Friday 17 June 2011


Like many other modern languages, contemporary German is full of borrowed English words. And a pronouncing dictionary needs to contain plenty of proper names, including English ones. The Deutsche Aussprachewörterbuch (yesterday’s blog) transcribes these not as they are pronounced in the source language English, but as they are pronounced (or perhaps rather as they ought to be pronounced, in the authors’ view) in German.

This means that in principle they are transcribed using only the sounds of German and ignoring distinctions that are not made in German. In particular, the English TRAP and DRESS vowels are both mapped onto German ɛ. The STRUT vowel is mapped onto a. Final obstruents are devoiced.

So we have for example
Camden engl. kˈɛmdn̩
Countrymusic engl. kˈantʁ̥iːmʝˌuːzɪk
Flathead engl. flˈɛthɛt

The NURSE vowel is mapped onto œːɐ, and English w onto v.

Wordsworth engl. vˈœːɐtsv̥œːɐθ
World Wide Web engl. vˌœːɐlt v̥aɛt v̥ˈɛp
(I think “aɛ” must be a misprint for “aɛ̯”.)

The authors are well aware that this is not how the words are pronounced in English. In the foreword (p. 138) they compare the English version of Buckingham Palace, bˌʌkɪŋəm pˈæləs, with the germanized bˈakɪŋəm pˌɛləs (and similarly with several other examples).

But mapping onto native German sounds does not always apply. The dental fricatives, θ and ð, we read,
…kommen im Deutschen nicht vor und werden häufig als [s] bzw. [z] realisiert. Diese werden als Substandard eingestuft und in der Transkription nicht berücksichtigt… …are not found in German and are frequently realized as [s] and [z] respectively. These are categorized as substandard and ignored in the transcription…
So for example Southampton is germanized not as zaɔ̯sˈɛmptn̩, but as saɔ̯θˈɛmptn̩. See also Wordsworth above.

Sometimes the label “engl.” really seems to be of etymological relevance only.
Happyend engl. hɛpiː ˈˀɛnt
Leasing engl. lˈiːzɪŋ
(In native English, of course, we say ‘happy ending’, while leasing always has a voiceless s.)


  1. As you might know, I think there's a considerable overlap between E ʌ and G a (or ä in narrower IPA), ie while there's quite a bandwidth in older and newer RP, the sound of G a isn't rare among native speakers.

    Concerning English w, it's nearly as much substandard to render it as v in German as is θ, ð -> s, z. Hearing an announcer say Vashington, maybe even with a German a and an unreduced o, immediately takes you back to 1980 state-run television.

    The matter of w/v might be a matter of the editors' prescriptive policies, but it strikes me as outright wrong to claim Germans don't pronounce an h in Southampton or Buckingham. In addition, the last syllable is usually hɛm, not (h)əm.

  2. I do feel that the voiced yod in kˈantʁ̥iːmʝˌuːzɪk is a step too far, but I don't know in which direction.

  3. @Lipman: Absolutely true, at least as far as the h's in Southampton and Buckingham are concerned; the normal pronunciation in German is clearly based on the spelling of the names (and, for South[h]ampton, an etymological analysis).

    With w/v, a general rendering of English w as v is admittedly substandard. But unlike θ, ð -> s, z, it is relatively common in frequent proper names. German ˈvɔʃɪŋtn̩ sounds very familiar (and unmarked) to me. The same goes for ˈvɪndoːs and vœɐ̯t, while the authors' Vorld Vide Vep is certainly not a common pronunciation, at least not among people familiar with the WWW.

  4. @Lipman: I think bˈakɪŋəm and saɔ̯θˈɛmptn̩ are intended as prescriptive pronunciations. Foreign words often have so much variation that prescription is sometimes the best approach.

    In other words the authors have investigated how these words are pronounced in English (descriptively) and then provided a recommended germanicisation (prescriptively) for their readers.

    That's why they've omitted the -hɛm that Germans often use in words like Buckingham: they're telling you it's wrong.

  5. Some of you might want to take a look at Siegrist, O.K. (2003), Wörterbuch der englischen Falschaussprachen durch Deutschsprachige, Heidelberg

  6. In other words the authors have investigated how these words are pronounced in English (descriptively) and then provided a recommended germanicisation (prescriptively) for their readers.

    That's why they've omitted the -hɛm that Germans often use in words like Buckingham: they're telling you it's wrong.

