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The standard German consonant system is considered to have 17 or 19 obstruent phonemes (depending on whether two peripheral sounds are included, which occur only in loanwords), and five sonorants. The obstruents comprise six plosives, three (or four) affricates, and eight (or nine) fricatives, though there are two auditorily distinct fricatives (x and C) which are usually considered to be allophonic variants, giving ten fricatives in all that require distinct symbolic representation. [For some purposes it is convenient to give explicit representation to the glottal stop, too.]

As in English, the obstruents are traditionally classified pairwise as ``voiced'' and ``voiceless'', though periodicity is a less reliable feature than duration and intensity, and they are therefore better termed ``lenis'' and ``fortis''.

The six plosives are p b t d k g:

p Pein paIn
b Bein baIn
t Teich taIC
d Deich daIC
k Kunst kUnst
g Gunst gUnst

The voicing and aspiration patterning of German plosives is similar to that of English, with the unaspirated variant occurring after initial /S/ or (in a few words) /s/.

[If it is desired to symbolise the glottal stop explicitly, it may be shown in SAMPA as shown here.]

? Verein fE6"?aIn
There are three phonemic affricates that are considered to be native to German, pf ts tS, and a fourth one, dZ, which occurs in a few loanwords, and which is often replaced by tS:

pf Pfahl pfa:l
ts Zahl tsa:l
tS deutsch dOYtS
dZ Dschungel "dZUN=l

There are ten fricatives, f v s z S Z C j x h. j is often realised as a vowel glide:

f fast fast
v was vas
s Tasse "tas@
z Hase "ha:z@
S waschen "vaS=n
Z Genie Ze"ni:
C sicher "zIC6
j Jahr ja:6
x Buch bu:x
h Hand hant

The sonorants are three nasals, m n N, and two ``liquids'', l R, of which R can be realised as a uvular fricative (voiced or voiceless depending on context), a uvular approximant, or a uvular tap or trill:

m mein maIn
n nein naIn
N Ding dIN
l Leim laIm
R Reim RaIm

Orthographic <r> is realised phonetically in a number of different ways:

  1. As a dorso-uvular consonant - a voiced or voiceless fricative, approximant, trill or flap. This should be represented as R (as above).
  2. As an apico-alveolar consonant - a trill, tap, or flap. This may be represented as r, e.g. <Reim> - raIm.
  3. As a vowel post-vocalically. This may be represented as 6 (see below).

The vowels fall into three groups, ``checked'' (short), ``free'' (long), and two short vowels that only occur in unstressed position. There is a genuine short-long vowel distinction in German, the long vowels being roughly twice as long (all other things being equal) as the short vowels.

The checked vowels are I E a O U Y 9:

I Sitz zIts
E Gesetz g@"zEts
a Satz zats
O Trotz trOts
U Schutz SUts
Y hübsch hYpS
9 plötzlich "pl9tslIC

There are 8 pure free vowels, i: e: E: a: o: u: y: 2:, and three free diphthongs, aI aU OY:

i: Lied li:t
e: Beet be:t
E: spät SpE:t
a: Tat ta:t
o: rot ro:t
u: Blut blu:t
y: süß zy:s
2: blöd bl2:t
aI Eis aIs
aU Haus haUs
OY Kreuz krOYts

The unstressed ``schwa'' vowel is:

@ bitte "bIt@

The vowel realisation of <r>, represented as 6, fuses with schwa, but it also follows stressed vowels, resulting in additional centring diphthongs:

6 besser "bEs6
i:6 Tier ti:6
I6 Wirt vI6t
y:6 Tür ty:6
Y6 Türke "tY6k@
e:6 schwer Sve:6
E6 Berg bE6k
E:6 Bär bE:6
2:6 Föhr f2:6
96 Wörter "v96t6
a:6 Haar ha:6
a6 hart ha6t
u:6 Kur ku:6
U6 kurz kU6ts
o:6 Ohr o:6
O6 dort dO6t

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