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-Long and short 'a'. -Devoicing of 'z' and 'v'.

Dear native speakers of Dutch, I have a couple of phonetic queries I'm hoping you will be able to clarify to me. Here they are.

Besides Dutch, I also have been studying Afrikaans, which, as you may or may not know, is a language which developed from 18th century Dutch and is spoken, primarily, in the country of South Africa.

There are many similarities between the two languages, of course, and that includes phonetic similarities.

Short and long vowels in both languages differ in both length and tenseness. Like in English (and in many other languages), tense vowels are long while lax vowels are short.

But a particular dissimilarity between Dutch and Afrikaans, I find, is that the long 'a' in Afrikaans corresponds to the short 'a' in Dutch (that is, an open back unrounded vowel), while the short 'a' in Afrikaans corresponds to the long 'a' in Dutch (that is, an open front unrounded vowel)—in short, long and short 'a's' in these two languages are precisely inverse.

The realisation of long 'a' (-aa- in the orthography of both languages) as a back vowel, for some reason, makes much more sense to me. What I mean by that is that it is easier for me to internalise the notion that I should pronounce -aa- as a back vowel and -a- as a front vowel, as opposed to the other way round. (And besides, I started learning Afrikaans first, then Dutch, which means I have to make an additional effort to remember that I should pronounce -aa- as a front vowel while saying Dutch words.)

However, I have read that long -aa- is in fact pronounced as a back vowel in some dialects of Dutch (Amsterdam and Utrecht, for example, if the source I read it from is to be trusted).

So my question here is: would it be okay if I pronounced my long -aa- as a back vowel while speaking Dutch, or would I end up sounding too quaint and weird if I did that? I wouldn't want my pronunciation to sound extremely specific or idiosyncratic, see. To illustrate a parallel in the English language: I wouldn't want it to sound like I'm speaking English with an accent from Southern England while also having a twang from Southern United States. For that, of course, would sound a bit too ridiculous.

The other query I have is regarding the pronunciation of 'z' and of 'v'. With the exception of loan words, there is no 'z' in Afrikaans (Dutch 'z' became 's'), and the orthographic 'v' in Afrikaans is always pronounced as [f]. (The [v] sound in Afrikaans only occurs in words spelt with a 'w', which in Dutch is a labiodental approximant).

I have read that some varieties of Dutch do something similar to Afrikaans: they devoice their 'z' to [s] and their 'v' to [f]. I've read that that is specially true at the beginning of words. (That is, 'zijn' would be pronounced 'sijn', and 'vrouw' would be pronounced 'frouw'.)

So my question is: would it be safe for me to pronounce Dutch words beginning with 'z' and 'v' as though there started with 's' and 'f'? And is that valid only for initial sounds, or would it also be okay for me to replace all my 'z's' and 'v's' with 's's' and 'f's'? And again, would I sound too weird if I made these replacements?

See, I'm only trying to reduce the dissimilarities between Dutch and Afrikaans a little so that reading these languages, and pronouncing the many similar words they share, will be less confusing an ordeal.

Thank you all ever so much. -Luiz

10 months ago