I have noticed that "sind" is pronounced differently in the following two sentences:

Die Fahrräder sind gelb. /zind/

Die Autos sind schwarz. /sind/

Why are they pronounced differently?

  • 4
    They are not pronounced differently.
    – lejonet
    Jan 4, 2014 at 18:36
  • 1
    Also notice that the /d/ at the end would be pronounced as a /t/ (terminal devoicing), although in the first example this is arguable because of the voiced /g/ at the beginning of the next word "gelb". Jan 4, 2014 at 21:34

1 Answer 1


You must have a fine ear to notice that. Generally, the word sind is always pronounced with a voiced "s". However, the second example puts the word Autos in front of it. A word that ends with an unvoiced "s". So technically we'd have the following transition.


To do that we need to do two things... "set on" the vocal chords and form an "i". In spoken German people will probably turn on their vocal chords right when they get to the "i". Everything else would be weird rhythmically and one would need to concentrate to do it. So what they're saying is this


If there is a clear break for some reason though, the speaker has enough time and unless he decides to draw out the unvoiced "s" the "s" will be voiced.

Schnecken ... "zind" langsam. Autos... "zind" schnell.

There is a scientific term for one phoneme coloring or swallowing the other but I can't think of it. I'd be glad if someone added it.

  • 2
    The process of coloring a phoneme is called assimilation. For the swallowing process there are several phenomena, the most common being the elision; but there is also contraction and coalescence and subspecies of all of them. Jan 4, 2014 at 21:47
  • @GregorBruns... great, thanks. What would you say is the closest to what's going on here?
    – Emanuel
    Jan 4, 2014 at 21:50
  • I thought it was just assimilation -- the unvoiced "s" of "Autos" is changing the voiced attribute of the "s" in "sind". Ah, and then we omit the pause between the two words but I don't know what that's called in linguistics speak. :) Jan 4, 2014 at 21:57
  • Basically linking the words (not pronounce them separately) in speech is called verschleifen
    – user5513
    Feb 23, 2014 at 0:55

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