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I spent some time in the small town of Germersheim, near Karlsruhe. As an American, and being around mostly Americans, I would hear the name pronounced such that the 'sh' sounds like the 'sh' in 'shall', like 'Germer-Sheim'. It seems to me that the proper pronunciation should likely be Germers-Heim, with the 's' and 'h' pronounced separately.

I think this rule probably also applies to many other compound words and names derived from compound words, like Oberbefehlshaber, Prosselsheim, Geroldshausen, etc.

What is the correct pronunciation?

  • People around Karlsruhe commonly use a dialect infused with many many sch-sounds in place of s-sounds. Maybe you also observed this sound in words like "bist" or "hast" – npst Aug 16 '17 at 14:57
  • npst is right. In the local Palatine dialiect, Germersheim is actually pronounced with a sh/sch sound, but this deviates from standard German pronounciation. You can find a recording of the place name pronounced by a local on Wikipedia: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/02/… – jarnbjo Aug 16 '17 at 15:26
  • @jarnbjo interesting... I'll check out that pronunciation. Thanks! – Mike Metcalf Aug 16 '17 at 15:59
  • There is a confounding factor here, and that is the "r" before the "s".. This combination can also in many regions produce the "sch"-sound. C. f "Wurst" as an example. Even if we in "Germersheim" hear a "sch" it is probably followed by an "h" when pronounced. – Beta Aug 16 '17 at 18:19
  • Germer-sheim would never be heard from locals. Germersh-(h)eim is a possibility, though. – Jan Aug 21 '17 at 10:10
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German language actually doesn't like it when "s" meets "h", we simply have no use for it, the consonant that English covers with this digraph is "sch" in German. - The two meeting each other normally happens only in compound words, and all the words (place names) you mentioned are such compound words (and I really cannot think of an example where these two consonants would meet other than in compound words - or in words borrowed from English (e.g "Show" or "Aftershave" - thanks @Wrzlprmft).

And yes, you are right, the two consonants are thus really pronounced seperately because they will always belong to different syllables.

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    Note: Even the "s" in "sch" is sometimes spelled separately, e.g. in combination with the diminutive -chen: "Radieschen" (Radies-chen, "radish") or "Mäuschen" (Mäus-chen, "small mouse"). – Annatar Aug 16 '17 at 7:09
  • @Annatar My favorite here is Füchschen. – Eller Aug 16 '17 at 10:28
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That is a so called Fugen-s, which should make the word easier to pronounce.

So the correct pronunciation for all these words is like

Oberbefehl(-)s-haber

Note that there is no real rule to when a Fugen-s is used. One of the more famous examples is Schadenersatz, which is used with and without Fugen-s. (Of course also depends on the region!)

The place names your mentioned are pronounced alike, although etymologically the s might not be a Fugen-s. (In Geroldsheim "Gerolds" could be the genitive of "Gerold".)

  • thx for the tip on Fugen-s! – Mike Metcalf Aug 15 '17 at 20:24

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