Final-obstruent devoicing

Last updated

Final-obstruent devoicing or terminal devoicing is a systematic phonological process occurring in languages such as Catalan, German, Dutch, Breton, Russian, Polish, Lithuanian, Turkish, and Wolof. In such languages, voiced obstruents become voiceless before voiceless consonants and in pausa. The process can be written as *C[+voice] > C[-voice]/__#. [1]

Contents

Languages with final-obstruent devoicing

Germanic languages

Most modern continental West Germanic languages developed final devoicing, the earliest evidence appearing in Old Dutch around the 9th or 10th century. However, Yiddish notably does not alter final voiced sounds; this appears to be a later reversal.

Of the North Germanic languages, Norwegian, Swedish and Danish (the latter of which has no voiced obstruents) do not have final devoicing. As in Danish, Icelandic stops are voiceless, but it has voiced fricatives which may also occur word-finally.

Gothic (an East Germanic language) also developed final devoicing independently.

Romance languages

Among the Romance languages, word-final devoicing is common in the Gallo-Romance languages, some of which tend to exhibit strong Frankish influence (itself the ancestor of Old Dutch, above).

Romanian does not have it. Other Romance languages such as French and Italian rarely have words with final voiced consonants for different reasons in their phonological histories, but borrowings from English into French or Italian that have a voiced final consonant (such as weekend) are not devoiced. Portuguese merges [s] and [z] in word-final position (nós and noz are homophones) but has a few words ending with voiced stops like sob (although some dialects feature an epenthetic vowel after the final consonant).

Slavic languages

Most Slavic languages exhibit final devoicing, but notably standard (Štokavian) Serbo-Croatian and Ukrainian do not.

Other Indo-European languages

Non-Indo-European languages

Note: Hungarian, which lies geographically between Germanic- and Slavic- speaking areas, does not have it. Terminal devoicing is indicated in the orthography in Turkish, but it isn't in Azeri. For example, the personal name Məhməd is pronounced [mæhˈmæt] in Azeri, with a final [t], even though it is spelled with a final d. Meanwhile, the Turkish version of this name is also pronounced with a final [t], but is spelled with a more phonetically accurate Mehmet.

Examples

Dutch and Afrikaans

In Dutch and Afrikaans, terminal devoicing results in homophones such as hard 'hard' and hart 'heart' as well as differences in consonant sounds between the singular and plural forms of nouns, for example golf–golven (Dutch) and golf–golwe (Afrikaans) for 'wave–waves'.

The history of the devoicing phenomenon within the West Germanic languages is not entirely clear, but the discovery of a runic inscription from the early fifth century suggests that this terminal devoicing [4] originated in Frankish. Of the old West Germanic languages, Old Dutch, a descendant of Frankish, is the earliest to show any kind of devoicing, and final devoicing also occurred in Frankish-influenced Old French.

English

Standard varieties of English do not have phonological final-obstruent devoicing of the type that neutralizes phonemic contrasts; thus pairs like bad and bat are distinct in all major accents of English. Nevertheless, voiced obstruents are devoiced to some extent in final position in English, especially when phrase-final or when followed by a voiceless consonant (for example, bad cat[bæd̥ kʰæt]). Additionally, the voiced alveolar stop /d/ is regularly devoiced in African-American Vernacular English (AAVE). [5]

Old English had final devoicing of /v/, although the spelling did not distinguish [f] and [v]. It can be inferred from the modern pronunciation of half with a voiceless /f/, from an originally voiced fricative [β] in Proto-Germanic *halbaz (preserved in German halb and Gothic halba). There was also final devoicing of [ɣ] to [x] finally, evidenced by spellings like burh alongside burg.

German

Final-obstruents devoicing occurs in the varieties from Northern Germany. [6] The German contrast between homorganic obstruents is more properly described as a fortis and lenis opposition than an opposition of voiceless and voiced sounds. Therefore, the term devoicing may be misleading, since voice is only an optional feature of German lenis obstruents. By contrast, the German term for the phenomenon, Auslautverhärtung ("final-sound hardening"), refers to fortition rather than devoicing. However, the German phenomenon is similar to the final devoicing in other languages in that the opposition between two different kinds of obstruents disappears at the ends of words, making homophones of such pairs as Rad ("wheel") and Rat ("council, counsel"), both pronounced [ʁaːt]. The German varieties of the north, and many pronunciations of Standard German, optionally involve voice in the distinction between fortis and lenis obstruents however.

