s/z in Dutch

Hello all,

I watched an online TV in Dutch and I, surprisingly, noticed that the Dutch reporters pronounce "s" almost like "sh", thus "Amsterdam" becomes "Amshterdam" a bit like some Irish accents or the Castillian Spanish, the s is so palatalised (I don't know if this is the word, though). They also pronounce "z" like "zh" or "j" ("j" like in French/Portuguese) so "zal" sounds a bit like "jal" :eek:. Overall, this kind of Pronunciation reminds me of Portuguese pronunciation.
Is it just me?
 
  • Lopes

    Senior Member
    Dutch (Amsterdam)
    Ehm, yes, I think it is just you... I wouldn't know where they would speak like this. Any idea what kind of program it was?
     
    Ehm, yes, I think it is just you... I wouldn't know where they would speak like this. Any idea what kind of program it was?
    Hi,
    Thanks for the answer,
    but I think, native speakers may not be aware of that since they speak it automatically, but it is a sound "between" s and sh, not exactly "sh", just like in English, when we say "street", it kind of sounds like "shtreet", the Dutch use this sh in shtreet very much when they speak Dutch.:confused:

    Oh the programme, it is an online channel called AT5.

    So, apart from "sj" there is no "sh" sound in Dutch like German "sch" ?
    ( for instance, German "sch" is totally different than its "z" or "...s" so, I can hear that Germans make a distinction between "sh" and "s" ).

    I need a non native speaker to agree with me!!;)
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Read S and sh. Dutch "sh" is arguably a loan sound, so that "s" probably "steals" some phonetic room from it, and becomes kind of "intermediate".
     
    Read S and sh. Dutch "sh" is arguably a loan sound, so that "s" probably "steals" some phonetic room from it, and becomes kind of "intermediate".
    Thank you very much, Outsider, everything I have suspected is in this article. But now I am really surprised that Dutch does not have a distinct "sh" sound :eek:, I have also made some googling and found two very interesting articles on this.

    I quote from the first one:

    " This type of variation, at the end of words, where the final -s is followed by an interval, has not yet received enough attention and is not described in the handbooks.

    With many native speakers of Dutch we can observe (if we are speakers of a language in which /s/ and /š/ are distinct phonemes), that they pronounce [s] like /sh/, withoutbeing influenced by any phonetic context whatsoever. E.g. bos [-S#] ‘wood’, huis [-S#]‘house’, vos [-S#] ‘fox’, tas [-S#] ‘bag’ etc.

    Our experimental investigations in a laterstage must prove whether the phonetic context, i.e. if before the final -s a consonantor a vowel is placed, can influence assimilation."


    I quote from the second one :​

    "Dutch has no dental fricatives and the voicing contrast is often lost.

    Dutch speakers of English have a tendency to replace /D/ by its stop counterpart.
    In the last confusion cluster, the voiced alveolar fricative /z/ is confused with the palatal fricatives /Z/ and /S/.
    It has been observed before that the Dutch alveolar fricatives lack the characteristic high-frequency noise components of English /s/ and /z/"

    I hope they shall be of use for those who want to learn Dutch.
     

    Lopes

    Senior Member
    Dutch (Amsterdam)
    Okay, AT5 is the local channel of Amsterdam, and some people with a grave Amsterdam accent pronounce s and z like 'sj', (with a slight accent, both s and z are pronounced as a s) but I think that's only before a vocal. with words like Amsterdam and straat I honestly don't think it's pronounced even the slightest bit like "Amsjterdam" or "sjtraat". Same for "huis" or "vos"..
     

    floridasnowbird

    Senior Member
    Germany German
    Okay, AT5 is the local channel of Amsterdam, and some people with a grave Amsterdam accent pronounce s and z like 'sj', (with a slight accent, both s and z are pronounced as a s) but I think that's only before a vocal. with words like Amsterdam and straat I honestly don't think it's pronounced even the slightest bit like "Amsjterdam" or "sjtraat". Same for "huis" or "vos"..
    But it's a fact that the pronunciation of the Dutch "s" is different from the English and German way to pronounce it. "Huis" and "vos" are good examples for the sound of the Dutch "s" which is not being pronounced so close to the speaker's front teeth as the German "s" is. And for that reason it does very slightly sound like sh (in Engl.) or sch (in German). As I said, very slightly.
     

