Difference between Dutch and Flemish "G"

COF

Member
English - English
The Flemish and South Netherlands G sounds a lot softer than the standard Dutch G, but what is the actually difference? In standard Dutch, the "G" is quite a harsh, throaty sound, but how is it pronounced accurately in Southern Dutch? Is it simply a less harsh throat sound, or is it pronounced more like a standard english "H"?
 
  • Hitchhiker

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Most of the Dutch language books I've read say that there are two G sounds in Dutch depending on the position of the G in the words. In the Dutch language courses I took in Belgium, all of the Belgian teachers taught one G sound regardless of position. In general Belgian Dutch is "softer" but the G and the H sounds vary depending on region. The "standard" Belgian G I was taught in Dutch lessons was the soft G and only the soft G. I see on the internet that people from northern Netherlands find the Limburg G to be soft. If I remember correctly, the Limburg G was the hardest G in Belgium and people from there pronounce the H (where you can hear the H). In the middle of Belgium people tend to say H very softly or faintly, if at all, and G is fairly soft. On the coast of Belgium I think the H and G sounds are almost reversed with G sounding nearly like H and and H sounding very hard, almost like a Dutch G. (Note I may be remembering these regional sounds backwards but I think that's about right.) Years later I became more fluent in Afrikaans in Namibia than Dutch and in Afrikaans the G is always hard.
     

    Istriano

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    Dutch g is [X] ''Voiceless uvular fricative''
    Flemish g is [x]: goed [xut] ''Voiceless velar fricative'' (like Scottish loch)
    It is different than h.

    Only in West Flanders the letter g is pronounced as . But in the same region the letter h is silent, more often than not, when people speak a dialect or standard Dutch with a strong accent.
    So, letters g and h are never really confused in Flanders, there is no g [x] ~ h merger.
    a) G (in goed) or CH (in echt) are [x] (like Scottish loch)
    b) H is (English h): Hasselt

    There's a [x] ~ opposition, similar to German echt [x] ~ haben .

    Intervocalic g is pronounced like a soft g [ɣ] though, like in Spanish agua, amigo.
    You can hear initial [g] or [ɣ] in some loanwords that start with a letter G though.
     
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    HKK

    Senior Member
    Dutch/Belgium
    Some good things being said but you're not quite there yet. First, you have to consider the phenomenon of devocalization. As you know, a voiced consonant becomes unvoiced in Dutch if it's positioned before a voiceless consonant or at the end of an utterance:
    bedden [d]
    bed [t]

    This is the case in both Belgium and the Netherlands. What differs, however, is that all voices consonants that have voiceless counterparts get devocalized to some degree in the Netherlands. I can't say that this does not happen at all in Belgium but at the least, it is much less pronounced. You can see the influence of this devocalization in spelling: some Dutch people will spell "lucht" as "lugt" because there is never any difference in pronunciation between the two. This is quite different in Flanders; we still have a voiced /g/ (except in coda as seen above) and a voiceless /ch/. So:
    weg: Nl & Be: as if "wech".
    wegen: Nl as if "weeche", Be as if "weege".

    Now as for the realization of these sounds; I agree that in the Netherlands, they both become [X]. But the [x] that Istriano proposed for Be. /ch/ is a uvular fricative, meaning the tongue touches the soft palate. This not a /ch/ sound but more like a French r and would be understood as such in Flanders. I think the [ç] is a much better candidate: it is a palatal sound where tongue touches the hard palate, making for a less turbulent ("soft") sound. The voiced counterpart is written [ʝ] and Wikipedia agrees that it describes Belgian Dutch /g/.

    If you don't understand the IPA very well, I've got this little trick for you: let's write a gurgling throat sound, as if you're going to spit, as [X]. This is the "throatiest" fricative that most people can pronounce (yeah I'm an arabist :D). At the other end of the spectrum, you get /sh/, then /s/ then /th/. Try to say XXXshshsssththth in one long, slow, nasty-sounding syllable. You'll feel how the place where your tongue touches the roof of your mouth moves gradually forward from the throat [X] to the teeth /th/. Flemish /g/ and /ch/ are found somewhere between [X] and /sh/. The voiceless /ch/ sounds somewhat like you left the stove on and gas escapes. There should be no turbulent, gurgly sounds as in Dutch Dutch. As for the voiced version, well, it's just the same position of the tongue but with voice added. But [ʝ] is a very rare sound and somewhat difficult to produce, so if you get it down, people will shower you with compliments on your native pronunciation. Worth a try :)
     

    Istriano

    Senior Member
    Croatian
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I don't agree with the [ʝ] part.
    [ʝ] is how Y (and LL) are pronounced in Spanish (outside Argentina): se cayó, mayo, Mallorca, which is like a stronger [j] sound (from English yes).
    I haven't heard this sound in Dutch: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voiced_palatal_fricative
    [ʝ] is an allophone of [ɣ] in Flemish. You hear it e.g. here (by anonymous user).
    There's a [x] ~ opposition, similar to German echt [x] ~ haben .
    There is no [x] in echt.
     