Some examples from Northern German include:

NounsVerbs
SingularTranslationPluralImperativeTranslationInfinitive
Bad[baːt]bathBäder[ˈbɛːdɐ]red![ʁeːt]talk!reden[ˈʁeːdn̩]
Maus[maʊ̯s]mouseMäuse[ˈmɔʏ̯zə]lies![liːs]read!lesen[ˈleːzn̩]
Raub[ʁaʊ̯p]robberyRaube[ˈʁaʊ̯bə]reib![ʁaɪ̯p]rub!reiben[ˈʁaɪ̯bn̩]
Zug[t͡suːk]trainZüge[ˈt͡syːɡə]sag![zaːk]say!sagen[ˈzaːɡn̩]
Fünf[fʏɱf]fiveFünfen[ˈfʏɱvn̩]

Russian

Final-obstruent devoicing can lead to the neutralization of phonemic contrasts in certain environments. For example, Russian бес ('demon', phonemically /bʲes/) and без ('without', phonemically /bʲez/) are pronounced identically in isolation as [bʲes].

The presence of this process in Russian is also the source of the seemingly variant transliterations of Russian names into -off (Russian: -ов), especially by the French, as well as older English transcriptions.

Devoicing in compounds

In compounds, the behaviour varies between languages:

Notes

  1. See Crowley and Bowern (2010), p. 24
  2. In normalised Middle High German as opposed to modern New High German, devoicing is represented in writing, thus Kriemhilt is the shortened form of Kriemhilde.
  3. van der Veen, Klaas F. (2001), "13. West Frisian Dialectology and Dialects", in Munske, Horst Haider; Århammar, Hans (eds.), Handbook of Frisian studies, Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag GmbH, p. 104, ISBN   3-484-73048-X
  4. B. Mees, The Bergakker inscription and the beginnings of Dutch, in: Amsterdamer beiträge zur älteren Germanistik: Band 56- 2002, edited by Erika Langbroek, Annelies Roeleveld, Paula Vermeyden, Arend Quak, Published by Rodopi, 2002, ISBN   90-420-1579-9, ISBN   978-90-420-1579-1
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15260203/
  6. See Ammon et al. (2016)

Related Research Articles

Allophone Sounds considered the same in a language

In phonology, an allophone is one of a set of multiple possible spoken sounds, or phones, or signs used to pronounce a single phoneme in a particular language. For example, in English, and the aspirated form are allophones for the phoneme, while these two are considered to be different phonemes in some languages such as Thai and Hindi. On the other hand, in Spanish, and are allophones for the phoneme, while these two are considered to be different phonemes in English.

In phonetics, aspiration is the strong burst of breath that accompanies either the release or, in the case of preaspiration, the closure of some obstruents. In English, aspirated consonants are allophones in complementary distribution with their unaspirated counterparts, but in some other languages, notably most Indian and East Asian languages, the difference is contrastive.

In phonetics, a plosive, also known as an occlusive or simply a stop, is a pulmonic consonant in which the vocal tract is blocked so that all airflow ceases.

Grimm's law is a set of sound laws describing the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) stop consonants as they developed in Proto-Germanic in the 1st millennium BC. First systematically put forward by Jacob Grimm but first remarked upon by Rasmus Rask, it establishes a set of regular correspondences between early Germanic stops, fricatives, and the stop consonants of certain other centum Indo-European languages.

An affricate is a consonant that begins as a stop and releases as a fricative, generally with the same place of articulation. It is often difficult to decide if a stop and fricative form a single phoneme or a consonant pair. English has two affricate phonemes, and, often spelled ch and j, respectively.

Non-native pronunciations of English result from the common linguistic phenomenon in which non-native users of any language tend to carry the intonation, phonological processes and pronunciation rules from their first language or first languages into their English speech. They may also create innovative pronunciations for English sounds not found in the speaker's first language.

The phonology of Standard German is the standard pronunciation or accent of the German language. It deals with current phonology and phonetics as well as with historical developments thereof as well as the geographical variants and the influence of German dialects.

