* German

The standard German consonant system is considered to have 17 or 19 obstruent phonemes (depending on whether two peripheral sounds are included, which occur only in loanwords), and five sonorants. The obstruents comprise six plosives, three (or four) affricates, and eight (or nine) fricatives, though there are two auditorily distinct fricatives (x and C) which are usually considered to be allophonic variants, giving ten fricatives in all that require distinct symbolic representation. [For some purposes it is convenient to give explicit representation to the glottal stop, too.]

As in English, the obstruents are traditionally classified pairwise as "voiced" and "voiceless", though periodicity is a less reliable feature than duration and intensity, and they are therefore better termed "lenis" and "fortis".

The six plosives are p b t d k g:

        Symbol          Word                    Transcription

        p               Pein                    paIn

        b               Bein                    baIn

        t               Teich                   taIC

        d               Deich                   daIC

        k               Kunst                   kUnst

        g               Gunst                   gUnst
The voicing and aspiration patterning of German plosives is similar to that of English, with the unaspirated variant occcurring after initial /S/ or (in a few words) /s/.

[If it is desired to symbolise the glottal stop explicitly, it may be shown in SAMPA as shown here.]

        ?               Verein                  fE6"?aIn
There are three phonemic affricates that are considered to be native to German, pf ts tS, and a fourth one, dZ, which occurs in a few loanwords, and which is often replaced by tS:
        pf              Pfahl                   pfa:l

        ts              Zahl                    tsa:l

        tS              deutsch                 dOYtS

        dZ              Dschungel               "dZUN=l
There are ten fricatives, f v s z S Z C j x h. j is often realised as a vowel glide.
        f               fast                    fast

        v               was                     vas

        s               Tasse                   "tas@

        z               Hase                    "ha:z@

        S               waschen                 "vaS=n

        Z               Genie                   Ze"ni:

        C               sicher                  "zIC6

        j               Jahr                    ja:6

        x               Buch                    bu:x

        h               Hand                    hant
The sonorants are three nasals, m n N, and two "liquids", l R, of which R can be realised as a uvular fricative (voiced or voiceless depending on context), a uvular approximant, or a uvular tap or trill:
        m               mein                    maIn

        n               nein                    naIn

        N               Ding                    dIN

        l               Leim                    laIm

        R               Reim                    RaIm
Orthographic <r> is realised phonetically in a number of different ways:
  1. As a dorso-uvular consonant -- a voiced or voiceless fricative, approximant, trill or flap. This should be represented as R (as above).
  2. As an apico-alveolar consonant -- a trill, tap, or flap. This may be represented as r, e.g. <Reim> -- raIm.
  3. As a vowel post-vocalically. This may be represented as 6 (see below).
The vowels fall into three groups, "checked" (short), "free" (long), and two short vowels that only occur in unstressed position. There is a genuine short-long vowel distinction in German, the long vowels being roughly twice as long (all other things being equal) as the short vowels.

The checked vowels are I E a O U Y 9:

        I               Sitz            zIts

        E               Gesetz          g@"zEts

        a               Satz            zats

        O               Trotz           trOts

        U               Schutz          SUts

        Y               h?bsch          hYpS

        9               pl?tzlich       "pl9tslIC
There are 8 pure free vowels, i: e: E: a: o: u: y: 2:, and three free diphthongs, aI aU OY:
        i:              Lied            li:t

        e:              Beet            be:t

        E:              sp?t            SpE:t

        a:              Tat             ta:t

        o:              rot             ro:t

        u:              Blut            blu:t

        y:              s??             zy:s

        2:              bl?d            bl2:t

        aI              Eis             aIs

        aU              Haus            haUs

        OY              Kreuz           krOYts
The unstressed "schwa" vowel is:
        @               bitte           "bIt@
The vowel realisation of <r>, represented as 6, fuses with schwa, but it also follows stressed vowels, resulting in additional centring diphthongs:
        6               besser          "bEs6

        i:6             Tier            ti:6

        I6              Wirt            vI6t

        y:6             T?r             ty:6

        Y6              T?rke           "tY6k@

        e:6             schwer          Sve:6

        E6              Berg            bE6k

        E:6             B?r             bE:6

        2:6             F?hr            f2:6

        96              W?rter          "v96t6

        a:6             Haar            ha:6

        a6              hart            ha6t

        u:6             Kur             ku:6

        U6              kurz            kU6ts

        o:6             Ohr             o:6

        O6              dort            dO6t

 Verbmobil SAMPA-D-VMlex documentation (in German)


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Maintained by J.C. Wells. Last amended 1996 03 18

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