Faroese phonology

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The phonology of Faroese has an inventory similar to the closely related Icelandic language, but markedly different processes differentiate the two. Similarities include an aspiration contrast in stop consonants, the retention of front rounded vowels and vowel quality changes instead of vowel length distinctions.

Vowels[edit]

Monophthongs of Faroese, based on formant values in Peterson (2000), cited in Árnason (2011:76)
Faroese vowels
Front Central Back
unrounded rounded
short long short long short long short long
Close ɪ ʏ () ʊ
Mid ɛ œ øː ɔ
Open a ()
  • /yː/ and /aː/ appear only in loanwords.[1]
  • The long mid vowels /eː, øː, oː/ tend to be diphthongized to [eɛː ~ eəː, øœː ~ øəː, oɔː ~ oəː].[1]
  • According to the mean formant values of the native vowels (so excluding /yː/ and /aː/) in Peterson (2000), cited in Árnason (2011:76):
    • /ɪ, ʏ, ʊ/ are more open than the corresponding tense vowels, with /ɪ/ being the most open of the three ([ɪ̞]) and having the same F1 value as the back /oː/. The F2 value of /ʏ/ is closer to that of /ɪ/, which means that it is a front vowel.
    • /øː/ and especially /eː/ are more open than the phonetically close-mid /oː/ ([], often diphthongized to [oɔː ~ oəː]). Both /øː/ and /eː/ are more open than the corresponding short vowels; in addition, /øː/ is more central than any of the mid front vowels, including /œ/, whereas /eː/ is the most front of the mid vowels. This suggests that they are best transcribed [ɞː] and [ɛː] in narrow transcription, at least in the case of the monophthongal variants (Árnason reports opening diphthongs [øœː] and [eɛː] as one common type of realization of /øː/ and /eː/. Those diphthongs have considerably more close starting points).
    • The F1 value of /a/ is just slightly higher than that of /eː/, suggesting that it is a near-open vowel. In addition, its F2 value is closer to /ɔ/ than /œ/, which suggests that it is a near-open near-back vowel [ɑ̽].
    • /œ/ is considerably more close than /a/ but not as close as /oː/. It is more front than /øː/, which suggests that it is a mid front vowel [œ̝].
    • /ɔ/ has the same F1 value as /œ/, which suggests that it is also true-mid [ɔ̝]. The remaining short mid /ɛ/ is more open than those two, suggesting [ɛ] as the best narrow transcription.

As with other Germanic languages, Faroese has a large number of vowel phonemes; by one analysis, long and short vowels may be considered separate phonemes, with 26 in total. Vowel distribution is similar to other North Germanic languages in that short vowels appear in closed syllables (those ending in consonant clusters or long consonants) and long vowels appearing in open syllables.

Faroese vowel alternations[2]
Monophthongs
Long vowel Short vowel
/i/ linur [ˈliːnʊɹ] 'soft' lint [lɪn̥t] 'soft (N.)'
/e/ frekur [ˈfɹeː(ʰ)kʊɹ ~ 'fɹeεːkʊɹ] 'greedy' frekt [fɹɛʰkt] 'greedy (N.)'
/y/ mytisk [ˈmyːtɪsk] 'mythological' mystisk [ˈmʏstɪsk] 'mysterious'
/ø/ høgur [ˈhøːʋʊɹ ~ ˈhøœːʋʊɹ] 'high (M.)' høgt [hœkt] 'high (N.)'
/u/ gulur [ˈkuːlʊɹ] 'yellow' gult [kʊlt] 'yellow (N.)'
/o/ tola [ˈtʰoːla ~ ˈtʰoɔːla] 'to endure' toldi [ˈtʰɔltɪ] 'endured'
/a/ Kanada [ˈkʰaːnata] 'Canada' land [lant] 'land'
Diphthongs
Long vowel Short vowel
/ʊi/ hvítur [ˈkfʊiːtʊɹ] 'white (M.)' hvítt [kfʊiʰtː] 'white (N.)'
/ɛi/ deyður [ˈteiːjʊɹ] 'dead (M.)' deytt [tɛʰtː] 'dead (N.)'
/ai/ feitur [ˈfaiːtʊɹ] 'fat (M.)' feitt [faiʰtː ~ fɔiʰtː] 'fat (N.)'
/ɔi/ gloyma [ˈklɔiːma] 'to forget' gloymdi [ˈklɔimtɪ] 'forgot'
/ɛa/ spakur [ˈspɛaː(ʰ)kʊɹ] 'calm (M.)' spakt [spakt] 'calm (N.)'
/ɔa/ vátur [ˈvɔaːtʊɹ] 'wet (M.)' vátt [vɔʰtː] 'wet (N.)'
/ʉu/ fúlur [ˈfʉuːlʊɹ] 'foul (M.)' fúlt [fʏl̥t] 'foul (N.)'
/ɔu/ tómur [ˈtʰɔuːmʊɹ ~ ˈtʰœuːmʊɹ] 'empty (M.)' tómt [tʰœm̥t ~ tʰɔm̥t] 'empty (N.)'