    Suehil

    Medemod
    British English
    I'm not a native, but I've lived in the Netherlands for thirty years. I agree with Lopes, the Amsterdam way of pronouncing the 's' and 'z', without actually being 'sh' and 'zh', certainly comes close.
    In general, the Dutch 's' is very sharp - sometimes even sharper than the English sound.
    One more thing - very often, in diminutives like 'huisje', 'beestje', enz. the 'sh' is definitely there.
     

    floridasnowbird

    Senior Member
    Germany German
    I'm not a native, but I've lived in the Netherlands for thirty years. I agree with Lopes, the Amsterdam way of pronouncing the 's' and 'z', without actually being 'sh' and 'zh', certainly comes close.
    In general, the Dutch 's' is very sharp - sometimes even sharper than the English sound.
    One more thing - very often, in diminutives like 'huisje', 'beestje', enz. the 'sh' is definitely there.
    I was not talking about "huisje", "beestje", "als je ...", "hij kust je" (en dergelijke) and that kind of things. I was not talking about "assimilation", either. "Ik lees (pronounced as an "s") het boek", maar "ik lees (pronounced as a "z") dit boek". I only said that the pronunciation of a Dutch "s" in general sounds very slightly like "sch" in German, very slightly.
     

    Joannes

    Senior Member
    Belgian Dutch
    I think this is an excellent observation by avok.

    (From a Belgian's point of view so undoubtedly overgeneralizing; it may very well be a more regionally restricted thing: ) The Dutch tend to pronounce their /s/s (and /z/s if they still distinguish them at all) slightly more to the back. I think you couldn't have picked a better word than "palatalised", avok. And I can't tell about Irish but your comparison with Castilian /s/ would be exactly the same I would make. Because it certainly isn't a true /š/ sound!

    I once mentioned this difference in pronunciation - as a 'by the way' - in the forums here. It's funny to notice that it also concerned the pronunciation of Amsterdam, which was also avok's example. I had no idea whether this pronunciation was bound to specific phonetic contexts, and - despite avok's links - I still can't tell.

    As you can tell from some reactions, speakers are not quite aware of this difference in pronunciation. :) (The only reason I hear the difference, is probably because we don't pronounce it (as much) like that in Belgium.) You could connect this to the fact that /š/ is not a true Dutch phoneme, as Outsider mentioned.

    It could very well be the case that Dutch /s/ (the Belgian one too) is slightly more palatalised than German /s/ (although I have my doubts with the comparison to English), which could again be connected to the idea that German has to keep a clear contrast between /s/ and /š/, while Dutch doesn't really need to.

    "ik lees (pronounced as a "z") dit boek"
    This assimilation wouldn't work for most northern varieties.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Not to criticize anyone here, but the word "palatalized" is often misapplied. The Castilian "s" is more properly an apical consonant, as opposed to say the Italian or the English "s", which are laminal. This is a minor difference of which native speakers are often not aware, of course, though it stands out to outsiders, who find that the apical "s" sounds close to a "sh".
     

