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I've heard the following alternatives for pronouncing the ending -ig of words like fertig and lustig:

  • /ɪç/ (as in mich)
  • /ɪʃ/ (as in Fisch)
  • /ɪg/
  • /ɪk/

Where are the different pronunciations used? Are there more alternatives?

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3  
I think four are more than enough... ;) –  splattne May 31 '11 at 10:23
    
This is a very good question. Many Germans are confused about it, too, even if they use the correct pronunciation. –  Carsten Schultz Aug 28 '13 at 12:24
    
As a not German native speaker, who has lived in southern Germany, I can attest I've heard all of the variations, so I guess nothing got solved here. Saludos desde México –  user4809 Nov 27 '13 at 5:02
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10 Answers 10

There are regional differences.

In Austria and the southern areas of Germany, you will hear

Honig like "Honik"

König like "Könik"

When I took speech and drama lessons half a life time ago, it was pointed out that these words actually rhyme with "ich", so /ɪç/ is correct.

Honig is pronounced like "Honich"

König is pronounced like "Könich"

wenig is pronounced like "wenich", but of course it is a "g" sound in "weniger als ich dachte"

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I thought that was a pronunciation exception for adjectives, but you seem to be right. I've always thought König was pronounced -ig or -ik in standard German. –  Tim N May 31 '11 at 10:31
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The "Fisch"-like ending is very typical for Saxony. Additionally the "i" can merge to an "ü" sound or get swallowed. ^^ –  ladybug May 31 '11 at 13:32
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And of course there are some regions where weniger is pronounced with something between /ç/ and some kind of /j/. –  Debilski Jun 1 '11 at 11:48
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Sorry to say but I have never ever heard anybody in Austria or Bavaria using a emphasized k instead of a g. I know of north and easter germany the usage of 'ch' instead of g. Please be more specific about what regions are included (south is pretty big, and Baden-Wuerttemberg and Vorarlberg are using alemanic but are less than 1/3 of the south ... –  Samuel Herzog Jun 1 '11 at 23:24
    
I live in Austria for almost 50 years. I never heard "Honik" or "Könik". The last konsonant is pronounced as a "g", not a "k": Honig and König (spoken exactly as written). But to be precise: This is NOT a dialect-pronounciation! This is austrian standard german! –  Hubert Schölnast Nov 27 '13 at 14:51
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This map, from a collection of surveys done by the university of Augsburg, shows the distribution of the different pronunciations:

Aussprache König, wenig und zwanzig

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Wikipedia's Standard German article says:

  • /ɪʃ/ is used in western Germany
  • /ɪk/ is used in southern Germany
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When 'g' forms part of an -ig suffix it is pronounced as -ich using the /ç/ phoneme.

Eilig

Traurig

Honig

In some parts of Germany however, you may hear the consonant in an -ig suffix pronounced in a way that is closer to the /-ig/ phoneme.

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I actually learned in school that Berg is pronounced Berch. It's also Hamburch (or, rather, Hambuäch, if you're from Kiel, like me). This is not true in standard German pronounciation, as teylyn explains.

Because of the regional differences, you can basically use all variants, anyone will understand you. -ig will usually fade to -ik, though, because of the German Auslautverhärtung.

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sorry, but that's simply wrong. Berg is not pronounced with a "ch" sound at the end. Auslautverhärtung is a phenomenon that applies to other contexts, for example laufend sounds like "laufent". But the correct pronunciation of the ending -ig is always /ɪç/ (as in mich), although in some regions it will be pronounced with a hard g or k ending. –  teylyn May 31 '11 at 10:57
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+1.05 for "you can basically use all variants". -.05 for Berch. You don't even have mountains in Kiel!!1 ;) –  splattne May 31 '11 at 10:58
    
@teylyn: That may be wrong, but is what I was taught in school, with this specific example. Sorry for that. With my Auslautverhärtungsbeispiel, I meant that when pronouncing the ending as g rather than ch, it fades to a hard k automatically. I did not mean that ch automatically fades to g or k. –  OregonGhost May 31 '11 at 11:42
    
@splattne: But there's the Bungsberg in Schleswig-Holstein, which actually has a ski lift. Yes, it's just 166m ;) –  OregonGhost May 31 '11 at 11:44
    
plus one for the reference to Auslautverhärtung! :) –  elena Nov 29 '11 at 13:38
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I listened to my old copy of "The Three-Penny Opera" and got the definite impression that the "isch" ending is sometimes voiced up to "izh". Lotte Lenya almost (but not quite) does it in "das Schiff mit acht Segeln und mit funfzizh Kanonen"; however, the amazing Willy Trenk-Trebitsch certainly does it in "Das Lied von der Unzulaenglichkeit":

"Den, fuer dieses Leben

Ist der Mensch nischt gut genug.

Darum hau ihn eben

Ruhizh auf den Hut."

(But maybe this is just a dramatic affectation. )

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With adjectives, I was very specifically taught that without an ending, it's pronounced /ɪç/ (ie. fleißig), but when an ending is given, it changes to /ɪg/ (ie. der fleißige Student).

Edit: Should add, this is for standard Hochdeutsch.

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There are some people like me how believed the simplifying lie

Man schreibt es wie man es spricht

told by their mother or some teachers, that things are spoken the same way as they are written.

I tend to to pronounce König like "König".

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  • /ɪʃ/ (as in Fisch)

This is common where people cannot speak the first variant (ɪç/ as in mich), for example in the Saarland and the palatinate.

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I sometimes use /ɪç/ when talking with close friends or people who also speak my dialect. But the "correct" pronounciation my parents teached me is /ɪg/.

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