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Stage German (German: Bühnendeutsch, pronounced [ˈbyːnənˌdɔʏ̯t͡ʃ] or Bühnenaussprache [ˈbyːnənˌʔaʊ̯sʃpʁaːxə], English: stage pronunciation) is a unified German set of pronunciation rules for the German literary language used in the theatre of the German-speaking countries, established in the 19th century.[1] Stage German is mostly based on the Northern Standard German phonology, and it won a great reputation as a pure High German during that century. An example is the pronunciation of the suffix -ig pronounced like [ɪç].[2]


Three acceptable realizations of /r/[edit]

Until 1957, only two pronunciations were allowed: an alveolar trill [r] and an alveolar tap [ɾ]. After 1957, a uvular trill [ʀ] was also allowed. A voiced uvular fricative [ʁ], used extensively in contemporary Standard German, is not allowed. Therefore, rot 'red' can be pronounced [roːt], [ɾoːt] and [ʀoːt] but not [ʁoːt].[3]

Lack of /r/-vocalization[edit]

The vocalized [ɐ̯] realization of /r/ found in German or Austrian Standard German corresponds to [r ~ ɾ ~ ʀ] in Bühnendeutsch so für 'for' is pronounced [fyːr ~ fyːɾ ~ fyːʀ] rather than [fyːɐ̯].[4]

Whenever the sequence /ər/ is vocalized to [ɐ] in German or Austrian Standard German, Bühnendeutsch requires a sequence [ər ~ əɾ ~ əʀ] so besser 'better' is pronounced [ˈbɛsər ~ ˈbɛsəɾ ~ ˈbɛsəʀ] rather than [ˈbɛsɐ].[4]

In contemporary Standard German, both of the features are found almost exclusively in Switzerland.

No schwa-elision[edit]

Contrary to Standard German, /ə/ cannot be elided before a sonorant consonant (making it syllabic) so Faden 'yarn' is pronounced [ˈfaːdən] rather than the standard [ˈfaːdn̩].[5]

Fronting of word-final schwa[edit]

In loanwords from Latin and Ancient Greek, the word-final /ə/ is realized as a short, tense [e] so Psyche 'psyche' is pronounced [ˈpsyːçe] rather than the standard [ˈpsyːçə].[4]


Syllable-final fortition[edit]

As in Standard Northern German, syllable-final obstruents written with the letters used also for syllable-initial lenes (⟨b, d, g⟩ etc.) are realized as fortis so Absicht 'intention' is pronounced [ˈʔapz̬ɪçt] (note the full voicing of /z/, which, in position immediately after a fortis, occurs only in Bühnendeutsch: see below), but Bad 'bath' is pronounced [baːt].

The corresponding standard southern (Southern German, Austrian, Swiss) pronunciations contain lenis consonants in that position: [ˈab̥z̥ɪçt ~ ˈab̥sɪçt] and [b̥aːd̥], respectively.

Strong aspiration of /p, t, k/[edit]

The voiceless plosives /p, t, k/ are aspirated [pʰ, tʰ, kʰ] in the same environments as in Standard German but more strongly, especially to environments in which the Standard German plosives are aspirated moderately and weakly: in unstressed intervocalic and word-final positions.[6] That can be transcribed in the IPA as [pʰʰ, tʰʰ, kʰʰ], the voiceless affricates /p͡f, t͡s, t͡ʃ/ are unaspirated [p͡f˭, t͡s˭, t͡ʃ˭], as in Standard German.

Complete voicing of lenis obstruents[edit]

The lenis obstruents /b, d, ɡ, d͡ʒ, v, ð, ʝ, z, ʒ/[7] are fully voiced [, , ɡ̬, d̬͡ʒ̬, , ð̬, ʝ̬, , ʒ̬] after voiceless obstruents so abdanken 'to resign' is pronounced [ˈʔapd̬aŋkən].[4] That is in contrast with the Standard Northern pronunciation, which requires the lenes to be devoiced in that position: [ˈʔapd̥aŋkn̩]. Southern standard accents (Southern German, Austrian, Swiss) generally realize the lenes as voiceless in most or all positions and do not feature syllable-final fortition: [ˈab̥d̥aŋkn̩].

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mangold (2005), p. 62.
  2. ^ "Pronunciation: Part 2". Retrieved May 6, 2012. 
  3. ^ Mangold (2005), pp. 53, 63.
  4. ^ a b c d Mangold (2005), p. 63.
  5. ^ Mangold (2005), pp. 37–40, 63.
  6. ^ Mangold (2005), pp. 57, 63.
  7. ^ Mangold transcribes the voiced palatal fricative with the symbol ⟨j⟩: as if it were an approximant. However, he explicitly states that /j/ is the lenis fricative counterpart of the fortis fricative /ç/ (Mangold (2005:44, 51)). It is also worth noting that among the lenis obstruents /d͡ʒ, ð, ʒ/ as well as the fortis counterpart of the /ð/ (/θ/) appear only in loanwords.