How do I determine a phoneme

Voice log

A student once said to me a letter instead of a phoneme. Once.

HM Yes. It only happened to me in the seminar last week, and I was a little helpless - in the sixth semester and after numerous compulsory courses in linguistics, you should actually know better.

But what is it about?

We are extremely obsessed with writing, which often leads to linguistic laypeople not distinguishing between what is written and what is not.

For example, I have already heard from students that they used to write , but are now increasingly writing . But this has nothing to do with the spelling - it only depicts a change that has taken place on another level: From a type of plural formation (on -en at the root of the word) was another (on -s on the basic shape). It is also easy to notice that this difference persists even if you do not look at the spelling but hear the word spoken.

In contrast, something like instead of is a pure writing phenomenon, nothing changes in the grammar. Nevertheless, in the hot times of the spelling reform, many were of the opinion that the language itself would be changed, i.e. the misunderstanding counterpart to.

According to my subjective impression, the mix-up mentioned in the picture is even more common: Here letters and sounds are equated. You can tell that it can't work like that when you look at individual examples:

First of all, in linguistics one does not speak of letters, but of Graphemes. There is an excellent reason for this: Often it is not individual letters that represent a sound, but combinations of them. So stands for / ʃ /, for / k /, for / f / etc. The letters are , , , ,

, but , and the graphemes. If you talk about writing exercises, the former are useful, but if you want to talk about the connection between writing and sound, you need the latter.

Now I have just said that graphemes represent sounds (better: phonemes). This is called, depending on the direction, Grapheme-phoneme correspondence or the other way around. In German, however, this correspondence is often not particularly straightforward. So there is often several Graphemes that one Phoneme correspond to: / s / can be written as: ssen>, ß>, st>. Conversely, the grapheme for the unvoiced / s / (Last), for the voiced / z / (reisen) and even for / ʃ / (S.road) stand. So there is no one-to-one correspondence between graphemes and phonemes in any direction.

My students had now looked at a few pages from Asterix in Mainz and discovered examples like the following:

I.sch Saach ‘s to the last mole: Shut up!

Everything readyschmake ... reception!

This was described as "In the Mainz dialect became ". That is simply wrong: here was a According to to another, the spelling only reflects that. You didn't start to write as for orthographical reasons, but because the phoneme that you wanted to write down has changed.

In addition, not all High German spellings are given dialectally with : While that works for and , it no longer works with , it is not called . The reason is that corresponds to a phoneme that has two to three different phonetic implementation variants ("allophones") (- I explained very thoroughly an eternity ago, here):

  • after a vowel that is formed in the front of the mouth (e, i, ö, ü) or after a consonant one speaks [ç] (mich, Milch, heycheln, …)
  • after a back vowel (a, O, u) one speaks [x] (Bach, doch, Buch)

In our case only the [ç] -realizations become / ʃ /, the [x] -realizations are kept. In addition, a second appears above, in sch>. The standard spelling would be G> with , here the [ç] sound does not correspond to a . Such things simply cannot be adequately described if one falls back on the typeface.

This article was published on by Kristin Kopf in Schplock. Keywords: German, dialect, graphematics, KLTF Rheinfränkisch, phonology, Rheinfränkisch.