    optimistique

    Senior Member
    Hello all,

    I watched an online TV in Dutch and I, surprisingly, noticed that the Dutch reporters pronounce "s" almost like "sh", thus "Amsterdam" becomes "Amshterdam" a bit like some Irish accents or the Castillian Spanish, the s is so palatalised (I don't know if this is the word, though). They also pronounce "z" like "zh" or "j" ("j" like in French/Portuguese) so "zal" sounds a bit like "jal" :eek:. Overall, this kind of Pronunciation reminds me of Portuguese pronunciation.
    Is it just me?
    I also can confirm it's true! I am Dutch but from the southern province of Limburg and the way I pronounce my /s/ is certainly different from a /s/ from Amsterdam. The phenomenon you noticed is typical for people from the west of the country (Holland), I have noticed myself too! They indeed make their /s/ very dark, very back in their mouth. I think most Dutch don't use that /s/, but an /s/ that is a bit further back than a German or French one, but not that far that it starts to sound a bit like a 'sh'. Most people who appear on television however come from the region of Amsterdam, and generally their /s/ is even further back than most Dutch people's /s/, although apparently, they don't seem to be aware of this.;)
     

    Lopes

    Senior Member
    Dutch (Amsterdam)
    "Ik lees (pronounced as an "s") het boek", maar "ik lees (pronounced as a "z") dit boek"
    Like Joannes said, where I come from this certainly isn't the case.

    Most people who appear on television however come from the region of Amsterdam, and generally their /s/ is even further back than most Dutch people's /s/, although apparently, they don't seem to be aware of this.;)
    Apparently not..
    I guess not, but does anyone maybe have a specific example of this for me to hear? When I say Amsterdam or straat to myself, I don't hear anything close to a "sh"..
    Guess I'll just have to believe you (or call this a conspiracy! :p)
     

    floridasnowbird

    Senior Member
    Germany German
    Like Joannes said, where I come from this certainly isn't the case.
    In my opinion, this is a typical example of "regressive assimilation" in the Dutch language. Could you give me an idea when and in what cases you do use the rules of "regressive / progressive" assimilation?

    What about: Ik heb [p] gezegd vs ik heb dat gehoord ? Ik heb bij jou gestaan.
     

    Lopes

    Senior Member
    Dutch (Amsterdam)
    In my opinion, this is a typical example of "regressive assimilation" in the Dutch language. Could you give me an idea when and in what cases you do use the rules of "regressive / progressive" assimilation?

    What about: Ik heb [p] gezegd vs ik heb dat gehoord ?


    In Amsterdam we allmost allways pronounce the "z" as an "s", so it was an unlucky example. The last one we do use.
    (Let me say I hardly know linguistics, so terms like regressive assimilation don't mean a lot to me)
     

    Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi everybody
    The last thing we have to worry about is whether or not the WR web server can handle the amount of threads. We have good news: It can :).
    So please, create a new thread for each topic.
    Otherwise said: One thread, one topic.

    I moved the posts about assimilation in Dutch to this new thread. A discussion about this incredibly interesting topic shouldn't be hidden in a thread about s/z in (Amsterdam?) Dutch.

    Groetjes,

    Frank
    Moderator DF
     
    I was not talking about "huisje", "beestje", "als je ...", "hij kust je" (en dergelijke) and that kind of things. I was not talking about "assimilation", either. "Ik lees (pronounced as an "s") het boek", maar "ik lees (pronounced as a "z") dit boek". I only said that the pronunciation of a Dutch "s" in general sounds very slightly like "sch" in German, very slightly.
    Hi Floridasnowbirdje, :) Thanks for your answer, that's exactly what I was trying to say.

    I think this is an excellent observation by avok.

    (From a Belgian's point of view so undoubtedly overgeneralizing; it may very well be a more regionally restricted thing: ) The Dutch tend to pronounce their /s/s (and /z/s if they still distinguish them at all) slightly more to the back........I once mentioned this difference in pronunciation - as a 'by the way' - in the forums here. It's funny to notice that it also concerned the pronunciation of Amsterdam, which was also avok's example. I had no idea whether this pronunciation was bound to specific phonetic contexts, and - despite avok's links - I still can't tell.
    Hi Joannes, thanks for your excellent answer and compliments :) I read your "by the way" remark too. It is good to know .