    HKK

    Senior Member
    Dutch/Belgium
    Maybe it's not full-on palatal, but I'm quite certain that my tongue touches the hard palate, not the soft palate, when I realize both /g/ and /ch/. Backed palatal may be the best description. I really don't think velar covers it.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    It is not. [ʝ] is Spanish Y.

    According to Luciano Canepari (the professor of phonetics at University of Venice),
    in Belgian Dutch, [ʝ] is just an allophone of [j] after (n)t:

    http://venus.unive.it/canipa/pdf/HPh_17_Europe.pdf


    For example j in bent je is [ʝ].
    Again, what else should it be?:confused:

    Canepari transcribes the /ɣ/ allophone in contact with open to mid open front vowels as "h" with a cedilla. This is a non-standard diacritic and I don't know what he means. It seems to indicate palatalization.

    EDIT: Finally, I found his definition of the sign here on p.96. It is the unvoiced palatal approximant, i.e. the unvoiced counterpart of [j]. I don't agree with this description for the given sample. I perceive the sound as voiced and as HKK wrote, it is too constricted for an approximant. The characteristic of a palatal fricative is the hissing sound you would make when imitating the sound of air escaping out of a punctured tyre and I hear this characteristic.
     
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    Kabouterke

    Senior Member
    English - American
    The source of the confusion is that you are letting the spelling system influence your thinking and not listening to how the language is actually spoken. Thinking of the "soft g" (and corresponding ch-sounds) as one sound is just wrong. It actually covers four sounds. So, you are all right but you are also all wrong at the same time, except for Istriano who said [ʝ] is not used in Dutch. It's just a fact that [ʝ] is used, at times, in Dutch. As we will see below, not having [ʝ] would not only make some Dutch words difficult to pronounce, but it would also leave Southern Dutch and Flemish speakers sounding like they need speech therapy.


    In Dutch from the south of the Netherlands and in Flemish accents (that actually say the soft-g, that is), soft-g is pronounced with two points of articulation and two manners of articulation. Click on the link below to see the matrix I have made for this discussion:


    soft g.jpg


    Normally, they are all pronounced velar (that's the default, [ɣ] and [x] ), except in the following situations, where they are palatal:


    [ʝ] before front vowels: that is /i, e, ɛ, y, ø, œ/, the vowels in biet, beet, bed, vuur, deuk and put, respectively. Example: gieter hasʝ
    [ç] after front vowels (the above) if the "g" or "ch" are word final: ex. in gierig the final g is also palatal (but voiceless, because it's word final!)
    [ç] after front vowels if the "g" or "ch" are followed by another consonant. So: lichter is palatal, whereas sigaar is not, even though they are both preceded by an "i" (front vowel)

    Some accents of Flemish might say [ɣ] in some places where other accents (such as Limburgish or Dutch Brabantic) might use [ʝ]. However, this is, in general, how the soft-g is said in NL and BE.

    This also explains why the soft-g(s) are so hard for foreigners to learn... Whereas students learning a standard Dutch accent (as portrayed in modern media and most commonly from the Hollands/Utrecht) must learn one sound [X] that covers all g/ch sounds regardless of position, students of Flemish or Southern Dutch have to learn how to master, in essence, four distinct soft-g(s), phonetically speaking.

    Hope that helps.
     
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    Kabouterke

    Senior Member
    English - American
    It is not. [ʝ] is Spanish Y.

    According to Luciano Canepari (the professor of phonetics at University of Venice),
    in Belgian Dutch, [ʝ] is just an allophone of [j] after (n)t:

    http://venus.unive.it/canipa/pdf/HPh_17_Europe.pdf


    For example j in bent je is [ʝ].

    I've never heard of this silly Italian linguist is that Istriano cited, but it's not correct.

    No accent of Dutch uses [ʝ] when saying je bent je. There are number of ways to say the t+j combination in Dutch, but the [ʝ] isn't one of them. Most accents say [tʃ], although regional variation exists.

    [ʝ] doesn't even make sense with the t+j because the t is voiceless and the [ʝ] is voiced. In accents that do have a palatal fricative in that position, they would say [ç].

    Now, if Canepari had said that you use
    [ʝ] after Bent ge (as some youth in Antwerp say for Zijt gij) then we might be able to agree. :D
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Thinking of the "soft g" (and corresponding ch-sounds) as one sound is just wrong. It actually covers four sounds. So, you are all right but you are also all wrong at the same time
    ...
    [ʝ] before front vowels: that is /i, e, ɛ, y, ø, œ/, the vowels in biet, beet, bed, vuur, deuk and put, respectively. Example: gieter hasʝ
    I can't see where I said anything to the contrary. I said [ʝ] was an allophone of [ɣ] (#6).
     
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