Voice or voicing is a term used in phonetics and phonology to characterize speech sounds. Speech sounds can be described as either voiceless or voiced.

In phonetics and phonology, a sonorant or resonant is a speech sound that is produced with continuous, non-turbulent airflow in the vocal tract; these are the manners of articulation that are most often voiced in the world's languages. Vowels are sonorants, as are nasals like and, liquids like and, and semivowels like and. This set of sounds contrasts with the obstruents.

In linguistics, fortis and lenis, sometimes identified with tense and lax, are pronunciations of consonants with relatively greater and lesser energy. English has fortis consonants, such as the p in pat, with a corresponding lenis consonant, such as the b in bat. Fortis and lenis consonants may be distinguished by tenseness or other characteristics, such as voicing, aspiration, glottalization, velarization, length, and length of nearby vowels. Fortis and lenis were coined for languages where the contrast between sounds such as p and b does not involve voicing.

In phonology, tenseness or tensing is, most broadly, the pronunciation of a sound with greater muscular effort or constriction than is typical. More specifically, tenseness is the pronunciation of a vowel with less centralization, longer duration, and narrower mouth width compared with another vowel. The opposite quality to tenseness is known as laxness or laxing: the pronunciation of a vowel with relatively more centralization, shorter duration, and more widening.

High German consonant shift

In historical linguistics, the High German consonant shift or second Germanic consonant shift is a phonological development that took place in the southern parts of the West Germanic dialect continuum in several phases. It probably began between the third and fifth centuries and was almost complete before the earliest written records in High German were produced in the eighth century. The resulting language, Old High German, can be neatly contrasted with the other continental West Germanic languages, which for the most part did not experience the shift, and with Old English, which remained completely unaffected.

This article is about the phonology of Bernese German. It deals with current phonology and phonetics, including geographical variants. Like other High Alemannic varieties, it has a two-way contrast in plosives and fricatives that is not based on voicing, but on length. The absence of voice in plosives and fricatives is typical for all High German varieties, but many of them have no two-way contrast due to general lenition.

This article describes those aspects of the phonological history of the English language which concern consonants.

Fortition, also known as strengthening, is a consonantal change that increases the degree of stricture. It's the opposite of the more common lenition. For example, a fricative or an approximant may become a stop. Although not as typical of sound change as lenition, fortition may occur in prominent positions, such as at the beginning of a word or stressed syllable; as an effect of reducing markedness; or due to morphological leveling.

In historical linguistics, phonological change is any sound change that alters the distribution of phonemes in a language. In other words, a language develops a new system of oppositions among its phonemes. Old contrasts may disappear, new ones may emerge, or they may simply be rearranged. Sound change may be an impetus for changes in the phonological structures of a language. One process of phonological change is rephonemicization, in which the distribution of phonemes changes by either addition of new phonemes or a reorganization of existing phonemes. Mergers and splits are types of rephonemicization and are discussed further below.

In phonology, voicing is a sound change where a voiceless consonant becomes voiced due to the influence of its phonological environment; shift in the opposite direction is referred to as devoicing or desonorization. Most commonly, the change is a result of sound assimilation with an adjacent sound of opposite voicing, but it can also occur word-finally or in contact with a specific vowel.

This article aims to describe the phonology and phonetics of central Luxembourgish, which is regarded as the emerging standard.

Phonemic contrast refers to a minimal phonetic difference, that is, small differences in speech sounds, that makes a difference in how the sound is perceived by listeners, and can therefore lead to different mental lexical entries for words. For example, whether a sound is voiced or unvoiced matters for how a sound is perceived in many languages, such that changing this phonetic feature can yield a different word ; see Phoneme. Other examples in English of a phonemic contrast would be the difference between leak and league; the minimal difference of voicing between [k] and [g] does lead to the two utterances being perceived as different words. On the other hand, an example that is not a phonemic contrast in English is the difference between and. In this case the minimal difference of vowel length is not a contrast in English and so those two forms would be perceived as different pronunciations of the same word seat.

The phonology of Old Saxon mirrors that of the other ancient Germanic languages, and also, to a lesser extent, that of modern West Germanic languages such as English, Dutch, Frisian, German, and Low German.

References

See also