Feature/Map 4: Voicing in plosives and fricatives (by Ian Maddieson)
WALS value for German: “in both plosives and fricatives”

Comment: Owing to final devoicing, voicing contrasts in Standard German are limited to syllable onsets; but such positional limitations are ignored for WALS purposes. In Upper High German dialects, in particular Bavarian, only velar plosives /k, g/ and labial fricatives /f, v/ contrast in onset position, while there is no corresponding voicing contrast in labials and alveolars, nor does voice contrast in velar+liquid clusters /gl, gr/; but such patterns which are not only not across-the-board, but indeed only involve a minority of the relevant consonants, would also suffice for a positive value. In WALS, “voicing in both plosives and fricatives” in actual fact means “voicing in at least one pair of plosives/fricatives corresponding in place of articulation, not necessarily in all such pairs”. Fair enough, but phonologists would perhaps have appreciated finer-grained feature values.

("WALS values evaluated", Frans Plank)

For the rest of the paragraph, the examples have been provided by the essay provided by jknappen, but I cannot find any example for gl and gr.

  • 1
    What exactly are you asking? You're looking for evidence of a voicing contrast between [kl] and [gl] in German? I'm sure others have researched this in the past, but if you want your own evidence, get some native speakers, record them saying words with those clusters, then measure the voice onset time (VOT). – Draconis Aug 25 '18 at 22:52
  • No I have found out everything except gl and gr! I do not get what plank means with gl and gr !!! Thanks! – linguistic typology Aug 25 '18 at 23:46
  • 2
    So what exactly are you looking for? Who is Plank, what source is this from? The question as written makes no sense. – Draconis Aug 26 '18 at 0:05
  • linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/28720/… Here is the first version of my question! But the link by jknappen answered everything except gl and gr... – linguistic typology Aug 26 '18 at 0:16
  • @Draconis: The quotation is talking about dialects of German that do not have a voicing contrast between [kl] and [gl] or between [kr] and [gr]. I'm guessing linguistic typology wants to learn more about which dialects have this feature. It's very easy to find examples of a voicing contrast between these clusters in standard German, which is why it's notable that they might not contrast in other dialects of German. – brass tacks Aug 26 '18 at 18:41

I wasn't actually able to find out which exact dialects of German Plank is talking about. The Wikipedia article on "Bavarian language" lists /p b/ and /t d/ as phonemes alongside /k ɡ/, and says that "Some dialects, such as the Bavarian dialect in South Tyrol, realise /k/ as an affricate [kx] word-initially and before /m, n, l, r/".

To be clear, I understand the quoted material to be saying that some dialects of (Upper High) German have no contrast between /p/ and /b/ or between /t/ and /d/, but do have a contrast between /k/ and /g/, which is however neutralized before /l/ and /r/ (it doesn't say whether in favor of [k] or [g]). It may also be relevant that in many German dialects, the contrast between the two series of plosives is a so-called "lenis-fortis" distinction (sometimes realized in the form of an aspiration or duration contrast) rather than primarily being a true voicing distinction.

Other similar things

I found some possibly relevant information on p. 163-164 of "The Swabian voiceless vowel", by T. D. Griffen (1983):

the combination of ge- with [r, l, m, ŋ, w, s, š, f] in western Swabian results in the tenuis, as in [kriəft] < MHG gerüefet (NHG gerufen) 'called' (Kauffmann 1890: 199). While Kauffmann does note that this process has generalized in his dialect areas to yield such forms as [kras] < MHG gras (NHG Gras) 'grass', it is clear in the presentation that even he considers this to be the result of analogy or some other historical process, because the generalized changes are included under the basic combinatory rule involving the prefix ge-.

Moreover, this Anlautsverhartung is at odds with other developments in the same word-initial environment. As also noted above, this very same environment (as it stands after syncope) leads to a weakening in other western dialects, as we find in [grafd] < MHG kraft (NHG Kraft) 'power' (Bohnenberger 1928a:27), [grọ̃mẹ] < MHG krumme (NHG Krume) 'crookedness' (Dreher 1919:15), and (grankhuǫit] < MHG krankeit (NHG Krankheit) 'sickness' (H. Moser 1937:57). To these examples from Baden and Württemberg, we can also add [bloî] < MHG plâge (NHG Plage) 'plague' from the more western Baden (Heimburger 1888:236) and even a regular sound law in the eastern dialect of Lechrain by which [pl) > [bl] and [kl] > [gl), yielding such forms as [breisə] < MHG preis (NHG Preis) 'cost' and [glagə) < MHG klage (NHG Klage) 'complaint' (Haag 1898:33).

I don't know whether the sound changes that Griffen mentions exist in any dialects that furthermore lack a distinction between /t/ and /d/ as well as /p/ and /b/, as in Plank's description. I wasn't able to find a description of the phonology and phonotactics of Bavarian.

Alsatian has a native plosive inventory of [b̥ d̥ ɡ̊ kʰ]

Alsatian, which is a High German dialect, apparently has an sound inventory that contains the plosives [b̥ d̥ ɡ̊ kʰ], as well as the affricates [pf ts tʃ]. This isn't exactly a pure voicing contrast (based on the rest of the phonology, I wonder a little whether [kʰ] might be realized like [k͡x]), but it seems similar to the situation that Plank described.

Wikipedia says that [kʰ] occurs only "at the beginning of a word or morpheme, and then only if followed immediately by a vowel", and transcribes klai 'little' (cognate to Standard German klein) as [ɡ̊laɪ̯].

The Wikipedia article on "Phonation" says that Alsatian /b̥/, /d̥/, /ɡ̊/ "contrast with both modally voiced /b, d, ɡ/ and modally voiceless /p, t, k/ in French borrowings".

  • Yes when jknappen sharedthe link I got all my findings except gl gr I think the final answers will help me thanks! – linguistic typology Aug 26 '18 at 19:49

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