3

I searched for the answer to the question on Google.com and also on Bing.com, but wasn't able to find an answer. Whenever I have heard these words on Youtube.com, or on my Duolingo app, I am not able to distinguish between them. Hence the question.

Edit 1: Acting on the comments, I have added the following links which sound somewhat similar to me:
Durch : http://contribute.dict.cc/?action=audio-history&f=id-264672
Deutsch : http://contribute.dict.cc/?action=audio-history&f=id-6114

It's relatively easy to identify the difference after listening to the sound-bytes a few times, but it's especially hard when I hear it in normal speech (for example in a news podcast from Tagesschau).

  • 3
    You can use dict.cc or forvo.com to listen to pronunciations of words. But no, they are not homophones. – thekeyofgb Jun 3 '14 at 5:43
  • 6
    At everybody criticising the question: Keep in mind that telling non-homophones apart in different languages can be quite difficult, if your ears are not used to it. – Wrzlprmft Jun 3 '14 at 8:09
10

No, they sound very different. Except the fact that both begin with the phonem [d] they hove nothing in common:

deutsch: [dɔɪʧ]
durch: [dʊʁç]

If you can't read phonem symbols I try to explain them:

deutsch [dɔɪʧ]
[d] like "d" in "do", "did", "done"
[ɔɪ] like "oi" in "choice" or "oy" in "toy"
[ʧ] like "ch" in "change" and "lunch"

durch [dʊʁç]
[d] like "d" in "do", "did", "done"
[ʊ] like "oo" in "foot" or "u" in "bush"
[ʁ] this phonem does not exist in english language. In German it is "rr" in "Herr" or "R" in "Ratte".
[ç] not an english phomen too. In German it is "ch" in "Mädchen" and "ich"

  • 1
    The r is not necessarily pronounced as a consonant, it may modify the u to become a diphtong. – Carsten S Jun 11 '14 at 6:38
  • @CarstenSchultz: No. If this was true was, then "durch" would sound like [dʊuç] which you would probably write as "duuch". But the "r" in "durch" can be pronounced as [ɐ] like the "r" in German "der". Note that the r in "der" and the r in "Arbeit" sounds different. [ɐ] is very close to [ə] ("a" in Englisch "comma"). But the standard for "durch" is [dʊʁç] with the same [ʁ] that you find in "Arbeit". – Hubert Schölnast Jun 11 '14 at 7:13
  • Good answer using the phonetic symbols but using words of one other language that might be a foreign language for the TO too is less helpful. Maybe some one can give examples in French, Italian etc. too to improve this answer? :) – try-catch-finally Jun 11 '14 at 7:32
  • 1
    @try-catch-finally: This is a board for German language and the question was asked in English. There is no need to add additional examples in other languages. If you need assistance with phonetic symbols or with pronunciation of German words, than ask a separate question. – Hubert Schölnast Jun 11 '14 at 7:50
  • 3
    [ʊɐ] is not a diphtong? – Carsten S Jun 11 '14 at 11:33
1

I encountered the same thing today when learning the word "durchhalten". I asked the speakers to pronounce it slowly for me, but they still used the alternative pronunciation that you are observing.

I think that if you spelled the pronunciation that you are hearing in the recording you linked, it would be "deuch", not "Deutch".

To determine if this was a single word change or part of a pattern, I searched for similarly spelled words. The only one I could find was "Lurch". There are three pronunciations on dict.cc. One is computer-generated, and it uses the "Leuch" pronunciation, which tells me that this alternative pronunciation is either documented somewhere or appears in a spoken corpus. The other two are humans, one using the standard pronunciation and the other using the alternative one.

I happen to live in Düsseldorf. I found some more discussion of this pronunciation and the areas where it is used online here.

  • 1
    Are you talking about the German word "Lurch" or the English "to lurch"? – Iris Nov 27 '16 at 15:46
  • 2
    I'm afraid that you just do not hear the difference. To a native speaker the vowel at start of the eu in deutsch is quite different from the u in durch, even if they can both be followed by what can be described as a short i. – Carsten S Nov 27 '16 at 17:24
1

As others (especially Hubert) have already pointed out, these two sound extremely different for native Germans and there is no way they would be misunderstood (except maybe if a jumbo jet was just taking off next to the two having a conversation, but then nothing can be heard). I would like to give you some guidance on what to listen for to better tell the two apart.

The vowel (diphthong) in deutsch starts with a short-o-like sound to German ears. It is a rather open sound, i.e. well on the way from an average o to an average a. It then rises, closes, unrounds and moves forward to an i-sound (the short German i) in a sound change generally perceived as ‘going upwards’ or ‘closing’. The vowel in durch is not pronounced as a diphthong by all speakers, however it will always start at a very closed, back, rounded u-sound. Depending on how the r is rendered, this will either not move at all or move ‘downward’ (‘opening’). While I would label the sound movement in deutsch as constant motion, in durch the sound would linger on the u before moving and then linger again on the r.

Different dialect speakers may have different starting and ending points for deutsch but they will always move towards closed, i or ü-type vowel. Similarly, different dialect speakers may have a different u sound in durch but it will either not move at all or move towards more open.

The consonant sound at the end of the word is also markedly different in all varieties of German except for a rather small central area. The most obvious difference is in Bavaria, where durch is pronounced with a /x/ sound like Bach. Most other German speakers will use the /ç/ sound as in ich, which is somewhat ‘softer’ and has less rounded lips than the /ʃ/ sound present e.g. in misch — or deutsch. However, these phonemes have merged in a certain central dialect regions in which the words Kirsche and Kirche can no longer be told apart from the (s)ch part alone.

A further tell-tale feature is the fact that deutsch contains an affricate while durch contains a simple fricative. There should be a stop, however weak, separating the diphthong and the /ʃ/ sound in deutsch. On the contrary, the flow of air is not stopped while pronouncing durch.


One final note on recognising homophones in German: except for a few foreign words and the notable exception of ä/e, the vowel letters in German map phonemes rather well. Thus, if a word is spelt with different vowels (and a diphthong shall count as ‘a different vowel’), they will most likely be perceived differently by Germans and not considered homophones or even rhyming.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.