    Not to criticize anyone here, but the word "palatalized" is often misapplied. The Castilian "s" is more properly an apical consonant, as opposed to say the Italian or the English "s", which are laminal. This is a minor difference of which native speakers are often not aware, of course, though it stands out to outsiders, who find that the apical "s" sounds close to a "sh".
    Thanks, Outsider, I am thinking of starting a thread about the Castillian s too, but I do not know how to describe it : )

    I also can confirm it's true! I am Dutch but from the southern province of Limburg and the way I pronounce my /s/ is certainly different from a /s/ from Amsterdam. The phenomenon you noticed is typical for people from the west of the country (Holland), I have noticed myself too! ....Most people who appear on television however come from the region of Amsterdam, and generally their /s/ is even further back than most Dutch people's /s/, although apparently, they don't seem to be aware of this.;)
    Thanks optimistique, yes, they don't seem to be aware, now I wonder if they use the same kind of "s" when they speak English ?
     

    Joannes

    Senior Member
    Belgian Dutch
    Not to criticize anyone here, but the word "palatalized" is often misapplied. The Castilian "s" is more properly an apical consonant, as opposed to say the Italian or the English "s", which are laminal. This is a minor difference of which native speakers are often not aware, of course, though it stands out to outsiders, who find that the apical "s" sounds close to a "sh".
    Well, I had never heard about these words and I had to look up their meanings :) (although I figured apical would have something to do with the apex :rolleyes:), but I will certainly be using them from now on, because I think this might well be the difference we're looking at!

    (So actually you could have picked a better word than "palatalised", avok, sorry. ;))
     
    I guess not, but does anyone maybe have a specific example of this for me to hear? When I say Amsterdam or straat to myself, I don't hear anything close to a "sh"..
    Guess I'll just have to believe you (or call this a conspiracy! :p)
    Hi Lopes, I found an example for you to listen about this "s" in Dutch ! Just click here and listen to "Boet". He says something like "standard" ( the very first word) and it sounds like "shtandard"
     

    Lopes

    Senior Member
    Dutch (Amsterdam)
    Thanks avok.

    I think I understand now what you mean, but I'd say it sounds only very very very (repeat very for another 7 times) slightly like "shtandard"..
     

    Jeedade

    Member
    Dutch, the Netherlands
    Isn’t the problem here just the audio quality of the examples?
    Avok in his first post talks about online video (i.e. digitally compressed audio), the same goes for the ”Boet” example (it is also the very beginning of the sound sample, it sounds cut off, later on he says “meest” which sounds normal to my ears).
    In my experience, with digitally compressed audio the first thing that suffers are the “s”, “z”, “f”, “v” type sounds. The compression algorithms just don’t cope well with these.
     

    Joannes

    Senior Member
    Belgian Dutch
    Boet's pronunciations of standaard, meest and beste are peculiar to my ears, in the sense described above. (But note it's a /st/ cluster every time - might have something to do with it.)
     

    optimistique

    Senior Member
    Isn’t the problem here just the audio quality of the examples?
    No definitely not! This sound file was quite representative for Dutch you can hear on commercials on radio and television. I understand that it may not seem convincing evidence for the 's' in standard could be deformed since the sound file has been cut right before the sound, but it has not. This is definitely the /s/ concerned in this thread.
     
    Isn’t the problem here just the audio quality of the examples?
    Avok in his first post talks about online video (i.e. digitally compressed audio), the same goes for the ”Boet” example (it is also the very beginning of the sound sample, it sounds cut off, later on he says “meest” which sounds normal to my ears).
    Hi Jeedade I don't think so...If it were the case, then all the "s"s would be like "sh" on online videos but it is not so.

