The voicing contrast of fricatives in regional varieties of Dutch
Saskia Mooijman
(University of Amsterdam)
Friday (April 21st), 14:15-15:15 (Poster presentation round)
'Café Noord' (
Matthias de Vrieshof coffee room)

The voicing contrast of fricatives assigns meaning in Dutch. Nevertheless, it is a disappearing phonological contrast. Previous studies show that the tendency to devoice word-initial fricatives is strongest in the north, advanced in the west, and weak in the south of the Netherlands. The voicing contrast of intervocalic fricatives is either not investigated, or said to be maintained. Furthermore, the existing literature studying this sound change focuses on how adult speakers of Dutch realize fricatives. The present study explores the effects of regional varieties on the realization of fricatives by children, in both word-initial and intervocalic position. Two groups of children with Dutch as their native language (North; Groningen, N=18, South: Limburg, N=20) participated in a picture naming task eliciting nouns with the relevant fricatives. All realizations of the target phonemes were segmented and analyzed for pitch, noise, and duration. Overall, the results show that children from Groningen as well as Limburg devoice their word-initial fricatives in many instances. However, children from Groningen were found to devoice their initial fricatives significantly more often. Voiced fricatives are regularly realized without pitch in intervocalic position, though children in Groningen devoice their intervocalic fricatives more often than children in Limburg. The results indicate an advanced sound change, demonstrated by the presence of devoicing in both regions, as well as the devoiced realization of intervocalic fricatives. The ubiquity of devoiced fricatives in both initial- and intervocalic position raises question about the status of this phonological contrast in Dutch.