Faroese avoids having a hiatus between two vowels by inserting a glide between them.

There is considerable variation among dialects in the pronunciation of vowels.

Map showing major Faroese isoglosses

The only unstressed vowels in Faroese are short [a, ɪ, ʊ]; these appear in inflectional endings: áðrenn (e.g. [ˈɔaːɹɪnː] 'before'). Very typical are endings like -ur, -ir, -ar. The dative is often indicated by [ʊn].

  • [a]bátar [ˈpɔaːtaɹ] ('boats'), kallar [ˈkʰatlaɹ] ('[you] call')
  • [ɪ]gestir [ˈtʃɛstɪɹ] ('guests'), dugir [ˈtuːɪɹ] ('[you] can')
  • [ʊ]bátur [ˈpɔaːtʊɹ] ('boat'), gentur [tʃɛntʊɹ] ('girls'), rennur [ˈɹɛnːʊɹ] ('[you] run').

In some dialects, unstressed short /ʊ/ is realized as [ø] or is reduced further to [ə]. /ɪ/ goes under a similar reduction pattern as it varies between [ɪ ~ ɛ ~ ə] so unstressed /ʊ/ and /ɪ/ can rhyme. This can cause spelling mistakes related to these two vowels. The following table displays the different realizations in different dialects.

Unstressed /i/ and /u/ in dialects[3]
Word Borðoy
Kunoy
Tórshavn
Viðoy
Svínoy
Fugloy
Suðuroy Elsewhere
(standard)
gulur ('yellow') [ˈkuːləɹ] [ˈkuːləɹ] [ˈkuːløɹ] [ˈkuːlʊɹ]
gulir ('yellow' pl.) [ˈkuːləɹ] [ˈkuːləɹ] [ˈkuːløɹ] [ˈkuːlɪɹ]
bygdin ('town') [ˈpɪktɪn] [ˈpɪktən] [ˈpɪktøn] [ˈpɪktɪn]
bygdum ('towns' dat. pl.) [ˈpɪktʊn] [ˈpɪktən] [ˈpɪktøn] [ˈpɪktʊn]

Skerping[edit]

Skerping
Written Pronunciation instead of
-ógv- [ɛkv] *[ɔukv]
-úgv- [ɪkv] *[ʉukv]
-eyggj- [ɛtʃː] *[ɛitʃː]
-íggj-, -ýggj- [ʊtʃː] *[ʊitʃː]
-eiggj- [atʃː] *[aitʃː]
-oyggj- [ɔtʃː] *[ɔitʃː]

The so-called "skerping" ([ʃɛʂpɪŋk] 'sharpening')[4] is a typical phenomenon of fronting back vowels before [kv] and monophthongizing certain diphthongs before long [tʃː]. Skerping is not indicated orthographically.

  • [ɛɡv]: Jógvan [ˈjɛkvan] (a form of the name John), gjógv [tʃɛkv] ('cleft')
  • [ɪɡv]: kúgv [kʰɪkv] ('cow'), trúgva [ˈtʂɪkva] ('believe'), but: trúleysur [ˈtʂʉuːlɛisʊɹ] ('faithless')
  • [ɛtʃː]: heyggjur [ˈhɛtʃːʊɹ] ('high'), but heygnum [ˈhɛiːnʊn] ('high [dat. sg.]')
  • [ʊtʃː]: nýggjur [ˈnʊtʃːʊɹ] ('new [M.]'), but nýtt [nʊiʰtː] ('New [Nn.]')
  • [atʃː]: beiggi [ˈpatʃːɪ] ('brother')
  • [ɔtʃː]: oyggj [ɔtʃː] ('island'), but oynna [ˈɔitnːa] ('island [acc. sg.]')

