ADS-L Digest - 23 Dec 2008 to 24 Dec 2008 (#2008-359)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Dec 26 16:13:44 UTC 2008

At 3:17 AM +0000 12/26/08, Chris Waigl wrote:
>On 25 Dec 2008, at 06:00, Rosemarie wrote:
>>Re: the above: are you referring to examples such as these I've
>>- a German boy alternately pronounces his name Sascha and Zascha
>>Neither of them seems to hear anything different in the various ways
>>say their own names!  I've always thought maybe they were joking.
>>Are you
>>saying they really can't hear the differences?
>I do that, except that my name isn't Sascha.
>I grew up in a region of Germany where the regional variant of
>Hochdeutsch as well as local dialects have initial s always unvoiced.
>The way it came across was that many Northern German people had an
>affected way of occasionally adding an unnecessary buzzing sound to
>the beginning of words starting in s, and while I was definitely not
>supposed to pick up what was referred to as dialect, I *was* supposed
>to adopt the high-prestige regional features.
>It took growing up into my 20s, when I was studying away from home,
>that I realized things were more complicated. I remember the
>conversation very well: I had said 'sechs' (six), and one of my
>friends thought I was talking about Sex (sex). It was a total surprise
>to learn he pronounced the former with [z] and the latter with [s] --
>and that this wasn't a personal idiosyncrasy. At that point I had to
>concentrate very hard to even hear the difference.
>These days, I vary. After living abroad for over 14 years now, my
>regional features have bleached, and I do do initial [z], sometimes. I
>don't consciously choose whether to use [z] or [s], but am pretty sure
>that when I'm speaking German in a meeting at work, I'd be more likely
>to say the number 6 as [zEks], whereas around my family, or a
>colleague who grew up in the same town as myself, it would probably
>come out as [sEks]. I'd similarly be able to employ the two
>pronunciations for the name Sascha, leaning towards ['sa.S@].
>An anecdotal data point for your consideration.
And for us non-native speakers, this variability
is essential to the classic riddle:

Q:  What did Freud say comes between fear and sex?


A:   Fünf


The American Dialect Society -

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