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Lawrence Collins Linguistics 103/ Keating 18 March 2013 German Phonetics The German language, which is the namesake-language

of the Germanic language family, is a language spoken by over 90 million people. It is the national language of Germany and Austria, with a combined 80+ million speakers, as well as the official language of many European nations such as Switzerland and Luxembourg. As a Germanic language of the Indo-European language family, German is related to other Germanic languages such as Swedish, Icelandic, and English, with which Germans lexicon shares 60% common vocabulary. Standard German, which is a variant of High German, has been the standard form of German with a literary history dating back centuries, German uses the Latin alphabet along with the diacritic and the ligature . (Lewis, Simons, and Fennig) Uwe Muench was the native German speaker with whom I worked. Uwe is from the German city Cologne (Kln) and has lived in the United States for most of the past 15 years. Aside from German and English, Uwe has knowledge of various other languages including French and Russian. Uwe speaks German on a nearly daily basis and completed his Diploma thesis in German. My primary sources for the phonetics of German were Elements of German and Sounds of English and German. In Elements, separate chapters were dedicated to both the phonemes and phonetics of German, as well as accompanying sections for the individual phonemes based on their manner of articulation. Charts and lists of the phones and allo-

phones of German were also included. In Sounds, similar lists and charts were presented, but Sounds also included extensive information on other features of German such as intonation and stress, as well as contrast the phonemes/phonetics of German and English. Consonants: The German language contains 21 consonants (1-21). Six affricates (1-6), nine fricatives (7-14, 21), three nasals (15-17), two approximates (18, 20) and a trill (19). The majority of the consonants on the wordlist are present in (near) minimum pairs and the orthography of German, which is fairly phonetic, also reflects the similarity of the phonetics of the words. My speakers pronunciation of the consonants and their allophones match (with some exceptions) with the source material. In some instances, the uvular trill // sounded the most varied and in (35) sounds to be the glottal fricative /h/. (Moulton) Vowels: German has 15 vowels (22-36) and 3 diphthongs (37-39). The vowels can be either long or short, with the higher vowel (amongst similarly articulated pairs-e.g. // and //) often being the longer of the two, which is the only distinction between (near) minimum pairs (e.g. rote-/o:t/ and Rotte-/t/). The only significant differentiation between my source material and my speakers pronunciation was with words ending in en /n/ which were pronounced as [n] in many instances. Also, the only time my speakers second pronunciation was different than the firsts was in (6) with [a] as [] the second time the word was spoken. (Moulton / Antonsen) Allophones: Of the multiple allophones in German, only the allophones of three consonants (/k/ /t/ /g/) are presented. The allophones presented for /k/ are aspirated k [k] and aspirated c [c], for /t/, aspirated t [t], and for /g/, the voiceless palatal fricative []. The most drastic change among the allophones /g/->[] occurs when /g/ appears at the end of

a word (e.g. Knig) and is pronounced as [] (i.e. Knig-/c:ni/). My speaker, when presented with words ending in /g/ (43, 50) pronounced the allophone of /g/ as [] as expected from the source material. (Antonsen) Contrast: The two phonemes /x/ and // are often in complementary positions and create several (near) minimum pairs in German. Both phones are orthographically written as ch, with the phone /x/ bring pronounced when following a back vowel and the frontlow vowel /a/, and // when following a front and central vowel. This difference in vowel positioning is represented orthographically with // following vowels with the diacritic (umlaut) (e.g. Kchen-/kn/ (47)) and /x/ following non-umaluted vowels (e.g. Kuchen-/ku:xn/ (47)). The length of the preceding vowel can be either long or short in both situations (e.g. brach-/bra:x/ and brche-/br:/ (45)). (Moulton) Stress: In German, stress can differentiate two separate words. In the examples provided (48-52) the difference in stress position between the pairs falls either on the 1-2 or 1-3 syllable. In some examples (e.g. 49 and 52), the difference in stress changes the word to a related word with a different part of speech (i.e. noun to verb). In (48) this change in stress changes the word, which is orthographically the same) from a persons name to the name of the month. The speakers stress position corresponded with the source materials indication of stress, as well as the phones of the words. (Moulton / Antonsen) Sentences: To demonstrate the sounds of German in a larger, more complete context, I included two sentences that my speaker read, a tongue twister and a sentence from a text. The tongue twister (53) involved the alternating patterns of /f/ and /fts/ in the beginning of the words, as well as /s/ and // at the end of the words. My speaker was able to say the tongue twister without any difficulty and pronounced it as given from the source

material. The line of text (54), which comes from a fairy tale Der Wolf und die sieben Gleilein (The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids) was selected as it contains many of the unique and characteristic sounds of German: the velar /x/, the affricate /pf/, the diphthong /aw/, uvular//, the vowel //, and both long and short i. The only difference between my speakers reading and the reference is the pronunciation of und-/?nd/ as [?nd] at the end of the sentence. As neither text included stress markers, I indicated the stress in my phonetic transcriptions. (Ladefoged / Antonsen)

