Kapitel 6: Auslautverhärtung & a helpful guide to recognizing German/English Cognates
1. DIE AUSLAUTVERHÄRTUNG
Now that you're familiar with the sounds and letters of the German alphabet, let's see how they can change in different environments. One perfect example is the phonological process known as Auslautverhärtung (the hardening of the final consonant in word).
Through this process, the voiced consonants, for example b, d, and g, are transformed into their voiceless counterparts p, t, and k at the end of syllables or words. The term voiced describes sounds that make your vocal cords vibrate when you pronounce them, while the term voiceless describes sounds that do not make them vibrate. Put your hand on your throat while you say b and p and you should be able to feel the difference!
The consonants b and p are really the same sound (same place and manner of articulation) with the only difference that b is voiced and p is voiceless. For that matter, so are the consonant pairs k and g as well as d and t.
In German, the voiced consonants b, d, and g are pronounced "normally" as b, d, and g if they begin a word or are in between other sounds (i.e., not at the end of the word), as the following examples show:
At the beginning or in the middle of words:
Now compare these to what these consonants sound like at the end of word:
The same phenomenon occurs with the fricatives s and v. z and s are really voiced and unvoiced counterparts, as are v and f.
The Second German Consonant Shift: Your friendly guide to German-English cognates
In the early 19th century, scholars were busy deciphering the differences between various Indo-European languages (the language family to which both English and German belong) and noticed a variety of patterned changes from Sanskrit, Latin and Greek to the Germanic branch of this language family. In addition to Friedrich Schlegel and Rasmus Rask, Jakob Grimm of Grimm Grammar fame was quite fascinated and developed a set of statements that described most of the patterns of interest. His descriptions are summarized under Grimm's Law, and describe the First Germanic Sound Shift (accounting for changes that occurred during the centuries around 1000 BC). These changes included, for example, shifting from the p in pater (father; Latin) to f/v in (father/vater; Germanic languages).
Later in the life of Germanic languages, a second sound shift (over the course of several centuries, starting probably around the 3rd century and before the 9th century) occurred, which accounts for many of the differences that can be seen today between Standard German and English words. Knowing these changes will help you recognize cognates and decipher the meaning of German texts much more efficiently!
So, how does the High German Sound Shift (the Second Germanic Consonant Shift) tell us? In a nutshell, it tells us that
The following chart highlights the differences between German and English consonants, which are a result of the High German Sound Shift.
Knowing these changes can help you decipher German-English cognates. Below are some sentences in German. Do you recognize the highlighted words? What are their English equivalents?
You can listen to the Auslautverhärtung in this poem by Christian Morgenstern, a German poet who wrote many nonsensical poems (1871-1914):
Himmel und Erde
Found at: http://www.interdeutsch.de/Uebungen/auslaut.html