Consonants[edit]

Labial Dental/Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar/
Glottal
central lateral
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Stop plain p t k
aspirated tʃʰ
Fricative voiceless f s ɬ ʂ ʃ h
voiced v
Approximant ɹ l j
  • /f, v/ are normally labiodental, but may sometimes be bilabial ([ɸ, β ~ β̞]). Intervocalic /v/ is normally an approximant [ʋ], whereas word-initial /v/ varies between an approximant [ʋ] and a fricative [v].[5]
  • /n/ is dental [], whereas /tʰ, t/ vary between being dental [t̪ʰ, ] and (less commonly) alveolar [, t].[5]
  • Initial /l/ is dental [] or alveolar [l]. Postvocalic /l/ may be more of a postalveolar lateral [], especially after back vowels.[5]
  • /tʃʰ, tʃ/ are palato-alveolar, and vary between stops [t̠ʲʰ, t̠ʲ] and affricates [tʃʰ, ].[6]
  • /ŋ, kʰ, k/ are velar, whereas /h/ is glottal.[7]

There are several phonological processes involved in Faroese, including:

Omissions in consonant clusters[edit]

Faroese tends to omit the first or second consonant in clusters of different consonants:

  • fjals [fjals] ('mountain's') instead of *[fjatls] from [fjatl] (nom.). Other examples for genitives are: barns [ˈpans] ('child's'), vatns [van̥s] ('water's').
  • hjálpti [jɔɬtɪ] ('helped') past sg. instead of *[ˈjɔɬptɪ] from hjálpa [ˈjɔɬpa]. Other examples for past forms are: sigldi [ˈsɪltɪ] ('sailed'), yrkti [ˈɪɻ̊ʈɪ] ('wrote poetry').
  • homophone are fylgdi ('followed') and fygldi ('caught birds with a net'): [ˈfɪltɪ].
  • skt will be:
    1. [st] in words of more than one syllable: føroyskt [ˈføːɹɪst] ('Faroese' n. sg.;) russiskt [ˈɹʊsːɪst] ('Russian' n. sg.), íslendskt [ˈʊʃlɛŋ̊st] ('Icelandic' n. sg.).
    2. [kst] in monosyllables: enskt [ɛŋ̊kst] ('English' n. sg.), danskt [taŋ̊kst] ('Danish' n. sg.), franskt [fɹaŋ̊kst] ('French' n. sg.), spanskt [spaŋ̊kst] ('Spanish' n. sg.), svenskt [svɛŋ̊kst] ('Swedish' n. sg.), týskt [tʰʊikst] ('German' n. sg.).
      • However [ʂt] in: írskt [ʊʂt] ('Irish' n. sg.), norskt [nɔʂt] ('Norwegian' n. sg.)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Árnason (2011), p. 75.
  2. ^ Árnason (2011), p. 68.
  3. ^ Þráinsson (2004), p. 350.
  4. ^ Þráinsson et al. use the term "Faroese Verschärfung"
  5. ^ a b c Árnason (2011), p. 115.
  6. ^ Árnason (2011), p. 116.
  7. ^ Árnason (2011), p. 114.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Árnason, Kristján (2011), The Phonology of Icelandic and Faroese, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0199229317
  • Þráinsson, Höskuldur (2004), Faroese: An Overview and Reference Grammar, Føroya Fróðskaparfelag, ISBN 978-9991841854
  • Peterson, Hjalmar P. (2000), "Mátingar af sjálvljóðum í føruyskum", Málting, 28: 37–43

Further reading[edit]

  • Barnes, Michael P.; Weyhe, Eivind (2013) [First published 1994], "7 Faroese", in van der Auwera, Johan; König, Ekkehard (eds.), The Germanic Languages, Routledge, pp. 190–218, ISBN 0-415-05768-X
  • Cathey, James (1997), "Variation and reduction in Modern Faroese vowels", in Birkmann, Thomas; Klingenberg, Heinz; Nübling, Damaris; Ronneberger-Sibold, Elke (eds.), Vergleichende germanische Philologie und Skandinavistik: Festschrift für Otmar Werner, Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, pp. 91–100, ISBN 978-3484730311
  • O'Neil, Wayne A. (1964), "Faroese Vowel Morphophonemics", Language, Linguistic Society of America, 40 (3): 366–371, doi:10.2307/411501, JSTOR 411501
  • Rischel, Jørgen (1964), "Toward the phonetic description of Faroese vowels", Fróðskaparrit, 13: 99–113