ä, ö, ü, ß

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twinklestar

Senior Member
Chinese
Hallo!

1 What is this set of vowels- ä,ö,ü called in English?

2 What is this consonant-ß calld in English?

3. What is the different pronunciation between " ö " and [e:]? I cannot distinguish them from my audio file.

Danke!
 
  • berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    'ö' should be rounded, 'e' is open unrounded
    Correction of what is probably just a typo. Both are close-mid front vowels.:)

    @twinkelstar:
    It is not 100% clear from your question but I assume you are talking about the long "ö". It is indeed produced almost the same way as a long "e" (though a German ear hears them as very distinct sounds) only the lips are rounded.
    The short "ö" is similar to the "u" in the American pronunciation of "current".
     
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    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    As far as I understand it, in some dialects the löng "ö" sounds like a long "e", but in standard language they are clearly different.

    If you compare it with colors, and "e" is red and "o" is blue, then "ö" is lilac (purple).

    I mean, "ö" is in the middle between "e" and "o" and has properties of both sound.
    This is similar tu "ü" which seems to be in the middle between "u" and "i"
    (All a,e,i,o,u with German pronunciation.)

    I got a message, that the color comparison might not be usefully. Sorry, if this is so.

    In English "word" is near to the German "ö"-sound, as far as I hear it.
     
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    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    For me the short and the löng "ö" sound similar but have different length.
    The main difference to AE seems to be in my understanding, that in AE vowels are tensed while they are lax in German.

    I do not hear a big difference between German "Möhre" and English "word" (despite that "word" is tensed) while "current" appears to be short.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    For me the short and the löng "ö" sound similar but have different length.
    The short "ö" is more open than the long "ö". Compare "Öfen" and "öffnen". In "Öfen" the cavity of your mouth is much more closed than in "öffnen".
     

    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    This is clear. But if you compare either long or short "ö" with other vowels, like "a", "ä", "e", "o" or others, you would find the characteristic of "ö". They are much more similar to each other in sound than to any other of the standard vowels.

    This does not hold in dialects, where sound shifts are possible compared to the High German standard language. (I do not mean "sound shifts" in an etymological sense but in comparison of the current situation).
     
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    Kurtchen

    Senior Member
    German - Norddeutschland
    I do not hear a big difference between German "Möhre" and English "word" (despite that "word" is tensed) while "current" appears to be short.
    Ooh, can of wörms ;) Hutschi, given your geographic location I'm pretty sure your pronunciaton of Möhre differs vastly from mine, so that is probably not the best metric.
    Duden has [ø] same as in böse, whereas I prefer it more open as in öffnen [œ], 'current' on the other hand is (at least for me) distinctly different: [ɜ:] whereas my significant other pronounces it [ʌ] :eek:
     

    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    Given this, it is clearly different from "e".

    I think, I speak [ø] in "Möhre", but I'm not absolutely sure. I think, I speak it similar in "word" which is wrong.

    One of the problem is that the brain adjusts to the own vowels coming from the ears in a filter and removes differences from other languages if you are not very trained.
    If it would not reduce information this way, we would not understand anything.

    To the original poster: Hi, Twinklestar, which sources of audio files do you use? May be we could compare them to see, if they really sound native.
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    This is clear. But if you compare either long or short "ö" with other vowels, lile "a", "ä", "e", "o" or others, you would find the characteristic of "ö". They are much more similar to each other in sound than to any other of the standard vowels.

    This does not hold in dialects, where sound shifts are possible compared to the High German standard language. (I do not mean "sound shifts" in an etymological sense but in comparison of the current situation).
    Sure, we are only taking about standard German. If we count in dialect we'll never finish.

    If you say, long and short "ö" differ from each other less than other German vowels I cannot agree. Short and long "ö" have the same distance from each other than long an short "e". All four are front vowels, both long vowels are close-mid, both short vowels are open-mid. The only difference is that the two "ö"s are rounded and the two "e"s not.
     
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    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    I found a sound source:
    http://www.phoneticsgroup.de/audio/goethe/goethe_erlkoenig.mp3
    Quellseite: http://www.phonetics.eu/

    Here under the first words are "Goethe" and "Erlkönig".

    You can compare the sounds of "e" and "ö" here, do you hear differences?

    Compare: "Nebelstreif", "Erlkönig", "Sohn" and others.

    Berndf wrote:
    If you say, long and short "ö" differ from each other less than other German vowels I cannot agree. Short and long "ö" have the same distance from each other than long an short "e". All four are front vowels, both long vowels are close-mid, both short vowels are open-mid. The only difference is that the two "ö"s are rounded and the two "e"s not.
    True. But are the long "e" and the long "ö" more similar to each other than long and short "ö", for example? I mean the distance to other vowels.

    Long and short vowels are related to each other and are similar to each other.

