The One with the Thoughts of Frans

Voiced Velar Fricative Above All

There are three sounds usually represented in writing as g or ch that I can produce.

  1. Voiced velar fricative /ɣ/, as in Dutch gaan, transcribed as [ɣaːn].
  2. Voiceless velar fricative /x/, as in German Kuchen, transcribed as [kuːxən].
  3. Voiceless palatal fricative /ç/, as in German ich, transcribed as [ɪç].

From this list, you might guess that there is also a voiced palatal fricative, and you’d be right. I cannot, however, produce the /ʝ/, which can be seen as the Flemish equivalent to my Dutch /ɣ/.

According to commonly accepted Dutch phonetics, the second g-sound occurs in words like acht, thus transcribed as [ɑxt], and also in words like chaos, thus transcribed as [xaɔs].

For me, this is not the case. I pronounce all of my words with the voiced velar fricative. It’s definitely true that not all people do this: in the east of the Netherlands, where I lived for a few years, most local people thought the way I pronounce my gs at the end of words sounds aggressive merely because they employ a slightly different g, the /x/, in final positions. They may utilize it in certain other positions as well, but I’m fairly sure they do no such thing in a word like chaos. I may be wrong, though.

I decided to investigate this further, and I think I may have found a possible explanation.

  • If I force myself to pronounce echt with a clearly pronounced /t/, I do indeed find myself slightly more likely to use the /x/, although by no means as any kind of constant. This may very well be affected by my knowledge that it is more or less supposed to be this way, however, and I’m not sure if I would normally have done this at all.
  • In normal usage, however, I’m more likely to either drop the /t/ or to come really close to dropping it, thus rendering echt waar into /ɛɣʋar/. I postulate that this might aid to preserve the /ɣ/ in my speech, at the possible expense of other phonemes that might weaken it.
  • Nevertheless, I fully retain the /ɣ/ in acht, and also in things like acht gulden.
  • As far as I can tell, Utrecht (or sometimes pronounced as Utrech), [ˈʏtrɛx(t)], is the only word in which the /x/ is actually established in my speech. I wonder if living there for a year might have affected my pronunciation of the name of the city, while leaving the rest of my speech unscathed, or if I’ve always pronounced it that way.

This unscientific analysis would not be complete if I didn’t add that some words, such as Michiel, and vliegje are pronounced with the /ç/. In other words, [mɪçil] and [vliçjə]. As far as I know any Dutch speaker will pronounce these words the same, though as should be obvious due to the very reason I’m writing all of this, I may be wrong.

In conclusion, save for an almost negligible number of exceptions, I pronounce each and every g or ch that is not pronounced as /ç/ as /ɣ/.

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