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5.6: Aussprache

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    Kapitel 5: Diphthongs and Triphthongs

    This chapter takes a closer look at sound- and letter-combinations in German involving vowels. Diphthongs, as the name suggests, consist of two vowels, while triphthongs consist of three vowels.



    A diphthong is a vocalic double sound. This means that one vowel "merges" with the other. Just think of English words like house (diphthong: [aʊ]), eye (diphthong: [aɪ]), and boy (diphthong: [ɔɪ]). You really should be able to pronounce any and all German words with complete ease… The following are the three diphthongs in German: au, ei/ai, and eu/ä.

    Click on the audio symbol to hear the pronunciation of these words. Roll mouse over German text to view English translations.

    Diphthong Phonetic Symbol Examples
    au [aʊ] das Haus die Maus laufen
    ai / ei [aɪ] das Einzelkind Freitag im Mai
    eu / äu [ɔɪ] das Neujahr deutsch läufst

    There is one more diphthong that occurs pretty much in one interjection only: [ʊɪ] as in Pfui! (yuck!)

    Note the difference between the 'ie' and the 'ei' sequence! The former is pronounced like the 'e' in the English "even", whereas the latter is pronounced like "I":

    IE EI
    lieben bleiben
    die Geliebte der Freitag
    die Schwiegermutter schweigen
    das Genie langweilig
    das Bier heiraten

    Point of interest: You may encounter some dialects in Germany which have a few more diphthongs than the German you have been learning in Deutsch im Blick. For example, High-Bavarian has two additional diphthongs: ua and oa.

    Diphthong Example from High-Bavarian
    ua Bua "Bub" (boy)
    oa zwoa "zwei" (two)


    A triphthong is a sound that consists of three vowel sounds and forms exactly one syllable – as you can imagine, the number of triphthongs in standard German is very limited.

    Click on the audio symbol to hear the pronunciation of the words. Roll mouse over German text to view English translations.

    Triphthong Phonetic Symbol Examples
    iau / jau [jaʊ] Miau jauchzen jaulen
    aue [aʊɛ] klauen trauen schauen
    aua [aʊa] Aua  

    Triphthongs are scarce in Standard German because they were simplified over time into diphthongs and simple vowels. However, in certain dialects like Styrian (Austrian dialect) or Bernese Swiss German diphthongs and triphthongs appear more often.

    Point of interest: There is another subgroup of vowel clusters composed of a diphthong plus a dark schwa (remember Kapitel 4?). They inevitably include an e + and r:

    [aɪɒ] die Eier die Feier  
    [ɔɪɒ] euer das Feuer  
    [aʊɒ] Bauer sauer dauern

    Finally, here are some fun tongue-twisters for you to practice with!

    Screen Shot 2021-06-23 at 10.07.46 AM.png

    This page titled 5.6: Aussprache is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Zsuzsanna Abrams and co-workers (Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning) .

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