OT - German (was: Random DWJ discovery of the day)

Dorian E. Gray israfel at eircom.net
Wed Mar 30 17:21:35 EST 2005

Colin replied to me...

>> What I meant by that statement is that once you know the pronunciation
>> rules in Irish, they don't change; you don't have more than one sound
>> associated with the same letter or combination of letters, nor more
>> than one way of spelling the same sound.  You do have to know the
>> rules first, but once you do, pronunciation and spelling are very
>> straightforward.
> I don't think it's as straightforward as you suppose. To pick a word at
> random from a website (http://www.cnag.ie/): Oireachtais (not quite at
> random: an example with several sequences of vowels and no accent marks).
> Now I know enough to know that those three pairs <oi>, <ea> and <ai> are
> not in fact digraphs, but in each case one of the the vowels will be
> pronounced and the other is a buffer for a broad or narrow consonant.
> What I don't know is which is which. I can make a guess (I think for
> example that neither <i> has vocalic quality) but I don't know. Are you
> saying there are rules for this?

To be honest, I started learning Irish at such a young age that I've pretty 
much internalised the pronunciation rules, and cannot, unfortunately, 
explicate them.  If you want the actual rules, Ania, who learned the 
language as an adult, can probably help you.  But yeah, <oi>, <ea> and <ai> 
have each their own pronunciation and that pronunciation doesn't change.

However, my original point still stands.  *Once* *you* *know* *the* 
*rules*...all is good.  The fact that a person does not know the rules does 
not invalidate my point.  If you, individually, are simply trying to learn 
the rules, that is a completely different point.

> >What was that square symbol meant to represent?  The only thing I can
> think of is that you were aiming for a u-umlaut - >which is certainly
> *not* pronounced the same as "eu".  U-umlaut and "ue" *are* pronounced
> the same, but that's a >particular spelling convention in German that
> says that if umlauts aren't feasible (e.g. on a non-German typewriter),
> the >letter that should be umlauted is followed by an "e" instead.
> I should have written <aeu> for clarity, which is indeed pronounced
> identically to <eu>.

Ah, okay.  I admit that I had completely forgotten the a-umlaut-e thing. 
You're quite correct there.
> While "ig" and "ich" can indeed be pronounced the same in some dialects,
> they are not the same in Hochdeutsch, which I consider to be the standard.
> Consider it the standard all you like, this is not rare or marginal in
> German as a whole.

I don't say it is.  But if we're going to discuss a language as a whole, 
dragging in every dialect is going to make things very complicated.  Which 
is why I'm using Hochdeutsch as a standard here, because it's the variety of 
the language that is taught to outlanders like me.  (And when I speak 
German, it's Hochdeutsch with Berlinerisch overtones and Frankfurterisch 
undertones; hence native Germans ask me where I'm from because they can't 
place my accent!)

> I can't think of any examples of the "s" phenomenon you mention - can
> you provide some?
> Syllable-initial <st> and <sp> are invariably pronounced /sht/ and
> /shp/, but if they happen to come together in separate syllables they're
> /st/ etc. Compare Eistanze and Stanze.

Okay, now I see what you're getting at.

But surely that's a perfectly regular pair of pronunciations, where in the 
first case the pronunciation of "st" is modified by the leading "ei" and in 
the second case, the pronunciation of "st" is dictated by the fact that it's 
the start of the word.

Admittedly, I did say that one spelling had one sound, which was probably 
oversimplistic of me.  But I don't see a problem with a sound being modified 
by a preceding syllable, as long as the modification happens *every* time 
that preceding syllable is involved.  The spelling/pronunciation 
relationship is still regular.


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