    Boet's pronunciations of standaard, meest and beste are peculiar to my ears, in the sense described above. (But note it's a /st/ cluster every time - might have something to do with it.)
    Joannes I think, it is just a coincidence. Yesterday I watched a commercial in Dutch on TV, and the speaker pronounced "special" like "shpeshial"

    No definitely not! This sound file was quite representative for Dutch you can hear on commercials on radio and television. I understand that it may not seem convincing evidence for the 's' in standard could be deformed since the sound file has been cut right before the sound, but it has not. This is definitely the /s/ concerned in this thread.
    I agree, optimistique.

    Hey, if you are still interested, you can go the same link, this time listen to "Mick". His "s" not like "sh". Now I am sure, he is not from Amsterdam and yes, he pronounces "Amsterdam" with a clear "s".

    Then, listen to Zeno and his "s"s mean that he must be from Amsterdam !! And yes, as optimistique said, this is the Dutch used in commercials on TV etc..
     

    HKK

    Senior Member
    Dutch/Belgium
    Hey, if you are still interested, you can go the same link, this time listen to "Mick". His "s" not like "sh". Now I am sure, he is not from Amsterdam and yes, he pronounces "Amsterdam" with a clear "s".
    I think the other Flemish boarders will agree that our S is even clearer than Mick's :)
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I have noticed the Castilian s and the Dutch s too, but I am still wondering if they are the same sound. If they are the same, is it a coincidence?
    Just to be clear about the sound I mean, although I don't know exactly what it is phonetically, I am referring to the distinctive s sound used in Castille that contrasts with the s (and x) sounds of neighboring languages. It is not used in most of the rest of the Castillian-speaking world today, but is more likely in places where Spanish z is pronounced interdentally. I have read that at one time it was voiced in casa but not in pasa back when c/z was pronounced (t)s/(d)z.

    Is the Dutch s sound (again, not the sound in huisje but the sound in huis) the same sound? If so, did one of these languages "borrow" the sound from the other, or is it just a coincidence?
     

    Joannes

    Senior Member
    Belgian Dutch
    If so, did one of these languages "borrow" the sound from the other, or is it just a coincidence?
    Leaving alone whether it is really the same pronunciation, I think it is very unlikely that the languages influenced each other. We wouldn't be able to verify it anyway; I don't know about Castilian /s/, but (the evolution of) the pronunciation of (Northern) Dutch /s/ is not well described. And seen the minor difference from 'regular' /s/ (so minor that you wouldn't need another grapheme - which is obviously important in diachronic phonetics research if you don't have audio materials, but also so minor that people now barely notice the difference), that's not really a curious thing.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Just to be clear about the sound I mean, although I don't know exactly what it is phonetically, I am referring to the distinctive s sound used in Castille that contrasts with the s (and x) sounds of neighboring languages. It is not used in most of the rest of the Castillian-speaking world today, but is more likely in places where Spanish z is pronounced interdentally.
    Yes, that's the apico-alveolar "s". I don't know about the Dutch one.

    I have read that at one time it was voiced in casa but not in pasa back when c/z was pronounced (t)s/(d)z.
    Correct.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Leaving alone whether it is really the same pronunciation, I think it is very unlikely that the languages influenced each other. We wouldn't be able to verify it anyway; I don't know about Castilian /s/, but (the evolution of) the pronunciation of (Northern) Dutch /s/ is not well described. And seen the minor difference from 'regular' /s/ (so minor that you wouldn't need another grapheme - which is obviously important in diachronic phonetics research if you don't have audio materials, but also so minor that people now barely notice the difference), that's not really a curious thing.
    Native speakers of Dutch are used to equating the two s sounds, but it confuses foreigners like us English speakers to whom the usual Dutch s sounds more like sh than like s. If Dutch s were more similar to English s, we could more easily discern the difference between it and Dutch sj.

    In actual fact it is not an sh sound in manner of articulation, but is so clearly not our s sound that we "hear" it as sh. It is also a problem for Dutch speakers communicating in English and being misunderstood when they say what "sounds like" "shit" for "sit" or "show" for "sew", etc.
     
