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r-deletion is an active phonological process in Afrikaans, though not as much as in Frisian.


/r/-deletion in Afrikaans happens mainly postvocalically, and in syllable-final position, in words with a very high frequency (mainly function words) in casual speech e.g. in hier/ɦir/[ɦi:]here as well as in the coda of the prefix ver-/fər/[fə]for-. In this topic we focus on /r/-deletion as it is manifested in the semi-formal productions of news readers of RSG. (See Introduction to phonological processes )

(De Villiers, M.; Ponelis, F.A. 1987) contend that this form of consonant loss is due to English influence via Cape Vernacular Afrikaans (CVA). Klopper (Klopper, R.M. 1981) shows that /r/-loss is sensitive to social factors like religion ( geloofsverband), social status, ethnic group cohesion ( groepsverbondenheid) and age, and Coetzee (Coetzee, A.E. 1990)(Coetzee, A.E. 1990) stresses the finding that this variability cannot be described adequately without taking into account the specific type of lexical input, notably word category (e.g. pronouns, adverbs or verbs. Klopper (1981) indicates a definite difference between White speakers of high social economic status and working-class users in an informal style but not in readings of word lists. Christian-Coloured speakers (but not Muslims) from a high social background are less inclined to /r/-loss in wordlist readings than White speakers, but /r/-loss happens more readily in informal speech. Seemingly the former group of speakers are more considerative of "correct" pronunciation in reading tasks than when conversing spontanously. (Combrink, J.G.H.; De Stadler, L.G. 1987) also provide a description and exmples of /r/-deletion in Afrikaans.

In the next section an overview of /r/-deletion is provided, and in the last section we concentrate on the extent to which these types of deletion are present in the readings of radio-presenters of RSG, as was also done elsewhere in the case of other phonological processes.

[+] Coetzee's 1990 model

Coetzee (1990: 96- 97) firstly differentiates between /r/-loss that is not restricted to individual speakers of a certain geographical region or social group on the one hand (A), and, on the other hand, where region or social group is indeed a factor (B). All the examples are those of Coetzee.

  1. Locatives and compounds with these locatives as first components: daar, waar, hier
  2. maar
  3. klaar as word and in compounds
  4. haar (pronoun; possibly also in conjunction with -self)
  5. paar (noun)
  6. weer as adverb
  7. the preposition vir
  8. the prefixes or first components, unstressed: mainly ver- but also per-, ter-, ser-, par-, kor-, for-.
  9. -er in syllable- and word-final position in rapid speech
  10. /r/ in coda position
Examples of the above-mentioned ten types are not always given in her description, as summarised in 1 - 10 above, but are scattered throughout her article; for such examples, cf. the following (numbers correspond to those above):
  1. In compounds: daardeur, waarin, hieroor
  2. The word maar as conjunctive
  3. klaar as adverb, occurring in isolation or in compounds like klaarblyklik
  4. In isolation as pronoun haar; haarself (reflexive pronoun)
  5. As second element in 'n paar ... (mense)
  6. weer in die...
  7. vir my
  8. verkoop, persent, terneergedruk, sertifikaat, party, korporasie, formeel
  9. verder, deurmekaar, byvoorbeeld, oorlede
  10. Pietermaritzburg, ander, Van der Merwe, lekker, sommer

  1. Forms preceeded by long vowels not included in A.: duur, hoor
  2. /r/ in coda clusters: kinders, kerk, werk(s-)
  3. Other instances of -er: September, suster

In some of the above-mentioned examples, Coetzee (1990) provides percentages of /r/-deletion, here expressed in terms of rule application probabilities (RAP). It is important to note that these are average values of the three types of structures: monomorphemes, compounds and phrases.

[+] /r/-deletion in the RSG-data

This description is limited to a number of notable cases, viz. /r/-loss when preceeded by /a/ (restricted to the case of daar(-)). Where possible a comparison is given to data provided by Coetzee (1990).

  • daar/dar/[da]there: daar, daarin, daarmee, daarna, daarom, daarop, daarvan, daar is, daar kan, daar moet, daar was, daar word. (RAP = 0.32).

  • daar/dar/[da]there: daar, daardie, daaroor, daarby, daarnatoe, daar is, daar onder, daar op (die), daar sal, daar word. (RAP = 0.64).

The difference in RAP-indices is notable. It is quite likely that this disparity is ascribable to the different types of jargon, namely informal interviews versus more formal radio broadcasts.

In the next section the loss of /r/ in derivations is dealt with.

[+] Derivations

Here the focus is on one prefix only (ver-), as found in the RSG-readings. ver- is the most productive Afrikaans prefix compared to other such as her-, oer-, opper-, weer- (See Prefixation for more examples of prefixes ending on /r/).

Examples in which /r/-loss was noted in the RSG-readings include: verband, verbeter, verby, verdagte(s), verdeeldheid, verduistering, vergader, vergadering(s), verhoging, verjaarsdag, verkeer, verklaar, verklaring, verlede, vermeerder, verminder, vernietig, vervaardiger(s), verwyder. With some of these words (esp. verdagte(s), vergader and vergadering(s)) a high-percentage of cases were present. The degree of productivity of this phonological process is to be observed in the deletion of /r/ in the prefix -ver in verlede: in this case a RAP of 0.54 was found (N = 131).