    Their rendering of "Leasing" seems to contradict that. And why must dental fricatives (and, apparently, word-initial [s]) not be germanised?

  7. There is an older pronunciation of "leasing" given by Walker in his Critical Pronouncing Dictionary, which matches the pronunciation given above: ˈliːzɪŋ.

    This is, a homograph and a heteronym. Walker gives its meaning as "gleaning". I've encountered another (heteronymic) "leasing" in Twelfth Night, where it means "lying". The challenge for actor and audience in this case is whether to choose an obscure pronunciation ˈliːzɪŋ as a nod to its obscure meaning, or to give up the fight and pronounce it ˈliːsɪŋ.

  8. @Luke: I was talking about the names of the towns Buckingham and Southampton.

    I don't know how common the "German" word Leasing is but presumably it's well established with the pronunciation given above, which is why they've taken the descriptive approach with that one. Presumably.

  9. Leasing seems to be well established as a German commercial term. See for example and . Furthermore, it then gets borrowed on into Polish, Hungarian etc. with /z/.

  10. @Pete: leasen (vb.) and Leasing (sb.) are established German terms. Most NSs of German pronounce them with a voiceless /s/, although one can hear a /z/ every now and then.

  11. DUDEN Aussprachewörterbuch (2006) transcribes both words with voiced /z/. Whom should we trust?

  12. Trust me. (You asked.) Haven't heard it with a voiceless s even once in German, or with a voiced z even once in English.

  13. What is with the /ʝ/? I have never seen it transcribed as anything but /j/. Is this a phonological choice due to its devoicing finally, and if so, is it devoiced finally?

  14. Aargh. Sorry. I said "the voiced yod in kˈantʁ̥iːmʝˌuːzɪk is a step too far" above, but I meant "the fricative yod in kˈantʁ̥iːmʝˌuːzɪk is a step too far". It's nothing to do with voicing. So what indeed is the ʝ to do with?

  15. Lipman said...
    «it strikes me as outright wrong to claim Germans don't pronounce an h in Southampton or Buckingham

    and brotwart said...
    « Absolutely true, at least as far as the h's in Southampton and Buckingham are concerned; the normal pronunciation in German is clearly based on the spelling of the names (and, for South[h]ampton, an etymological analysis).»

    The giddy joke is that the normal pronunciation of Southampton (with h) in both English (according to LPD3) and German is clearly NOT based on the spelling of the name, but on the etymological analysis. Or on an analogy with for example threshold, where the pronunciation with h is based on some sort of folk etymology. In cases like these there seems to have been an assumption that the spelling avoids the sequence of two hs. Somewhat as there is Mißstimmung about Missstimmung, or even Schifffahrt. On the other hand nothing seems to have been done about withhold, for example.

    Of course LPD3 puts saʊˈθæmptən second, but is that a spelling pronunciation or is 'Southampton' a pronunciation spelling? Interestingly it puts səˈθæmptən third and səˈðæmptən fourth. I've heard those pronunciations all my life, but no German prescriptive dictionary is going to give those for German, and I'm sure you're all right about the pronunciations for Southampton and Buckingham and Leasing being prescriptive. Incidentally even though spellings may not give any indication that words have been eingedeutscht, even the capitalization of nouns is a bit of a giveaway, isn't it?

    But a Japanese dictionary only needs to be DEscriptive to give the transliterations of saʊˈθæmptən and even səˈðæmptən for Japanese: サウサンプトン(sausanputon) and サザンプトン(sazanputon) are well established in different collocations like サウサンプトンFC, with 'sausanputon', for Southampton FC, andサザンプトン大学, with 'sazanputon', for Southampton University. Wikipedia says it can be サウザンプトン、サウスハンプトン (sauzanputon, sausuhanpton) as well!

    The Japanese get 'lease' right, but for example a 'close-up' in photography is クローズアップ (kurōzuappu). Such is life.

  16. Lipman said...
    Trust me. (You asked.) Haven't heard it with a voiceless s even once in German, or with a voiced z even once in English.

    I am a German native speaker (Austrian), and we pronounce leasing with a voiceless /s/ here in Austria. The voiced /z/ is practically non-existent in Austria and Bavaria. Trust me. ;)

  17. Part of the v/w confusion in German is due to the fact, methinks, that both consonants are pretty similar in many variants of German, there even are places where the German v (spelt 'w') is pronounced very close to the English w. Such in certain parts of Wuerttemberg, for instance. Germans get things wrong almost always in the former Pope's POlish surname Wojtyła, vɔi̯'tɨu̯a.