    Native speakers of Dutch are used to equating the two s sounds, but it confuses foreigners like us English speakers to whom the usual Dutch s sounds more like sh than like s. If Dutch s were more similar to English s, we could more easily discern the difference between it and Dutch sj.

    Hi Forero, but the Dutch and the speakers of some other languages don't need to make a distinction between /s/ and /sh/, in any case they will understand you. Even if you say "huish" instead of "huis", they will understand that you mean "huis" because they don't have two different words as "huis" and "huish".

    In actual fact it is not an sh sound in manner of articulation, but is so clearly not our s sound that we "hear" it as sh.

    Yes but the Dutch are not fully aware of that :)

    It is also a problem for Dutch speakers communicating in English and being misunderstood when they say what "sounds like" "shit" for "sit" or "show" for "sew", etc.

    Yes, as there "is" a difference that should be kept between "s" and "sh"in English, if a non-native speaker pronounces "sit" (or any other word that has "s" in it) with a "sh" that would cause problems :)

    I guess, the only time when the merger of "s" and "sh" in Dutch would cause a real problem is that if a borrowed word that has "sj" sound is involved.
    ........Is the Dutch s sound (again, not the sound in huisje but the sound in huis) the same sound? If so, did one of these languages "borrow" the sound from the other, or is it just a coincidence?

    We can say that, in the languages which have no distinction between "s" and "sh" ( or which have only one sound "s" or "sh" ?) like Dutch and Castillian Spanish, the "s"s sound like "sh" (or between "s" and "sh" ) to the native speakers of a language which has a clear distinction between "s" and "sh" (where the merger of "s" and "sh" would cause problems)

    Both Castillian Spanish and Dutch have no "sh/sj", so "sometimes" their "s"s sound like "sh" or between "s" and "sh" to "us". So for this very reason, I don't think one of these languages borrowed this "s" sound from the other.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Yes, that's the apico-alveolar "s". I don't know about the Dutch one.

    Correct.
    Spanish speakers from Madrid have the same issue in AE as Dutch speakers from Amsterdam: they don't distinguish the apico-alveolar "s" from our "s", but when they use it in our words, we think we hear "sh".

    Do you know if Spaniards that use the apico-alveolar "s" have the same issue when they learn the neighboring languages that have "sh" ("x" in Basque, Portuguese, Gallego, Catalán)?

    I am afraid I don't know much European history, but wasn't there some kind of common government that brought Spanish and Dutch into close contact at one time? I am curious when the Dutch "s" became distinct from the French, English, and German "s", while remaining always distinct from French "ch", English "sh", and German "sch".

    It's another topic, but Dutch and Castillian Spanish both have a curious way to pronounce "ge" that sounds the same to me and is not like any of their neighbors' "ge" sounds.
     

    Talib

    Senior Member
    English
    Not to criticize anyone here, but the word "palatalized" is often misapplied. The Castilian "s" is more properly an apical consonant, as opposed to say the Italian or the English "s", which are laminal. This is a minor difference of which native speakers are often not aware, of course, though it stands out to outsiders, who find that the apical "s" sounds close to a "sh".
    English /s/ (and /z/ I'm assuming too) are laminal? Are you sure? I thought they were definitely apical.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    English /s/ (and /z/ I'm assuming too) are laminal? Are you sure? I thought they were definitely apical.
    They are not laminal like the Basque laminal sibilant, but - what would you call the Castillian or Dutch "s" that distinguishes it from both English "s" and English "sh"? Is either the Castillian or the Dutch "s" sound retroflex?
     

    Talib

    Senior Member
    English
    They are not laminal like the Basque laminal sibilant, but - what would you call the Castillian or Dutch "s" that distinguishes it from both English "s" and English "sh"? Is either the Castillian or the Dutch "s" sound retroflex?
    Retroflex? Not in the proper sense of the term. You mean like [ʂ], as in Slavic languages? It doesn't sound anything like that to me.