    I wrote: "They are much more similar to each other in sound than to any other of the standard vowels." This does not mean that other vowels cannot have a similar distance.

    Moderator note: Hutschi forgot to add who approved the audio file. It was approved by me (sokol).
     
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    Welshie

    Senior Member
    England, English
    2 What is this consonant-ß calld in English?
    Without entering into the debate on ö and e, I would just like to say that since ß is a German letter, it doesn't really have an English name that I'm aware of. I would call it an s-zett, which is just an Anglicization of its German name.
     

    brian

    Senior Member
    AmE (New Orleans)
    As a native English speaker, I can sympathize with what Hutschi is saying about "ö" when comparing "word" with "Möhre," and what berndf said about "ö" as the "u" in "current." When I took my basic, intro German class at university, we didn't mention anything at all about the difference between short and long--my teacher simply said, "Pronounce 'ö' as if you were pronouncing the 'e' in 'get' but with pursed/rounded lips."

    And that seems to be a decent approximation to the long "ö." But then when I actually got to Switzerland/Germany, my "schön" was sounding way too forced and awkward (i.e. long?), and I thought to myself that the "ö" in "schön" sounded very much like "-ur"/"-ir"/"-er," almost like "sure" + "n."

    Regarding questions (1) and (2), I would not call vowels "ö, ü, ä" umlauts, as that is the term for the two dots above the vowels. If anything, I say umlaut vowels. Or when referring to a specific one, I say "a-umlaut / a with umlaut." Or maybe even "umlauted a." :)

    I call "ß" "Eszett" in English too. But I think you can also say "sharp s."
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I can't imagine how ö (whether short or long) can be confused with e. To my ears, they are very distinctly different.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    my teacher simply said, "Pronounce 'ö' as if you were pronouncing the 'e' in 'get' but with pursed/rounded lips."
    This rule (short "ö"=rounded short "e", long "ö"=rounded long "e") probably wouldn't help you much with the long "ö" as most English speakers have difficulties with the long "e" too. In loan words like the "é" in "entrée" [e] is normally pronounced [ɛɪ].

    Regarding questions (1) and (2), I would not call vowels "ö, ü, ä" umlauts, as that is the term for the two dots above the vowels. If anything, I say umlaut vowels. Or when referring to a specific one, I say "a-umlaut / a with umlaut." Or maybe even "umlauted a."
    Hmmm... at least the way the Grimms coined the term and the way it is used in German, "umlaut" refers to the sounds and not to the little dots.
     

    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    In "Oxford Concise dictionary of Linguistics" I read as first meaning that English "umlaut" is used to describe various sound changes, especially in Germanic languages. (This corresponds to Grimm's usage as described by Bernd.)

    Second meaning: In writing the "umlaut" (in English) are the two little dots in some phonetic transcriptions.

    In German "Umlaut" has the first meaning and as second meaning what Brian describes as "umlaut vowels".

    So there is a difference in the meaning, and "umlaut" and "Umlaut" are false friends for the second meaning, however, the meaning is similar.
    The two dots are called "Umlautpunkte" in German if they refer to "Umlaut" or "Trema" in other cases.

    Please proof if the following is correct:
    Umlaut (German) = umlaut (English, for sound shift)
    Umlaut (German) = umlaut vowel (English, for the letter)
    umlaut or umlaut mark (English) = Umlautzeichen or Trema, respectively (German)
     
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    MarX

    Banned
    Indonesian, Indonesia
    Hallo!

    1 What is this set of vowels- ä,ö,ü called in English?

    2 What is this consonant-ß calld in English?

    3. What is the different pronunciation between " ö " and [e:]? I cannot distinguish them from my audio file.

    Danke!
    Hi Twinklestar!

    1. I call them "a umlaut", "o umlaut", and "u umlaut" respectively.

    2. I'm not sure. :( I usually say "es-tset", but when the other person doesn't understand, I just say "beta", which is probably wrong, but most people understand it better.

    3. Ö is rounded. Many native speakers do have a very close pronunciation of Ö and E.

    Bitte! :)
     

    twinklestar

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Hello all,

    Guten Tag!

    Thank you very much for your help. I just have had an audio file about the pronunciations so I couldn't see how the speaker pronounces it. Now I have a video file at hand and I am clearer about the pronunciation about ö.

    Danke!:)
     

    brian

    Senior Member
    AmE (New Orleans)
    This rule (short "ö"=rounded short "e", long "ö"=rounded long "e") probably wouldn't help you much with the long "ö" as most English speakers have difficulties with the long "e" too. In loan words like the "é" in "entrée" [e] is normally pronounced [ɛɪ].
    What do you mean by "long 'e'"? [e]? Like the "a" in "bay"? Then I think you are referring to (what I think is traditionally referred to as) the "glide" in English vowels. But when combined with "o" or "u" (and by pursing the lips) the glide doesn't really factor in, at least not for me.

    berndf said:
    Hmmm... at least the way the Grimms coined the term and the way it is used in German, "umlaut" refers to the sounds and not to the little dots.
    As Hutschi points out, "umlaut" in English refers either to the linguistic sound shifts that occurred or to the actual dots, but not (as far as my speech is concerned) to the letters themselves.