    It would interest me if John's dictionary recommends devoicing of SYLLABLE-final, rather than just word-final, voiced obstruents. Feetback? Standard German has a rule to this effect, so leipniz, not leibniz. Polish, by contrast, provides only for the devoicing of word-final voiced obstruents, so we say leibniz rather than leipniz, and fidbek, rather than fitbek (feed-back).

    We (Polish NS's) say indeed 'leazing' (spelt the English way) but that I am hard put to believe is a German influence (any mentionable knowledge of German converging to non-existent in today's Poland), rather, I'd think, that of a persistent school-Latin rule of voicing all intervocalic s's. We said nastaze for the once famous Romanian tennis-player, simply because his name sounded foreign enough to make that rule appear applicable.

  18. @Wojcieh - We in Serbia also say 'lizing' and 'hepiend' (or, in cyrillic, 'лизинг' and 'хепиенд')

    I'd suspected that /z/ in the former is to do with German, but it never occurred to me that we might have imported the latter from German as well.

  19. Ad gassalascajape

    well, you don't devoice your final obstruents, clearly. Here (Pl), i'ts 'lizink' and 'kheppi-ent'. But we also say 'dablin' (Dublin), now a 'truly German' pronunciation of that city's name should be 'daplin'. Is it? This I should like to know from the John-Wellsian Dictionary.

    The school-Latin rule 'voice all your intervocalic s's' might have been reinforced by the German tendency to do the same in German, the very same tendency which explains the German pronunciation of 'leasing'. In any event, Eusebio da Silva Ferreira was commonly pronounced with a zed/zee in Poland of my childhood (the '60ies), incidentally: in conformity with the Portuguese pronunciation; hardly a German influence.

    Re the English 'th/th'. It used to be rendered as 's/z' in, let us say, a beginning Polish learner's English, but it's terribly antiquated now, quaint, almost. I use it sometimes, referring to a person called 'Smith' in English I call him 'smɨs', the way we heard it on the radio when Zimbabwe was still Rhodesia. But those who don't bother to pronounce 'th/th' the English way in Polish say 't/d' or 'f/w' or something like it.

  20. I'm only a purchaser of this dictionary, not the author!
    For 'feedback' it gives fˈiːtb̥ɛk, but for 'Dublin' dˈablɪn.

  21. German has /ɐ/ as a fairly common vowel, and a lot of them use it in STRUT when speaking English.

    It can be surprising how often Germans say the words as many English people would say them. For example, I've heard VIP as [viː aɪ piː] from German business-people. This would've hardly been difficult to Germanise. In addition, normal rules German pronunciation would suggest an absence of a yod in "computer", but you frequently hear it with the yod just as in English.

  22. Bastet, obviously. I'm sorry I also didn't mention people who had their vocal chords removed &c. &c.

    Woiciech, you're right in principle, but the situation seems to be different with a liquid following. Might be because, while the preceding vowel is short, the combination bl- as such is possible initially, as opposed to the *db- of fee-dback.

    Ed, I don't think ɐ is ever used for STRUT by Germans, though certainly for schwa wherever there's a spelt r, including the second part of the CARE and FORCE diphthongs as well as after NURSE and NORTH. There's no stressed ɐ in German.

    I think nobody would say kɔmpuːtɐ without the j other than in jest (a hackneyed joke is to say Puter, ie 'turkey (cock)'. If by "normal rules [of] German pronunciation" you mean the interpretation of the spelling, there wouldn't be a yod inserted, but phonotactically, I see much less of a problem.

  23. Ad John

    yes, I know you are 'but' a purchaser, I called 'your' dictionary 'john-wellsian' metonymically, sorry if this gave you offense.

    Ad Lipman

    Re 'dablin',well, maybe there is a general rule in German to the effect that in a muta-cum-liquida group the voiced obstruent is not devoiced. How exactly is e.g. Fiedler pronounced in German? I am not sure now.But they do say 'leipniz', rather than 'leibniz', or 'moeklich'rather than 'moeglich', if my ear does not deceive me, and that even though 'gl' is, too, possible initially.... . Maybe, then, 'dablin' is due to the will to sound 'authentic', 'English'?...