    I'm not sure what differentiates Castillian and Dutch /s/ from that of English; in fact, I must admit I've never noticed a difference at all. But I have also not heard much of either language.

    Regardless, I'm positive the English /s/ and /z/ are apical. From Wikipedia:

    Comparing languages, however, such as French and English, we find that French coronals are laminal (often mistakenly called "dental") while English coronals are apical.
    The difference between French and English coronals is well-known.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I am sure the Castillian and Dutch "s" sound(s) are something other than laminal and that they are different from English "s" and "sh". I believe they are not even between English "s" and "sh" but different in some other dimension. I have heard them both referred to as "whistling" sounds, "retroflex", and now "apico-alveolar".

    I think the two (distinctive Castillian and distinctive Dutch "s" sounds) may be the same sound, but I still don't really know.

    I have heard that a similar sound exists in Gallego and I have heard a similar sound from some speakers of modern Greek, but I am curious how a Castillian/Greek/Gallego sound could have gotten into Dutch.
     

    Talib

    Senior Member
    English
    I am sure the Castillian and Dutch "s" sound(s) are something other than laminal and that they are different from English "s" and "sh". I believe they are not even between English "s" and "sh" but different in some other dimension. I have heard them both referred to as "whistling" sounds, "retroflex", and now "apico-alveolar".

    I think the two (distinctive Castillian and distinctive Dutch "s" sounds) may be the same sound, but I still don't really know.

    I have heard that a similar sound exists in Gallego and I have heard a similar sound from some speakers of modern Greek, but I am curious how a Castillian/Greek/Gallego sound could have gotten into Dutch.
    I believe that you are talking about the apico-alveolar fricative, then. These are apical, like in English, but made with the very tip (apex) of the tongue. That's whence they derive their whistling quality.

    The voiceless apicoalveolar fricative,[s̺], is a fricative which is articulated with the tip of the tongue (apex) against the alveolar ridge. It is the sibilant found in dialects of central and northern Portuguese, Galician, several dialects of European Spanish, Antioqueño Spanish, Catalan, Gascon, Languedocien Occitan, Modern Greek, and Basque. Often to speakers of languages or dialects which do not have an apico-alveolar fricative, they are said to have a "whistling" quality.
    Mystery solved, if you ask me.

    As to how Dutch has an /s/ of this particular quality, I would tentatively postulate it's a development common to Indo-European languages. Or maybe it's an areal feature - you'll notice most of the languages that have this type of /s/ tend to be in the general area of the Iberian peninsula.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    English /s/ (and /z/ I'm assuming too) are laminal? Are you sure? I thought they were definitely apical.
    Well, to be honest what Portuguese and Spanish linguists contrast is the apicoalveolar "s" of northern Iberia with a "predorsodental" "s" of southern Iberia, but this doesn't seem to be a standard term in IPA. I thought it meant the same as laminal, but perhaps I'm mistaken...

    I am afraid I don't know much European history, but wasn't there some kind of common government that brought Spanish and Dutch into close contact at one time?
    Under Charles V, yes. But I would be skeptical of such neat correspondence between political events and linguistic developments. It seems much more likely to me that the existence of an apicoalveolar "s" in Dutch is explained simply by the fact that this languages has historically lacked a "sh" phoneme. This must have given the tongue more space to move around in the mouth, allowing it to assume an "intermediate" position between the back of the teeth (as in the predorsodental "s" of English, French, etc.) and the palate (as in "sh"). This would be my explanation for the Greek apicoalveolar "s", too.
    As for the presence of the apicoalveolar "s" in northern Iberia, it could be due to a pre-Roman substratum, since this feature is also present in Basque, and, as noted, medieval Iberian Romance, and Basque, do have a "sh" phoneme as well.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Well, to be honest what Portuguese and Spanish linguists contrast is the apicoalveolar "s" of northern Iberia with a "predorsodental" "s" of southern Iberia, but this doesn't seem to be a standard term in IPA. I thought it meant the same as laminal, but perhaps I'm mistaken...