IPA Charts


Word List #. phoneme Consonants: 1. p 2. b 3. t 4. d 5. k 6. g 7. f 8. v 9. s 10. z 11. 12. 13. 14. x 15. m



phonemic /pas/ /bas/ /tas/ /das/ /kas/ /gas/ /fas/ /vas/ /sate/ /zats/ /ats/ /e:ni:/ /i:na/ /kn/ /auxn/ /mas/

phonetic#1 [pas] [bas] [tas] [das] [kas] [gas] [fas] [vas] [sate] [zats] [ats] [e:ni:] [i:na] [kn] [auxn] [mas]


passe Ba Tasse das Kasse Gasse fasse was Satin Satz Schatz Genie China Kchen rauchen Masse

yoke bass cup the (neuter) cash desk alley to grasp what satin sentence treasure genius China kitchens to smoke mass


16. n 17. 18. l 19. 20. j 21. h Vowels: 22. /i:/ 23. // 24. /e:/ 25. // 26. /u:/ 27. // 28. /o:/ 29. // 30. /y:/ 31. // 32. /:/ 33. // 34. /a:/ 35. // 36. /ai/ 37. /j/ 38. /aw/ 39. // Allophones: 41. /k/ Kasse Kuchen Kissen 42. /t/ Tasse Tanne 43. /g/ gasse Knig

nasse hngen lasse Rasse Jacke hasse bieten bitten beten Betten Rute Kutte rote Rotte Gte Mtter Goethe Gtter rate Ratte leite Leute Laute gesagt

wet to hang to stop race jacket to hate to offer to ask to pray beds switch habit red mob kindess mothers Goethe gods to rate rat to run people lute said

/nas/ /hn/ /las/ /as/ /jak/ /has/


[nas] [hn] [las] [as] [jak] [has] [bi:tn] [btn] [be:tn] [btn] [u:t] [kt] [o:t] [t] [y:t] [mt] [:t] [t] [a:t] [ht] [lait] [ljt] [lawt] [gsa:gt]

/bi:tn/ /btn/ /be:tn/ /btn/ /u:t/ /kt/ /o:t/ /t/ /y:t/ /mt/ /:t/ /t/ /a:t/ /t/ /lait/ /ljt/ /lawt/ /gsa:gt/

(Moulton / Antonsen)

cash desk cake pillow cup fir alley king

/kas/ /ku:xn/ /csn/ /tas/ /tan/ /gas/ /c:ni/ /dx/ /dr/ /bra:x/ /br:/ /lox/ /lyr/ /ku:xn/

[kas] [ku:xn] [csn] [tas] [tan] [gas] [c:ni]


Contrast: /x/ // 44. Dach roof Dcher roofs 45. brach unexploited brche unexploited 46. Loch hole Lcher holes 47. Kuchen cake

[dx] [dr] [bra:x] [br:] [lox] [lyr] [ku:xn]





Stress: 48. August-name August-month 49. unterrichten Unterricht 50. leben lebendig 51. Muse Museum 52. Dosis dosieren

August-name /augst/ August-month /augst/ to teach /ntrritn/ lesson /untrrit/ to live /le:bn/ living /leb:nd/ muse /mu:z/ museum /muze:m/ dose /do:zs/ to measure /dozirn/
(Moulton / Antonsen)

[augst] [augst] [ntrritn] [untrrit] [le:bn] [leb:nd] [mu:z] [muze:m] [do:zs] [dozirn]

Sentences: 53. Fischers Fritze fischt frische Fische. Frische Fische fischt Fischers Fritze. /fz fts ft f f/ /f f ft fz frts/ [fz fts ft f f] [f f ft fz frts]

54. Es dauerte nicht lange, so klopfte jemand an der Haustr und rieft. /?es dawrt nixt lang so klpft jemand ?an d hawzt ?nd ri:ft/ [?es dawrt nixt lang so klpft jemand ?an d hawzt ?nd ri:ft]

References Antonsen, Elmer H. Elements of German. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: The University of Alabama Press, 2007. Print. Ladefoged, Peter, ed. "Word List for German, Standard." UCLA Phonetics Lab Archive. UCLA Phonetics Lab, 21 Apr 2009. Web. 18 Mar 2013. <archive.phonetics.ucla.edu/Language/DEU/deu_word-list_1991_01.html>. Lewis, M. Paul, Gary F. Simons, and Charles G. Fennig, eds. "German, Standard." Ethnologue. Ethnologue, n.d. Web. 18 Mar 2013. <http://www.ethnologue.com/language/deu>. Moulton, William G. The Sounds of English and German. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962. Print. Weinberger, Steven H., ed. "German IPA." Speech Accent Archive. George Mason University, 28 Feb 2013. Web. 18 Mar 2013. <http://classweb.gmu.edu/accent/nlipa/germanipa.html>.