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The Afrikaans diphthongs
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In this section the Afrikaans diphthongs are described. Afrikaans has three basic, or pure diphthongs: /əi, œy, œu/. As in the case of the long vowels, the diphthongs occupy two structural positions, viz. XX, in the rhyme of a syllable. Figure 1 provides an example.


Figure 1: Syllable trees of diphthongs

[click image to enlarge]

In terms of distinctive features of segments, X depending on N is represented here by [-cons], while X depending on C by [+cons].

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[+] Examples of pure diphthongs

In the following section, examples of the diphthongs of Afrikaans are provided: In what follows, the relevant diphthong is first exemplifief in a closed syllable, followed by the same diphthong in an open syllable. Furthermore, (a) provides the diphthong in word-initial position, while (b) and (c) provide the diphthong in word-medial and word-final position respectively. For a general overview of the Afrikaans diphthongs, see (Le Roux, T.H.; Pienaar, P. de V. 1927) and (De Villiers, M.; Ponelis, F.A. 1987), among other general textbooks, and also The diphthongs.

The examples are mainly restricted to simplex words.

Example 1

/əi/
a. heimwee
nostalgia
'ɦəim.ve
a.' seisoen
season
səi.'sun
b. kolwyntjie
cupcake
kɔl.'vəin.ki
b.' verbyster
perplexed
fər.'bəi.stər
c. fontein
fountain
fɔn.'təin
c.' aarbei
strawberry
'ar.bəi
Example 2

/œy/
a. ruimte
space
'rœym.tə
a.' buite
outside
'bœy.tə
b. -
-
-
b.' geruime
quite some
xə.'rœy.mə
c. fortuin
fortune
fɔr.'tœyn
c.' lui
lazy
lœy
Example 3

/œu/
a. oudste
eldest
'œud.stə
a.' pouse
pause
'pœu.sə
b. verbouereerd
-
fər.'bœy.ə.rerd
b.' verhouding
relationship
fər.'hœu.dəŋ
c. benoud
distressed
bə.'nœud
c.' getrou
faithful
xə.'trou

Although these diphthongs occur quite frequently, they are substantially restricted as to their distribution in some of the syllable positions referred to above, for example in the case of /œy/. These three diphthongs behave phonotactically like the long vowels in that they comply with the same co-occurrence restrictions.

[+] Long unpure diphthongs

A number of Afrikaans unpure diphthongs contain a long vowel as first component, followed by a high vowel, viz. /oi/,/ai/,/eu/ for example in word-final open syllables:

Example 4

/oi/
mooi
/moi/
(pretty)
Example 5

/ai/
kraai
/krai/
(crow)
Example 6

/eu/
leeu
/leu/
(lion)

These diphthongs have a restricted frequency as well as distribution in comparison with the pure diphthongs, in that they may, within the same syllable, only occur in an open-syllable or, alternatively, form the nucleus of a few words ending on the coronals /s/ or, seldomly, /t/, as in the case of stroois/oi/hut, and derivatives, such as (iets) moois (predicative adjective of mooisomething beautiful) , or nooit/noit/never.

Note that as to the structure of syllables, long unpure diphthongs take up three positions, viz XXX, which is contra the maximum length of two slots allowed within some metrical-based theories (Booij 1995). A similar situation is pointed out by Visser in the case of Frisian. This situation is handled in Dutch (Booij 1995) by analyzing these combinations as (long) vowel + glide sequences: /uj, oj, aj, iʋ, yʋ, eʋ/ as in words like roeirow, ooiewe, aaicaress, nieuwnew, uwyour or eeuwcentury, respectively.

References:
  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • De Villiers, M. & Ponelis, F.A1987Afrikaanse klankleer.Tafelberg
  • Le Roux, T.H. & Pienaar, P. de V1927Afrikaanse fonetiek.Juta
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