Pronunciation of the letter "v"

Discussion in 'Nederlands (Dutch)' started by DerFrosch, Sep 3, 2013.

  1. DerFrosch

    DerFrosch Senior Member

    Hello all you Dutch speakers out there,

    I would like to ask a question that's been on my mind for a while: How is the letter v really pronounced? I've searched the web for an answer but can't find a pleasing one. What I've understood is that it's not crystal clear, and not that easy to answer. In some dialects it seems as if one pronounces it as [f], but [v] is officially the correct pronunciation, right?

    I hope that you can help clear up my confusion.
  2. triptonizer Senior Member

    Ghent - Belgium
    Nederlands - België
    Hello, I'll start off with how I think it is. [v] is officially the correct pronunciation. At the end of a word [v] is devoiced to [f], but then it's also written like that: duiven (doves) -> duif (dove). However, in the north (Amsterdam and beyond) the tendency is to devoice all voiced consonants, so duiven almost sounds like [dœyfə].
  3. DerFrosch

    DerFrosch Senior Member

    I see. And how's the situation in Flanders?

    I usually come across this question when I'm about to pronounce one of those surnames with the prefix van, Vincent van Gogh, Marco van Basten, Robin van Persie and so on. In Sweden people always pronounce it [fan], but I suspect they're just influenced by the German language. Or is the situation somewhow different in this case?
  4. Peterdg

    Peterdg Senior Member

    Dutch - Belgium
    Goto here. Choose "Dutch" and speaker Ellen. Fill in "van Gogh" or "van Basten" or "meneer van Gogh" and "meneer van Basten" to hear how we pronounce it in Flanders. I put "meneer" in the text to avoid having the "v" in the beginning of the speech: when they start with the "van", it is less clear how it is pronounced. (in my opinion).
  5. triptonizer Senior Member

    Ghent - Belgium
    Nederlands - België
    According to what I've said above 'Marco van Basten', 'Robin van Persie' can/should/will be pronounced [v], especially in Flanders.

    Vincent van Gogh is different, according to a rule I didn't mention in the previous post. Following a voiceless consonant (vincent) a voiced consonant (except b and d) will be devoiced: vincent fan (correct, standard pronunciation). Other example: advocaat (lawyer) is pronounced
  6. DerFrosch

    DerFrosch Senior Member

    OK, thank you for enlightening me!

    Peterdg, would you mind explain that a bit more?
  7. bibibiben

    bibibiben Senior Member

    Dutch - Netherlands
    Hi DerFrosch,

    I can imagine you sometimes feel a bit at a loss.

    The situation in Flanders is probably not that complicated, as [v] and [f] show a clear-cut voiced-unvoiced contrast.

    In large parts of the Netherlands there’s a very strong tendency to substitute a lenis-fortis contrast for the voiced-unvoiced contrast. As f will still be unvoiced, it can be rendered by good old [f]. Much more troublesome is v, as this sound is partially unvoiced in initial position. Even if initial v is fully unvoiced, it’s still pronounced with much less energy than [f]. In order to emphasize that a fortis-lenis contrast is at play, it may be useful to transcribe this sound as [f̬], a voiced or partially voiced [f]. You may as well use [v̥], an unvoiced or partially unvoiced [v], though.

    Unfortunately, this is not the full story. Unlike triptonizer claims, v will not be pronounced [f] in medial position*, but is very much close to a regular [v]. Duiven is pronounced [dœyvə], not [dœyfə].

    There’s more to come. Due to progressive assimilation, initial [v] will turn into a true [f] when preceded by unvoiced plosives or fricatives: half vier = [hɑlf fi:r]. You can see this type of progressive assimilation at work in Flanders as well. When preceded by voiced consonants or vowels, [f̬] (or [v̥]) will show up again: haar vier ringen = [ha:r f̬i:r rɪŋə]. Or [ha:r vi:r rɪŋə] in Flanders.

    To make matters worse, some native speakers will pronounce a hypercorrective [v] after unvoiced plosives or unvoiced fricatives. This substandard pronunciation is not to be imitated.

    In a nutshell:

    Netherlands Flanders
    initial vier [f̬ i:r] or [v̥ i:r] [vi:r]
    medial lieve [livə] [livə]
    assimilated ik viel [ɪk fil] [ɪk fil]
    non-assimilated u viel [y f̬ il] or [y v̥ il] [y vil]

    *To be more precise: mainly in derivations with certain vowel-inital suffixes. More details can be found here:
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2013

Share This Page