    In "Oxford Concise dictionary of Linguistics" I read as first meaning that English "umlaut" is used to describe various sound changes, especially in Germanic languages. (This corresponds to Grimm's usage as described by Bernd.) :tick:

    Second meaning: In writing the "umlaut" (in English) are the two little dots in some phonetic transcriptions. :tick:

    ...

    Please proof if the following is correct:
    Umlaut (German) = umlaut (English, for sound shift) :tick:
    Umlaut (German) = umlaut vowel (English, for the letter) :tick:
    umlaut or umlaut mark (English) = Umlautzeichen or Trema, respectively (German) :tick:
    You got it. :thumbsup: Remember also that when referring to a specific vowel, you can say for example "a-umlaut" or "a with umlaut."

    2. I'm not sure. :( I usually say "es-tset", but when the other person doesn't understand, I just say "beta", which is probably wrong, but most people understand it better.
    Oh no no, please don't use the word "beta" for "ß." They are two completely different letters. I guess you could say "that beta-looking letter," but even still... :) You can quite easily see the difference: ß (eszett) vs. β (beta). The lowercase beta always has a tail.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    What do you mean by "long 'e'"? [e]? Like the "a" in "bay"? Then I think you are referring to (what I think is traditionally referred to as) the "glide" in English vowels. But when combined with "o" or "u" (and by pursing the lips) the glide doesn't really factor in, at least not for me.
    Yes the German long "e" is [e:]. As [e] doesn't exist in English except in some regional variants, most English speakers approximate it with a glide. Therefore the rule "pronounce [e:] with rounded lips" for producing the German long "ö" wouldn't work for most English speakers. If you tried to pronounce this glide with rounded lips you would arrive at something which sounds similar to the German diphthong "eu". For you it might be different because you probably know how to pronounce [e:].:)
    Oh no no, please don't use the word "beta" for "ß." They are two completely different letters. I guess you could say "that beta-looking letter," but even still...:) You can quite easily see the difference: ß (eszett) vs. β (beta). The lowercase beta always has a tail.
    To make the confusion complete, there are calligraphies where the “eszett” has a descender as well, even in some Antiqua printing fonts as you can see here. In hand-writing, it always has a “tail”.

    Historically, the “eszett” is was ligature of a long “s” and a “z” in black-letter script.
     
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    brian

    Senior Member
    AmE (New Orleans)
    Yes the German long "e" is [e:]. As [e] doesn't exist in English except in some regional variants, most English speakers approximate it with a glide. Therefore the rule "pronounce [e:] with rounded lips" for producing the German long "ö" wouldn't work for most English speakers.
    What we would do in class (and the same in my French class when doing French "u") is simply hold the vowel to get an idea of its sound, thus avoiding any glide at the end. I but I suppose some speakers won't help having to glide it eventually when finishing the vowel...

    berndf said:
    For you it might be different because you probably know how to pronounce [e:].:)
    I think you're right. Italian has trained me well. :D

    berndf said:
    To make the confusion complete, there are calligraphies where the “eszett” has a descender as well, even in some Antiqua printing fonts as you can see here. In hand-writing, it always has a “tail”.
    Yeah, I should've been more careful when saying, "You can easily see the difference," because often (especially in handwriting) they are written indistinguishably. In fact, when I write German or Greek, I write the same thing for both.

    So let's make an analogy. :) It's kind of like "0" (zero) and "O" (the letter)... often indistinguishable in writing, and sometimes even in text, but two completely separate things.
     

    sokol

    Senior Member
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    I can't imagine how ö (whether short or long) can be confused with e. To my ears, they are very distinctly different.
    I agree of course with your statement - they are clearly different.

    Nevertheless, concerning articulation /ö/ (front-rounded) is closer to /e/ (front-not rounded) than to /o/ (back-rounded); in acoustic phonetics however /ö ü/ are right in the middle between /e i/ and /o u/ (open /ö/ is somewhat closer to open /e/ than open /o/ while closed /ü/ acoustically is almost equally close to both /i/ and /u/).

    Thus it is possible for speakers of languages where there are no rounded front vowels to "hear" /ö ü/ as both /e i/ and /o u/.
    This of course will depend on your mother tongue; in Slavic languages typically German /ö ü/ will be interpreted as /e i/ (you see that in German loans in Slovenian, for example, or in Cyrillic transliterations of German names).
     
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