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Somewhere in the transition from Middle High German to New High German, the clusters [sk], [st] and [sp] became [ʃ], [ʃt] and [ʃp], respectively, when they were in the onset of a syllable. So, in German words "st" and "sp" are pronounced [ʃt] and [ʃp] only when they occur at the beginning of a syllable. In "Einstein", this is the case; in "Kunst" it is not. ...


As a general rule, "st" is usually pronounced [ʃt] at the beginning of a syllable and [st] in the middle or the end. This is analogously true for "sp" The "sp" in "Erkenntnisproblem" is not a real "sp", as this is a compound noun ("Erkenntnis-Problem"). Remark: this is not true in the southwest of Germany, where "st"/"sp" are always pronounced [ʃt]/[ʃp], ...


"Erkenntnisproblem" is constructed of two words, "Erkenntnis" and "Problem". The two words keep their pronounciation when combined. The word "Kunst" has the "st" at the end, there it stays "s-t". However in several dialects, including Swiss German, it will be spoken as "sch-t".

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