, Daan; Martens, J.P.; Goedertier, W.; Janke, U. (2004). Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation: A spoken Afrikaans language resource designed for research on pronunciation variations. Lisbon.