Standard German Transcription

Alan Trick
LING 310 at TWU
2007 February 14


Standard German is one of the larger languages of the world. According to the Ethnologue[1], Standard German had 95,392,978 speakers in 1990 and German 101[2] reports it as being more than 120 million people. Most of these people (75 million) reside in Germany. Standard German is the official language of Germany, Liechtenstein, and Austria; in addition to the multilingual nations of Switzerland and Luxembourg where it shares that status. The ISO 639-3 code for Standard German is 'deu'. Standard German is also one of the official languages of the European Union.[3]

From a diachronic perspective, German descended from the following family line: Indo-European, Germanic, West, High German, German, Middle German, East Middle German (Ethnologue). Historically, there were a large number of German dialects throughout Western-Central Europe. These dialects were mutually intelligible with adjacent ones, but not with their further removed neighbors.

At some point, several of these dialects were affected by the High German consonant shift. These dialects were classified as High German. The dialects that did not follow the consonant shift became known as Low German. Standard German grew out of High German, while Dutch, for example, came from Low German.

During the 20th century, an increase in communication has caused many of these dialects to dwindle or disappear. Moreover, nationalism and political autonomy have caused a diverge between dialects from different nations, such as Dutch and the Low German[2].

Standard German has much in common with Dutch and other languages from the German family. It also has a smaller resemblance to English and French (Ethnologue reports the lexical similarity of English1) and French with German as 60% and 29%, respectively).

The demography of the language varies from country to country; however, Germany contains the most German speakers by far. According to the Central Intelligence Agency[4], Germany has a literacy rate of 99% for both male and female. The country is predominately Christian (Protestant and Roman Catholic) with a significant number of unaffiliated or 'other' religious commitments.

Figure 1: Map of Standard German usage (source missing)
Map of Standard German usage


(In this assignment were were tasked to transcribe certain phrases in the target language and then make recommendations on how speakers of that language may improve their pronunciation of English.)

Table 1: Hi, how are you today?
Transcription ˈhalo βi ˈgeiʦ di ˈhʌite
Gloss Hi, as goes you today?
Table 2: My name is (removed for privacy) and I come from Karlsruhe in Germany. What's your name?
Transcription ˈheize und coˈme aus ˈkarlsoi ɪn ˈdoiʧlʌnt ve hais
Gloss I called and I come from Karlsruhe in Germany. What called you?
Table 3: I would like to learn more about German and your country.
Transcription ˈfʷʊɾe ˈgeɾne meiɾ ˈlann̩ ˈøbe doiʧ und aux ˈøbe dain lantʰ
Gloss I would like more learn about German and also about your country
Table 4: Could you please tell me where the bathroom is?
Transcription ˈkœndʌst mɪr ˈbɪdə ˈsagn̩ wu di tʌˈlɛte ist
Gloss Could you me please say where the toilette is?
Table 5: I cannot understand or speak German, could you help me?
Transcription ɪç kan kein doiʧ ˈbrɛʃn̩ ˈoidɚ faʃtein̩ ˈkʊnts̩t du ˈhɛlfn̩
Gloss I can not German speak or understand, could you me help?
Table 6: Thanks for helping me learn about your language.
Transcription ˈdaːnke dʌs du mir hœvs ˈdainɛ ˈʃpɾakɛ stu ˈlɚnʌn
Gloss Thanks, that you me help, your speak to learn.

Recommendations for English Pronunciation

  1. In all of the sentences, make sound, especially vowels, further back in the mouth. Move the tongue further back.
  2. In sentence 1, voiced alveolar approximants should be more rhotacized. Try bunching up the touch when making [ɹ] sounds.
  3. The first vowel in the word “name” should be a diphthong: [ei] not [e]. It may help to think of the words as being spelt “nayme”.
  4. The schwa vowel is slightly higher (the mouth is more closed). For example the “man” in “German” is pronounced [mәn], not [mʌn].
  5. In English, the [l] sound is more pronounced. Touch the tip of the tongue to the alveolar ridge.


Merely looking at the languages' lexicon may be misleading, however, as German and English contain some significant grammatical differences. Inflection, declension, use of gender, and long compound words are some features were German differs from English. Mark Twain's essay, The Awful German Language, provides some examples (and humor) for the inquisitive reader.
writings/school/german_transcription.txt · Last modified: 2016/04/21 20:39 by trick