Coetzee (1990) mentions verdraagsaam, vergader, vergewe, verhewe, verkry, veroorsaak, versigtig, vertaal, vertraag, vertrou, verwantskap.

Coetzee (1990) mentions the view of De Villiers & Ponelis (1987) that the phonetic context _de(r)(s)[_dərs] is notably conducive to /r/-deletion. One should add to their observation the fact that /r/ occurs here in syllable-final position (they cite words like beoordelaar(s), donkerder, duurder, eerder, huurder, lekkerder, prospekteerder, verloorder, woordvoerder). In a subset of RSG-recordings (N =89) a high RAP of 0.71 was found in the case of woordvoerder spokesperson and in compounds like bevelvoerder, burgemeesterswoordvoerder, hoofwoordvoerder, polisiewoordvoerder. Similarly, bestuurdermanager or driver and compounds including bestuurder in compounds like taxibestuurder, showed high levels of /r/-deletion (RAP = 0.79). Coetzee does not provide a RAP for instances of /r/-deletion in her investigation. The results provided here from the RSG-data nevertheless strongly support the assertion made by De Villiers and Ponelis (1987).

The ordinal eerste/erstə/ first constitutes a special case in which /r/ is frequently deleted, thus phonetically /iəstə/. Given that Coetzee (1990) does provide an RAP for this word, we are able to make a direct comparison with the RSG data.

Coetzee (1990) combines both eers and eerste (both first(ly) in her calculation, rendering a RAP index of 0.52. In the RSG-recordings a RAP of 0.56 was found, underscoring her findings.

The preposition virfor very frequently loses its word-final <r>, as in the following examples, noted in the productions of the RSG-readers: vir +: al, baie, die, drie, groei, honderd, hulle, kalmte, politieke, sy, twee, tydperke, verdediging, verdere, verskeie, vyf (RAP = 0.23). /r/ was deleted twelve times out of 22 instances of vir diefor the alone (RAP = 0.54). Coetzee (1990) reports a RAP of 0.14 for her cases with vir +. Comparing the /r/-deletion of a single speaker, as in the RSG case, to that of Coetzee could possibly be the cause of the higher RAP for the former. Figure 1 demonstrates the loss of [r] in the phrase vir die.

Figure 1: /r/-deletion in the phrase vir die, compared to two other realisations

[click image to enlarge]

[+] Anecdote

During a recent RSG program, Tale wat ons Praat, Rufus Gouws, a well-known Afrikaans lexicographer, dealt in an interview with the use of a dictionary ( i.e. a woordeboek/vordəbuk/). In the course of the first ten minutes of this interview he used the word woordeboek(e) 77 times, in isolation or as the first constituent of a number of compounds (e.g. woordeboekdidaktiekdidactics of dictionaries; woordeboekkultuurculture of dictionaries). In the first few instances, he pronounced the word woordeboek as [vuərdəbuk], thus in its full form, but thereafter very seldomly; a few times [vuərəbuk] surfaced, but for the rest of the inspected ten minutes only the form with /r/-deletion was heard (a RAP of 0.78). Of general interest here is the observation that as soon as the speaker was at ease with the situation of a radio interview, he departed from the full form of the word. Figure 2 displays his pronunciation of woordeboek with and without [r].

The word's frequency of usage in this context, and, in association with this, the familiarity of the word woordeboek to the lexicogographer-speaker contributed, without much doubt, to this state of affairs.

Furthermore, the data in this case indicates the supremacy of /r/-deletion over /d/-deletion. The latter surfaced only seldomly i.e. as ['vuərəbuk] . This could mean that /r/-deletion is a stronger phonological process than is /d/-deletion (see d-deletion for this phenomenon in Afrikaans).

Listen also to the the following example: . Ian: dit is in die folder C:\Users\10171347\Desktop\VivA_SVN\Afrikaans\Phonological Processes\RSG RUFUS GOUWS SE woordeboek 1 - 688 s: woorDeboek_woodeboek.wav.

Figure 2: Full form of woordeboek and the variation with /r/-deletion

[click image to enlarge]

[+] The weight of following segments

In her study, Coetzee (1990) provides the weights (i.e. RAPs) of the relative influence that segments following /r/ have on /r/-deletion . She nevertheless expresses some caution regarding the reliability of these statistics. These results have been reworked as Figure 3 below :

Figure 3: Rule Application Probabilities for /r/-deletion in different contexts; pauses and vowels are shown in other colours; consonants in blue. (N = 7195).

[click image to enlarge]

No such information was extracted for the RSG-data. These RAP indices are not in support of Clements' Sonority Strength Hierarchy (Clements, G. N. 1990), as is indeed the case with some other phonological processes - see Regressive voice assimilation.

  • Clements, George N1990The role of the sonority cycle in core syllabificationPapers in Laboratory Phonology1Cambridge University Press283-333
  • Coetzee, A.E1990r-Weglating: 'n tipe leksikale veranderlike.Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe3081-99
  • Coetzee, A.E1990r-Weglating: 'n tipe leksikale veranderlike.Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe3081-99
  • Combrink, J.G.H. & De Stadler, L.G1987Afrikaanse fonologie.Macmillan
  • De Villiers, M. & Ponelis, F.A1987Afrikaanse klankleer.Tafelberg
  • Klopper, R.M1981Die sosiale stratifisering van Kaapse Afrikaans.Bundels
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