Germanic: Hear and Compare.

The Languages & ‘Dialects’ of Europe: Germanic page was linked in a recent thread here at LH, but I thought it should have its own post, since it’s such fun, and educational too:

Our method for measuring the phonetic divergence between any two ‘dialects’ relies strictly on comparing words that are ‘cognate’, i.e. directly related to each other in that they are derived from the same original Germanic word. Our list of words was drawn up specifically to include as many words as possible that are found in Germanic languages and dialects, and without any impact of standardisation. This is true of about 95 of the 110 words in our list.

In the remaining cases where no truly native cognate exists in one or more dialects, we signal this in our database by a superscript ! NC  for Non-Cognate. In some cases we follow with the transcription of the non-cognate word that has the same meaning in that dialect, especially where phonetic similarities might lead users to mistake the non-cognate for a cognate. For the word mouth, for instance, many German dialects use a root that is cognate not with English mouth and German Mund, but instead with German Maul (which is also slang for mouth in standard German).

The word-list — or to be more accurate then, the cognate list — is intended to form a representative sample of the phonetics of the Germanic lexicon. This entails avoiding over-representing in our list particular sounds recurring particular positions. This can be a particular problem with grammatical suffixes, so wherever possible we have recorded the bare root form of words: e.g. imperative forms of verbs rather than infinitives (which would over-represent the sounds /ən/ in the list.

Just click on the words and hear them said by native speakers.

Update. In the comments, Matthew Scarborough points out the successor website to this, adding:

Paul Heggarty and his collaborators have been putting an enormous amount of work into expanding not only the Englishes and Germanic but now has an enormous amount of data and recordings from Romance, Slavic, Celtic, Andean languages, and other projects run by the MPI for the Science of Human History including their extensive fieldwork in Vanuatu.

Comments

  1. Do check out the successor website to this, http://www.soundcomparisons.com. Paul Heggarty and his collaborators have been putting an enormous amount of work into expanding not only the Englishes and Germanic but now has an enormous amount of data and recordings from Romance, Slavic, Celtic, Andean languages, and other projects run by the MPI for the Science of Human History including their extensive fieldwork in Vanuatu.

  2. Beat me to it! They have a very fine-grained map of Mapudungun pronunciations, too. I hadn’t realized this was the successor to L&’D’oE.

    Crostau German has final /ɚ/’s, which I didn’t know existed in any European languages except some Englishes.

  3. …and non-final retroflex r’s, too.

  4. That’s pretty impressive.

    If someone knows how to report a mistake, I found a small one. Slavic words with meaning given as “wool” are actually for the words meaning “wave”.

    My main interest was to listen to the words where Old Russian [ie:] gave [e] in (Northern) Russian and [i] in Ukrainian (that’s an old ѣ bugbear). The set included pronunciation from Penza, but I didn’t find anything especially significant. Pronunciation of all stressed vowels is a bit longer than in examples from Peter, but probably all stressed [e] are just a longer version of that except in a word for summer. There is some [ie:] in there. But than I am really bad at hearing this fine distinctions.

  5. David Marjanović says:

    final /ɚ/’s, which I didn’t know existed in any European languages except some Englishes

    Much of Dutch turns syllable-final /r/ into [ɹ] and makes it syllabic for -er, but I had no idea such a thing could be found in Saxony, too. I wouldn’t transcribe it as [ɚ], though, but as a sequence [ɑɻ].

    There’s an area in Lower Austria where /r/ is more or less [ɹ], but it’s as non-rhotic as most of the rest of German. It’s not represented on the map.

    Most of the German examples of “daughter” transcribed with initial [d], even the Carinthian one, begin with voiceless [d̥] – a distinction that is made in the transcriptions for the other /d~t/ in the word!

  6. Lars (the original one) says:

    I looked at some of the Scandinavian data: For Standard Danish the pronunciation is spot on (clearly a younger speaker than me, some of the vowel values have moved a little but basically the same pronunciation). Except that he doesn’t have stød in løv = ‘leaf,’ but I don’t know if my version is the majority one or his is. Also the sample _and_ transcription given for ‘look!’ (Da se!) is actually the noun . (Could also be the imperative søg! = ‘search!’ in Danish, but for Standard Swedish they have the ‘sea’ noun as well).

    The transcription, though! “Soft D” is transcribed as [ð̞] intervocalically, but as [l] in Auslaut — final ‘r’ is sometimes transcribed as [s] — heights of front vowels are all over the place — and sometimes there’s an extra syllable or one missing. Some of the things look like they simply transcribed another speaker, some things just can’t be right for a Danish speaker. I think it’s possible to submit edits, but my ear isn’t good enough for that, I can just see when it’s wrong.

    Or compare the number 5 for Standard Danish and the two Southern Jutland dialects — I can’t hear any difference, but there are three different vowels in the transcriptions, one of them rounded!

