German Phonics for the Genealogist

From FamilySearch Wiki
Revision as of 14:54, 23 October 2019 by JohnsonBX (talk | contribs) (created page)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

A basic understanding of common sounds used in the German language and various ways to write them helps researchers identify places and find persons in records. Standardized spelling is a modern invention, so for the family historian “Spelling doesn’t count!” If the word sounded right when read out loud, any combination of letters was acceptable before the advent of modern orthography. The brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm compiled the first comprehensive German dictionary in the mid-19th Century. This multi-volume work became the basis for modern-day standardized spelling. Some sounds/letters are easily confused in a German-English world: • German “E” and “ä” with English “A” • German “Ei” with English “I” • German “I”,” Y”, “ie” or “ü” with English “E”,”ea”, or “ee” as in “teacher” • German “au” and “ow” with English “ou” as in “pout” • German “eu” with English” oi” • German “J” with English “Y” • German “U” with English “Oo” • German “D” with English “T” • German “ß” with English “B” [because of the way it looks, not the sound] • German capitals “K” and “R”, both in script and print [look very similar]

Some interchangeable sounds:  German “el”, especially as an ending, with English “le” (Example: German “Apostel” – English “apostle”]  German “f”, “ph”, and “v” – English “f”  German “sch” and English “sh”  German “ch” and English “augh”, “k”, or “ck” Other general rules: • All vowels are somewhat interchangeable. That includes the diacritical “Umlaut” vowels ä, ö, and ü and the letter “Y”. They can also be combined and doubled. Examples:  Weber is also spelled Wäber, Weeber, and Waber  Teuschner sounds the same as Täuschner in German or Toischner/Toyshner in English  Nüssle sounds close to Nissle, Nüssly, and Nüssli in German and Nissley in English  Heuer sounds the same as Höer

• Consonants are often doubled in pre-standard spelling. Examples:  “Hannss” for the given name “Hans”  “Stieffel”, “Steffel”, “Stiffel” and “Stüffel” for the surname” Stiefel”

• Hard and soft consonants are interchangeable such as “B/P”, “C. G, and K”, “ck”,”ch”, and “x”, and “G”, “J”, and “sch”. Examples:  Bach/er - Pach/er  Glock -Klock – Clock  Benedict – Bendickt – Bendicht - Bendix  Georg – Jörg -Joerg – Schorsch  Filbert - Vilbert - Wilbert  The letter”z” is pronounced “ts” in German, so “Katz” could also be spelled “Kaz” or “Kats”.

• Silent consonants may be inserted seemingly at random in various places of a word. They may affect the filing order in indexes and the effectiveness of online searches.  The American name “Hannekamp” may have been spelled ”Hahnec/kamp” or “Hahnenc/kamp” in Germany.  Variations of the surname” Daum” in German records include “Dhaum, Daumb, Thaum, and Taumb”

• Names or words may be abbreviated by letters or syllables being dropped and/or replaced with shorter phonetic equivalents.  Kirchenbacher - Kirchenbach – Kirchbach,  Veronika – Fronegg  Dornhauser - Dornhaus  Von der Au – v d Au – Au

• The diacritics “ä”, ”ö”, and “ü” change the original vowel sounds. The shift is sometimes described as adding “rrrrrr” to the original sound. The dotted “y” found in historical documents is not a diacritic. The dots are simply used to distinguish the “y” from the “g”, which can look identical in cursive script.