    ɐ never stressed --- Perle, Herbst, Gerste, gern, Germane, fern, Faehrte -- do they not have a stressed ɐ, maybe preceded by another vowel (part of a diphthong)? Sometimes you hear 'gɐn' for 'gern', maybe as what they call 'manierierte Aussprache', but still? Am I wrong?

  24. Yes, möklich and Leipniz, I'd say. There might be regional differences. But what I meant was that the -bl- in Dublin is easier on the German's tongue because it exists initially. I'm sure many speakers of German do say Duplin, but chances are higher the educated man on the street will say Sitney.

    Perle, Herbst &c. - that's a stressed ɛ, never mind the following consonant, in this case ɐ̯.

  25. "I'd say" seems too diffident for möklich, which seems right because it's morphologically motivated, and Leipniz, which seems so right that I am staggered by the Duden-Aussprachewörterbuch's ˈlaɪbnɪts. The -bl- in Dublin is no easier on the German's tongue than -gl-. Both exist initially but if Germans were as aware of the morphology of Dublin as they are of möglich we might here Duplin more often.

    I would have to agree that sometimes you hear 'gɐn' for 'gern' or with stress the allophone of ɛ makes it sound a bit like gɐɐ̯n.

    At least two of us are still wondering about this fricative yod in kˈantʁ̥iːmʝˌuːzɪk. Any ideas?

  26. The repertoire of symbols used for German in the dictionary does not include [j], only [ʝ] , [ʝ̊] and [i̯], with the keywords Jahr, Schaltjahr, Nation. [ʝ] is classified as a fricative, the lenis counterpart of [ç].

  27. Sounds overdone, l'API pour l'API.

  28. mallamb, no, I think "I'd say" is to strong even. I haven't the time to try and look this up somewhere now, but möglich is certainly possible. I don't know if the classical Bühnenaussprache has anything to say on the matter, or was aware of it until recently, but I'm sure it at depends on the region even inside Standard German.

  29. Thanks, John. It helps to know they use [i̯] for Nation.

    Lipman, your comment is too erudite for me. As for "I'd say" I appear to have misunderstood your use of the expression. I see now you were saying "I'd say they do say … 'moeklich' rather than 'moeglich'" with Wojciech's bit understood. I regret to say I thought you were saying you'd say 'moeklich' rather than 'moeglich'. I meant you and a helluva lot of people, but ˈmøɡlɪç is actually what I first learnt (we learnt French and German in IPA – it was not unusual in those days) and what I have I think mostly seen in dictionaries. I really don't think I ever did hear it that much and it sounds a bit dialecty to me. Is it possible that ˈmøklɪç has been winning out over møɡlɪç in my lifetime? I sort of get the impression that Bühnenaussprache would hold that ˈmøklɪç is not mellifluous enough, and that ˈmøɡlɪç from ˈmøɡən is morphological enough.

  30. Ad mallamb, Lipman

    Gentlemen, I'll check in "orthoepische Woerterbuecher" accessible to me at the moment, but I seem to remember to have learnt, many a many year ago, a norm which prescribed devoicing all voiced consontants (that have unvoiced counterparts) syllable-finally (and not just word-finally, which is the norm in my native Polish) as long as the next syllable started with a vowel. I have, it is true, heard 'moeglich' rather than 'moeklich', but in regions where they voice (or maybe just lenitize, but popularly this is heard as voicing) most everything, e.g. in Franconia; so that would be 'vulgar pronunciation'.

    And yes, 'j' is a lenis voiced variant of what they call the 'ich-Laut', palatalised 'kh'.But in Spanish too, no? Compare the Spanish 'yo' with the Italian 'io', the bi-syllabicity of the latter apart...

  31. Are they suggesting it's comparable to Spanish syllable-initial y? Would anyone at all say it's so comparable as to even tend to affrication?

  32. Ad mallamb

    you occasionally do hear some affrication in the German j, especially in words pronounced with emphasis, such as 'jeder, ja, jeder!' or some such. Maybe not so strong as the Spanish 'yo!' pronounced with emotive emphasis by some Latin-American speakers.

  33. Hello,
    Is there a linguistic pattern responsible for the fact that word-initial s before a vowel in German is pronounced "z" despite the fact that the letter z would technically be available for this sound (except that it is covering "ts")?


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