    To me, predorsodental refers to the northern Castillian "z" sound (similar to Greek theta, English th, but a little different). This sound does not exist in Basque or Dutch.

    Under Charles V, yes. But I would be skeptical of such neat correspondence between political events and linguistic developments. It seems much more likely to me that the existence of an apicoalveolar "s" in Dutch is explained simply by the fact that this languages has historically lacked a "sh" phoneme. This must have given the tongue more space to move around in the mouth, allowing it to assume an "intermediate" position between the back of the teeth (as in the predorsodental "s" of English, French, etc.) and the palate (as in "sh"). This would be my explanation for the Greek apicoalveolar "s", too.
    As for the presence of the apicoalveolar "s" in northern Iberia, it could be due to a pre-Roman substratum, since this feature is also present in Basque, and, as noted, medieval Iberian Romance, and Basque, do have a "sh" phoneme as well.
    If Basque really does have the same "whistling s", that would explain why it is not on the continuum between English "s" and "sh".
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I believe that you are talking about the apico-alveolar fricative, then. These are apical, like in English, but made with the very tip (apex) of the tongue. That's whence they derive their whistling quality.
    The voiceless apicoalveolar fricative,[s̺], is a fricative which is articulated with the tip of the tongue (apex) against the alveolar ridge. It is the sibilant found in dialects of central and northern Portuguese, Galician, several dialects of European Spanish, Antioqueño Spanish, Catalan, Gascon, Languedocien Occitan, Modern Greek, and Basque. Often to speakers of languages or dialects which do not have an apico-alveolar fricative, they are said to have a "whistling" quality.
    Mystery solved, if you ask me.

    I would expect to see (Amsterdam) Dutch in this list, if the Dutch "s" we're talking about really is the same sound. :(

    I have heard what I think is the non-English-like Dutch "s" sound very strongly in the English and Afrikaans of (some) South Africans.


    As to how Dutch has an /s/ of this particular quality, I would tentatively postulate it's a development common to Indo-European languages. Or maybe it's an areal feature - you'll notice most of the languages that have this type of /s/ tend to be in the general area of the Iberian peninsula.
    I have read somewhere that the Castillian "s", whatever the correct phonetics term is, came from Latin and PIE. :confused:
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    To me, predorsodental refers to the northern Castillian "z" sound (similar to Greek theta, English th, but a little different). This sound does not exist in Basque or Dutch.
    In Wikipedia it's classified simply as "dental"...

    I have read somewhere that the Castillian "s", whatever the correct phonetics term is, came from Latin and PIE.
    I've heard that, too, but it always seemed a bit dubious to me, considering that the majority of the Romance languages do not have this sound.
     

    Talib

    Senior Member
    English
    So far I lean towards the idea that this /s/ phoneme (voiceless apico-alveolar fricative) is an areal feature; i.e. it originated in a certain part of Europe and spread, like the uvular R which spread from French to German, Danish, etc.
     

    Joannes

    Senior Member
    Belgian Dutch
    So far I lean towards the idea that this /s/ phoneme (voiceless apico-alveolar fricative) is an areal feature; i.e. it originated in a certain part of Europe and spread, like the uvular R which spread from French to German, Danish, etc.
    Seen its diffusion (if it is in fact the same sound, of which I'm still not fully convinced), don't you think that's a rather strong hypothesis?

    I would think these were polygenetic evolutions, without much interlingual influences.
     

    Talib

    Senior Member
    English
    Seen its diffusion (if it is in fact the same sound, of which I'm still not fully convinced), don't you think that's a rather strong hypothesis?

    I would think these were polygenetic evolutions, without much interlingual influences.
    Hard to say. It could simply be a combination of both.

    But I do notice that this phone is found mainly in western Europe, in languages which would have contact with one another.
     
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