Are there words in the German language where abcde and Abcde are both valid words but they get pronounced slightly differently? Maybe words that are stressed differently? Is there any case where the capitalion has an effect on the pronunciation?

  • 4
    Do you want a complete list or does one example like Weg ‘way’ (long vowel) and weg ‘away’ (short vowel) suffice? Most other cases are construed, though.
    – Crissov
    Apr 9, 2016 at 12:51
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    @Crissov: I think the question is quite clear on that, it’s a yes/no question.
    – chirlu
    Apr 9, 2016 at 12:54
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    It's an interesting questions for the purpose of the Anki extension AwesomeTTS : github.com/AwesomeTTS/AwesomeTTS/issues/95
    – Christian
    Apr 9, 2016 at 13:03
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    @Crissov, I do not think that the pronunciation of “china” differs from that of “China”.
    – Carsten S
    Apr 9, 2016 at 13:07
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    @Crissov: For what it's worth, not all that much in a question about German, a commonly-used example for English is Polish (adjective, native to Poland) vs polish (verb, to make shiny). Apr 9, 2016 at 14:17

5 Answers 5


Yes, there are: Weg [veːk], weg [vɛk]. It is, however, not the capitalization itself that affects pronunciation; it just so happens that one of the words is a noun and therefore capitalized.

  • As you said yourself it is not the capitalization that affects the pronunciation. But that exactly was the question. Do you know any example where the same word is pronunced differently because of the capitalization?
    – Awita
    Apr 9, 2016 at 13:02
  • @Awita I assume there’s a good example of a one-word initialism vs. a letter-by-letter acronym vs. an expanded abbreviation vs. a normal word. Alas, I can’t think of any right now. ARM, Arm, arm are all pronounced the same, for instance. The definition of “word” also matter, e.g. lexicon entry vs. part of a sentence.
    – Crissov
    Apr 9, 2016 at 13:05
  • @Awita : It depends on the definition of word. For this question I purposefully spoke about what I mean by asking whether abcde and Abcde get pronounced differently. It's what I want to know.
    – Christian
    Apr 9, 2016 at 13:41
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    @christian: the problem is, that every word gets capitalised at the beginning of a sentence - do you include those?
    – Gerhard
    Apr 9, 2016 at 14:38
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    Since capitalisation means it's a noun and non-capitalisation means it's not, they can't ever be the same word, just related words.
    – inarilo
    Jun 7, 2017 at 18:25

Except from the example "Weg" there is no common such pair.

However, capitalising things works as an emphasizer, and that does affect pronunciation somewhat; it might be slower, more majestic, etc.

Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency:

The door was the way to... to... The Door was The Way. Good. Capital letters were always the best way of dealing with things you didn't have a good answer to.

This effect works just the same way in German:

Die Tür war Der Weg.

This would certainly affect the pronunciation of the articles, when compared to their normal pronunciation.

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    The word »der« is an article, not a noun. So writing it as »Der« when it is not the first word of a sentence, is wrong. If you want to emphasize it, you can write it completely in uppercase (»DER«) or bold (»der«) in italics (»der«), underlines (sorry, can't show this here) or spaced (»d e r«). But first letter uppercase and all other lowercase (»Der«) when not being the first word of a sentence is definitely wrong in German. Apr 10, 2016 at 9:56

If there are words that differ solely by capitalisation and pronunciation, they are very few. Apart from Weg and weg I cannot think of any.

In fact, homographes that aren’t homophones (so words that are written the same but not pronounced the same) are extremely rare in German. Short vowels are typically marked by a double consonant (and/or a consonant cluster) following. Long vowels are either unmarked, marked by doubling or by h (or e). Only for a set of very short words (often with grammatical function, according to the official rules) can the vowel be short and the final consonant undoubled.

Only if one of those short words which has a short vowel but no double consonant accidentally is written the same way as a different word that has a long vowel and if one of the two words is a noun will they accidentally have different pronunciation but differ only in capitalisation (since nouns are always capitalised).

Stress is not affected by capitalisation and shifted stress is usually also indicated by shifted length marking. So the Weg/weg case is very special.

  • 1
    One other case where vowel length is ambiguous is before ch and sch, because those can’t be doubled. This leads to pairs such as Sucht [zʊχt] vs. sucht [zuːχt] (a form of the verb suchen), and Hochzeit ‘wedding’ [​ˈ​hɔχ-] vs. Hochzeit ‘flourish’ [​ˈ​hoːχ-]. (The realization of the /x/ may differ, too; personally, I tend to use [x] after a long o or u and [χ] after short o or u and any a.)
    – chirlu
    Jun 8, 2017 at 10:44
  • Of course, Sucht is not another valid example for this particular question, because the OP was looking for dictionary lemmas, not inflected forms; and Hochzeit even less, obviously.
    – chirlu
    Jun 8, 2017 at 10:51
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    @chirlu Good point! This also brings up the pre-reformed spelling with examples such as Floß and floß — the latter is now floss to show the short vowel pronunciation. Hochzeit is, of course, even more interesting because it requires a capital in any case.
    – Jan
    Jun 8, 2017 at 11:07
  • Another example of the Hochzeit type is Lache (‘small pool’ vs. ‘manner of laughing’). There are also names, such as Gesche and Tuchel, but names are special anyway, of course.
    – chirlu
    Jun 8, 2017 at 11:16

No, capitalization never has effect on pronunciation in german language.


Just for the fun of it, here is another homophone which is a lower-case-homograph only:

lüstern vs. Lüstern

lüstern = lewd [adjective]

Lüstern = lustres/chandeliers [dative form of noun]

There is no difference in pronunciation, although both have different roots.

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