    Icelandic has a lot of that too, with the sample giving a full form (in -ur) of some words where the transcription has a clipped one, and what I guess is different levels of ‘book’ pronunciation between speaker and transcription.

    All of this was present in the L&’D’oE data too, or maybe the new and old page simply use the same database — in any case, the new one doesn’t seem to be ‘newer’ in the sense of having improved data.

  7. Do check out the successor website to this

    Thanks, I’ve added an update accordingly.

  8. Wow, I love these! Both of them. Fantastic websites and so much work must have gone into it. It’s too bad it’s only Stavanger (and coming soon, Oslo) for Norwegian, when there are so many other extremes but I’m sure he knows that. I love having the Hamburgers and the Danish under a microscope. I’m pretty deaf, but I don’t quite understand why he’s got for my English, English RP [ba ̈ɪtʰ] for “bite”. That’s how I’d say ‘but’. Does he have the hice-house thing? I bet not, it’s too weird. I’m going back…

  9. i’m with AJP. These are delightful.

  10. Here is a related enterprise. A company that makes gps map-reading voices and the like has this demo of male & female accents that you can mix and match with languages. So hear a Swedish-Finn speaking Norwegian right after a woman from Skåne reads the same text. Or hear an “emotive but happy” Frenchman called Antoine read a few lines from the Gettysburg Address. Copy and paste your choices of a short text. It’s not dialectally perfect, except possibly for a Christmas game.

  11. David Marjanović says:

    I don’t quite understand why he’s got for my English, English RP [ba ̈ɪtʰ] for “bite”. That’s how I’d say ‘but’.

    With a diphthong???

  12. Trond Engen says:

    I’m no fan of voice GPS, but I’d sign up for one giving directions in the local dialect

  13. With a diphthong???

    According to the wiki diphthong article, [aɪ̯] is RP and [äɪ̯] American for the vowel in lied, which as far as I’m concerned is also the one in bite. Either I’m not an RP speaker or there’s a mistake. It could be either, I’m not being sarcastic.

  14. So either some example word here has skipped a rhyme class, or do in your speech but, hut, glut, strut all really have the same vowel as bide, hide, glide, stride…? (And does this in turn mean that pairs like mutt/might or slut/slight end up as homophones entirely?)

  15. glut, strut all really have the same vowel as bide, hide

    Good God, no. Only if I had flu.

  16. David Marjanović says:

    Because you said that’s how you pronounce but:

    I don’t quite understand why he’s got for my English, English RP [ba ̈ɪtʰ] for “bite”. That’s how I’d say ‘but’.

  17. Yes, I’m still having a hard time parsing that “but” comment; did you mean to say something else?

  18. Ah. Sorry to be confusing. He’s written, for English RP: [ba ̈ɪtʰ] for “bite”. And in the same bite rectangle the talking RP man uses my pronunciation for ‘but’.

    You have to go to bite and listen to Mr RP man. I don’t think I can link.

  19. Lars (the original one) says:

    @ARP, you can link to the page for the word bite in all the Englishes. And the RP one does seem off.

    A similar thing with ‘tear’ which is classed as a bodypart noun, as from crying, and sounds like that in everything but RP where it sounds like the verb for pulling things apart — but the RP transcription is more like what I expect.

    But it’s a free service, so we can’t get our money back. Looks like you might be able to get a login and edit the transcriptions if you’re a bona fide researcher, but they are not open to crowdsourcing in the usual sense and don’t have an error reporting address that I can find.

  20. There is a contact e-mail address listed under the little blue information icon in the upper right corner of their webpages:

    heggarty AT shh.mpg.de

    — so at least one can report errors, and give other comments, and thanks, too, for that matter.

  21. Thank you. I’ll check out ‘tear’. I can see it as ‘tare’ but only in some 1940s film like Brief Encounter, darling. I’m glad you agree some RP is off. The site appears to be run by Brits, so you’d think they’d hear it too. I’m feeling guilty now though. Don’t want no trouble. I’ll try to be only positive in the new year. I do love the two sites.

    – And thanks, Evan Hess.

  22. David Marjanović says:

    Yup, the RP soundfile for “bite” says but, no ifs, ands or buts about it.

    A similar thing with ‘tear’ which is classed as a bodypart noun, as from crying, and sounds like that in everything but RP where it sounds like the verb for pulling things apart — but the RP transcription is more like what I expect.

    No, that file has NEAR, not SQUARE. The one from Somerset sounds like RP SQUARE, but I’m pretty sure that counts as NEAR in Scotland, and I know nothing about the vowels of Somerset, so I don’t know.

    The voice from Buxton, on the other hand, is transcribed as using a drawn-out diphthong. Whatever that sound is, it’s a perfect monophthong.

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