Schlagwort-Archive: Schplock goes English

[Schplock goes English] Last names in Germany

Von Kristin Kopf

This is a (slight­ly mod­i­fied) trans­la­tion of a text I wrote in Jan­u­ary on the dis­tri­b­u­tion of last names in Ger­many. It was request­ed by Petra and I hope it meets your expec­ta­tions! My heart­felt thanks go to Robert for proof­read­ing, all remain­ing errors are of course my own.

Dur­ing the Christ­mas hol­i­days I noticed once more how names can shape a region. When I’m trav­el­ling south, I real­ize that I’ve arrived home not only because the Ale­man­nic dialect creeps into people’s speech but also because peo­ple are sud­den­ly named Him­mels­bach, Göp­pert and Ohne­mus: Names that are, to my ear, deeply root­ed in the region.

And sure enough: All of them can be shown to have the high­est fre­quen­cy in “my” or one of the neigh­bor­ing dis­tricts (“Land­kreise”). I then dis­cov­ered an excel­lent strat­e­gy to find more of these last names: I scrolled through the face­book friends of my rel­a­tives. (And I got lots of ideas doing that – you could ana­lyze pub­lic face­book pro­files that spec­i­fy the place of res­i­dence in order to cre­at­ed a city’s “name pro­file”. You could put more weight on names of high school stu­dents, because they tend to live were they were born. Major cities would have to be ignored because peo­ple move a lot, etc. How­ev­er that research strat­e­gy might bor­der on ille­gal­i­ty and would set a rather bad exam­ple con­cern­ing privacy.)

So, what to do if you sus­pect that a last name is typ­i­cal for a cer­tain region? How can you local­ize it? Weit­er­lesen

[Schplock goes English] How to pronounce German ö and ü

Von Kristin Kopf

Wel­come to Schplock’s first Eng­lish post – a tuto­r­i­al on round­ed front vow­els, name­ly <ö> and <ü>. Impa­tient read­ers might want to skip the more the­o­ret­i­cal first “half” and jump right to the DIY-part below.

What is round in a rounded vowel?

Round­ed vow­els are gen­er­al­ly pro­duced by form­ing a cir­cle with your lips. Or more technically:

Lip round­ing involves draw­ing the cor­ners of the lips togeth­er and pro­trud­ing the lips for­ward from their nor­mal rest posi­tion. (Mad­dieson 2008)

That’s a very com­mon prop­er­ty in back vow­els (pro­duced by putting your tongue some­where in the back of your mouth) like

  • [o] which does­n’t exist in Eng­lish, but you may know it from French eau ‘water’, Ital­ian sole ’sun’ or Span­ish tomar ‘take’,
  • [ɔ] in thought,
  • [u] in goose and
  • [ʊ] in book.

An extreme­ly sim­pli­fied ver­sion of where those sounds are pro­duced can be found in the fig­ure to the right.

In Ger­man, those four sounds dif­fer not only in tongue posi­tion, but also in length: the “lax” vow­els /ɔ/ and /ʊ/ are always short, the “tense” vow­els /o/ and /u/ are always long.

Front vs. back

Round­ing in front vow­els is pret­ty rare in the world’s lan­guages. The prop­er­ty can be found in only 37 of the 526 lan­guages con­sid­ered for the cor­re­spond­ing WALS-map. Only 23 of these pos­sess both high (i.e. ü) and mid (i.e. ö) round­ed front vow­els.1

Source: Ian Mad­dieson, World Atlas of Lan­guage Struc­tures. CC BY-NC-ND.2 (Click for a larg­er version)