Thursday 16 June 2011

Krech et al.

I’ve acquired a copy of a newly published German pronunciation dictionary, Deutsches Aussprachewörterbuch (De Gruyter, 2010). Four main authors are credited: Eva-Maria Krech, Eberhard Stock, Ursula Hirschfeld, and Lutz Christian Anders, along with a host of other minor contributors and advisors.

This is a massive work, over a thousand pages in length, with each page having about double the area of a page in the dictionary that I have relied on until now for German, Max Mangold’s Duden Aussprachewörterbuch (6th edition 2005).

It will take me some time to work through the 280 pages of introductory material, which include not only a comprehensive introduction to standard German pronunciation (Standardaussprache, this term replacing the earlier allgemeine Hochlautung) but also chapters on standard Austrian and Swiss pronunciation.

Meanwhile, here are just one or two preliminary impressions.

The transcription is in several respects very narrow. For example, it recognizes seven different r-sounds, written as ʁ ʶ ʁ̥ ʀ r ɐ ɐ. (The trills ʀ and r are used, if at all, only in pronunciation characterized by hoher Artikulationspräzision ‘greater articulatory preciseness’.)

Separate symbols are used for the devoiced lenis obstruents b̥ d̥ ɡ̊ v̥ z̥ ʒ̊ ʝ̊, so that for example the plosive in Hausbau hˈaɔ̯sb̥aɔ̯ is distinguished both from that of Post pɔst and from that of Bahn baːn. The aspiration diacritic, however, is not used — the symbol p is presumably to be interpreted as normally implying (though the authors say merely that aspiration is möglich ‘possible’). As you can see in this example, diphthongs are transcribed rather fussily, as aɔ̯ aɛ̯ ɔœ̯, (arguably too fussily, given the variability in the quality of the second element).

The thing I found visually most shocking is the placement of the stress mark. Going against the usual IPA practice of locating it at the preceding syllable boundary, i.e. before the segmental material of the stressed syllable, DA places it immediately before the vowel. So vergessen, for example, which in Mangold is fɛɐ̯ˈɡɛsn̩, appears here as fɐɡˈɛsn̩. The word Herzrhythmusstörung ‘cardiac arrhythmia’ is transcribed hˈɛʶtsʁ̥ʏtmʊsʃtˌøːʁʊŋ. I can see no strong case for moving the stress mark from its usual place at the syllable boundary. (Or is there some hidden doctrine that stress is a property of certain vowels rather than certain syllables? If so, I disagree.)

Tomorrow: the treatment of eingedeutscht (germanized) English words.


  1. John, for some reason, the idea of moving the stress mark before the vowel is a practice adopted by the Italian Dictionary "Il Devoto-Oli 2011", too. But that is not a pronunciation dictionary, anyway. Have a look here:

  2. The alveolar trill is used in all southern dialects and I would've classed it as a standard variant, i.e. something which is not just to be used with 'greater articulatory preciseness'. I do get that this is a work based on the Standardaussprache though... I just analysed this book for my degree!

  3. There's a review article to be found here. Maybe, you will not have access to the full text.

  4. Daniel, I thought not only Rhine, Central and South Franconian but also the large area of Low Alemannic had uvular rs, and even in many (most?) areas of Bavarian it's either the norm or an authentic variant.

  5. Perhpas there was some disagreement between the authors over whether (or how many) consonants immediately preceding the stressed vowel are attracted into the same syllable? Putting the stress mark before the vowel may have been a compromise that helped resolve the dispute.

  6. @vp: According to the review article I mention above this was precisely the reason why the stress mark was placed right in front of the vowel

  7. I use an older edition (2009) and it says on p. 5: „Das Akzentzeichen wird vor den akzentuierten Vokal, nicht – wie sonst üblich – vor die akzentuierte Silbe gesetzt, da im Deutschen der Akzentvokal immer eindeutig bestimmbar ist, nicht aber die Silbengrenze. Sie liegt nach kurzen Vokalen innerhalb des folgenden ambisyllabischen, d.h. zu beiden Silben gehörenden Konsonanten, z.B. in ‚kassieren‘, ‚Neuruppin‘. Da das in der Transkription nicht angezeigt werden kann, wird [kasˈiːʁən], [nɔœ̯ʁʊpˈiːn] transkribiert.“

  8. Thanks, Gregor - that's part of the forematter I hadn't yet got round to reading. For those who don't read German, it says "The stress mark is placed before the stressed vowel and not, as otherwise usual, before the stressed syllable. This is because in German the stressed vowel can always be unambiguously determined, but not the syllable boundary. After a short vowel it [= the syllable boundary] lies within the following ambisyllabic consonant... e.g. in kassieren, Neuruppin. Since this cannot be shown in the transcription, they are transcribed [kasˈiːʁən], [nɔœ̯ʁʊpˈiːn]."

  9. John,

    Why do you just put suspension points in your translation for d.h. zu beiden Silben gehörenden Konsonanten? Do you think that explanation is superfluous for phoneticians, or is it just your distaste for the whole concept of a Jason segment? Commenting on your blog entry for "tattoo" the December before last, I pointed out that that concept dispels the mystery about its structure of which you wrote there, and I'm afraid I trot it out whenever I see that it dispels mysteries on these pages. Krech et al do then appeal to the segmental impossibility of showing the stress mark in the appropriate place in this ambisyllabic abstraction, but I don't remember anything like that being among the arguments for your treatment of syllable division in similar situations, and I don't think you would agree that that's just a transcriptional convenience! But we see here that these different approaches can come to the same thing when it comes to marking the stress, so I don't really see why you find Krech et al as shocking as I do.

  10. Gregor,
    As Kraut warned us, some of us don’t have access to the full text, so thanks for posting that conclusive bit.

  11. mallamb: I assumed that readers know what 'ambisyllabic' means.

  12. John,
    I take that to mean you dissociate yourself from the alternative explanation!

  13. vp,
    «Perhpas there was some disagreement between the authors over whether (or how many) consonants immediately preceding the stressed vowel are attracted into the same syllable? Putting the stress mark before the vowel may have been a compromise that helped resolve the dispute.»

    For those of us who don’t have access to the full text, Gregory's gobbet does not entitle us to go along with Kraut's answer that "this was precisely the reason why the stress mark was placed right in front of the vowel". What I get from it is that if it was a compromise at all, then it was a compromise with notational exigencies – and there's no reason to assume it wasn't a unanimous one. But seeing how fussy they are already being, they could have transcribed [kas¹.ˈs¹iːʁən], [nɔœ̯ʁʊp¹.ˈp¹iːn] as opposed to [ˈap¹.p²ʊtsn̩].

  14. I know I'm more than two years late, but now I can log in, and I'm sure this blog will be used as a resource for years to come, so...

    The alveolar trill is used in all southern dialects

    That hasn't been true for a long time. I have real trouble even pronouncing one, and I'm from Austria. My normal consonantal allophone of /r/ is a single-contact [ʀ]. ([ʁ] is distinctly northern.) However, there are still a few newsreaders in Austria who consistently use [r].


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