Below I quote some words with unstressed e in their morphemic affixes:

  1. finden, with -en, an infinitival affix
  2. findet, with -et, a personal morpheme
  3. vermutete, with -ete, a (tense and personal) morpheme

My questions are as follows:

For 1., I am used to pronouncing the infinitival affix with a regular schwa but some dictionary (Oxford, really) marks this word with /ˈfɪndn̩/ as a pronunciation instruction, indicating that the unstressed sound of e in the infinitival affix be completely dropped. I am wondering is this schwa-drop a must for the pronunciation of such words?

For 2., I once heard some native speaker from München utter the unstressed e in the personal affix as a sound somewhere between [e] and [ɛ], which is definitely not a schwa, but I was taught in class to utter such e as the schwa [ə]. I am wondering whether both ways are perceived as standard pronunciation?

For 3., I was taught to pronounce both e in -ete as schwa [ə]; thus the final and the penultimate syllables get juxtaposed to form [tətə], which I feel awkward to utter because two continuous schwa-syllables make my mouth muscle too relaxed to maintain any rhythm of speech. I am wondering whether it is permissible to switch the sound of the penultimate e a bit to [e] or [ɛ], which demands more muscular effort than the schwa does, so as to keep my mouth muscle at least at a minor degree of tension, which, to me, is essential for a better sense of rhythm in speech?

  • 1
    make my mouth muscle too relaxed to maintain any rhythm of speech - I find this funny. I've imagined you saying this word and I had to laugh.
    – Liglo App
    May 3 '16 at 10:06
  1. Yes it is entirely possible to substitute the shwa-n combination with a vocalic n. Wrzlprmft wrote an answer on the topic stressing a different point and to an unrelated question (and in German). The bottom line is that the difference between shwa-consonant and just the consonant is not phonemic in German and they are not allophones, so nobody will really notice the difference.

  2. Being a Bavarian I say yes, that is entirely possible. Bavarians have a tendency to not use shwa, either going into the direction of omitting the vowel altogether (e.g. any past participle is usually written as g- rather than ge- when writing in Bavarian, gredt = geredet) or overly emphasising it in the direction of [ɛ] or even [e]. File that as ‘an accent thing’ like the Saxonians’ pronunciation of a lot of vowels and you’re good. Do not imitate it unless you are going for a Bavarian accent altogether.

  3. Apart from that being a form used only in formal speeches, the eight o’clock news etc. that’s just the way it is. Two occurances of shwa. Bavarians might make it two appearances of nothing or two appearances of [e] instead; see the answer to 2. You could go for the Bavarian way with the caveat given above. Or you could get the tension in your muscles so that you no longer have problems uttering [tətə]. But the best idea is just to go for the perfect tense: Ich hab vermutet.

  • 1
    +1 for agreeing with me while being more knowledgeable ;) Btw, when I read Präteritum in colloquial contexts, I often suspect overcompensating south Germans.
    – Carsten S
    May 3 '16 at 20:22
  • @CarstenS Haha, yeah, may be reasonable ;)
    – Jan
    May 4 '16 at 13:53
  1. Just from my personal observation as a native speaker, both the version with a schwa and with no vowel are possible. If you want to clearly pronounce the d then it is natural have a vowel after it.

  2. Bavarians usually are easily recognized by their vowels, even if they otherwise speak Hochdeutsch. I cannot give details, though.

  3. I think that I do indeed pronounce both te the same, even though my tongue has move a bit forward when I come to the second t.

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.