How Are Ị and Ụ Pronounced in Central Goesharde Frisian?

Written by Dyami Millarson

When one reads a Central Goesharde Frisian text one will notice the ị and ụ with an underdot (◌̣). What is the phonetic value of the ị and ụ? That is to say, how are these vowels realised? The Central Goesharde Frisian texts make a three-way or four-way distinction in their spelling as follows: i, ị, ii, ī and u, ụ, uu. This indicates that the phonetic qualities of these three to four vowels is different.

Sagelterland Frisian is closer to Central Goesharde Frisian linguistically than Shire Frisian, and therefore we should take a look at the correspondences between Sagelterland Frisian and Central Goesharde Frisian especially, although we should also consider Shire Frisian.

I have noted before that Sagelterland Frisian is more closely related to the North Frisian languages and may therefore offer a gateway to the North Frisian languages. While we know that Sagelterland Frisian and Central Goesharde Frisian are closely related languages, the former can help us make sense of the latter, which is highly useful for making accurate deductions and inferences about the Central Goesharde Frisian language.

Nevertheless, correspondences with High German phonology should not be ignored either, since High German may inform us about the pronunciation of Central Goesharde Frisian. The pronunciation of Frisian as spoken in the Netherlands tends to be Dutch-coloured due to the fact that Frisian speakers in the Netherlands are generally fluent in Dutch already for generations and the pronunciation of Frisian as spoken in Germany tends to be German-coloured due to the fact that Frisian speakers in Germany are generally fluent in German already for generations. Therefore, there is some merit in speaking about a ‘Dutch Frisian’ and ‘German Frisian’, which have diverged based on national linguistic borders.

Here are a table which is comparing especially i-sound examples that are taken from the first page of the Central Goesharde Frisian texts found in Peter Grünberg’s Kindheits- und Jugenderinnerungen (literally translated: memories of childhood and youth):

Central Goesharde FrisianSagelterland FrisianShire FrisianHigh GermanEnglish translation
WịWieWyWirWe
HịHieHyNo matchHe
MịMieMyMichMe
Sin (no underdot)SinSynSeinHis
Dị (demonstrative pronoun)Die (definite article)Dy (demonstrative pronoun)Der (definite article and demonstrative pronoun)That
ỊnsInsen, eens IensEinsOnce (upon a time), in the past
SpååsịSpoasig (the suffix -ig contains a short lax vowel in Sagelterland Frisian)No match in Dutch Frisian languagesSpaßig (Central Goesharde Frisian suffix -i apparently corresponds in terms of vowel pronunciation with the High German suffix -ig containing a tense vowel)Fun, enjoyable
KịmenKemenKommenGekommen Come (past participle)
DịlsDeels (the fact that Central Goesharde Frisian ị matches with a long tense vowel in Sagelterland Frisian suggests that ị represents a tense vowel)DielsTeilsPartially
HunertföfdịHundertfieftig/-füüftig Hundertfünfzig
LịmstiineLiem (glue, yet limestone is Steenkoolk in Sagelterland Frisian)Lym (glue, yet limestone is kalkstien)Leim (glue, yet limestone is Kalkstein)Limestone
Blụt/blut (this word may apparently shift between a tense and lax stem vowel)Bloot (also used as an adjective meaning “naked”)Bleat (naked, not used as an adverb meaning “merely” in the Dutch Frisian languages)Bloß (also used as an adjective meaning “naked”)Merely
Central Goesharde Frisian belongs to the Northern branch of the Frisian language families, Sagelterland Frisian to the Eastern branch and Shire Frisian to the Western branch.

When one juxtaposes the Central Goesharde Frisian words containing ị and ụ, one will observe that the Central Goesharde Frisian ị and ụ generally correspond to Sagelterland Frisian ie and uu and Shire Frisian y/ie and û. While there exists a three-way or four-way system in Central Goesharde Frisian, there exists a three-way system in Sagelterland Frisian and a related four-way or two-way system in Shire Frisian:

  • Sagelterland Frisian ie and uu are short tense vowels distinguished from Sageterland Frisian i and u which are short lax vowels and Sagelterland Frisian íe and úu which are long tense vowels.
  • Shire Frisian y and û/oe are short tense vowels distinguished from Shire Frisian i and u which are short lax vowels and Shire Frisian ii and û/oe which are long tense vowels. Shire Frisian ie and û/oe are falling diphthongs. The long and short tense vowel and falling diphthong realisations of û/oe are spelled the same in Shire Frisian because the distinction is non-phonemic which means that û/oe and u phonemically only represent a two-way system, whereas the four-way distinction between i, y, ii and ie is phonemic in Shire Frisian.

There are also o, e and a with underdot in the Central Goesharde Frisian language. Based on what we know about the phonetic realisations of i and u, we may infer that o, e and a are pronounced as tense vowels.

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