Stage German (German: Bühnendeutsch, pronounced [ˈbyːnənˌdɔʏ̯t͡ʃ] or Bühnenaussprache [ˈbyːnənˌʔaʊ̯sʃpʁaːxə], English: stage pronunciation) is a unified German set of pronunciation rules for the German literary language used in the theater of the German-speaking countries, which was established in the 19th century.[1] Stage German is mostly based on the Northern Standard German phonology, and won a great reputation as a pure High German during that century. An example of this is the pronunciation of the suffix -ig pronounced like [ɪç].[2]


Pronunciation of sonorants

Three acceptable realizations of /r/

Until 1957, only two pronunciations were allowed: an alveolar trill [r] and an alveolar tap [ɾ]. After 1957, a uvular trill [ʀ] was also allowed. A voiced uvular fricative [ʁ], used extensively in contemporary Standard German, is not allowed. Therefore, e.g. rot 'red' can be pronounced [roːt], [ɾoːt] and [ʀoːt], but not [ʁoːt].[3]

Lack of /r/-vocalization

The vocalized [ɐ̯] realization of /r/ found in German or Austrian Standard German corresponds to [r ~ ɾ ~ ʀ] in Bühnendeutsch, so that e.g. für 'for' is pronounced [fyːr ~ fyːɾ ~ fyːʀ], rather than [fyːɐ̯].[4]

Whenever the sequence /ər/ is vocalized to [ɐ] in German or Austrian Standard German, Bühnendeutsch requires a sequence [ər ~ əɾ ~ əʀ], so that e.g. besser 'better' is pronounced [ˈbɛsər ~ ˈbɛsəɾ ~ ˈbɛsəʀ], rather than [ˈbɛsɐ].[4]

In contemporary Standard German, both of these features are found almost exclusively in Switzerland.

No schwa-elision

Contrary to Standard German, /ə/ cannot be elided before a sonorant consonant (making it syllabic), so that e.g. Faden 'yarn' is pronounced [ˈfaːdən], contrasting with the standard [ˈfaːdn̩].[5]

Fronting of word-final schwa

In loanwords from Latin and Ancient Greek, the word-final /ə/ is realized as a short tense [e], so that e.g. Psyche 'psyche' is pronounced [ˈpsyːçe], rather than the standard [ˈpsyːçə].[4]

Pronunciation of obstruents

Syllable-final fortition

As in Standard Northern German, syllable-final obstruents written with the letters used also for syllable-initial lenes (b, d, g etc.) are realized as fortis, so that e.g. Absicht 'intention' is pronounced [ˈʔapz̬ɪçt] (note full voicing of /z/, which, in position immediately after fortes, occurs only in Bühnendeutsch - see below), whereas Bad 'bath' is pronounced [baːt].

The corresponding standard southern (Southern German, Austrian, Swiss) pronunciations contain lenis consonants in this position: [ˈab̥z̥ɪçt ~ ˈab̥sɪçt] and [b̥aːd̥], respectively.

Strong aspiration of /p, t, k/

The voiceless plosives /p, t, k/ are aspirated [pʰ, tʰ, kʰ] in the same environments as in Standard German, though more strongly - this applies especially to environments, in which the Standard German plosives are aspirated moderately and weakly, e.g. in unstressed intervocalic and word-final positions.[6] This can be transcribed in the IPA as [pʰʰ, tʰʰ, kʰʰ]. The voiceless affricates /p͡f, t͡s, t͡ʃ/ are unaspirated [p͡f˭, t͡s˭, t͡ʃ˭], as in Standard German.

Complete voicing of lenis obstruents

The lenis obstruents /b, d, ɡ, d͡ʒ, v, ð, ʝ, z, ʒ/[7] are fully voiced [, , ɡ̬, d̬͡ʒ̬, , ð̬, ʝ̬, , ʒ̬] after voiceless obstruents, so that e.g. abdanken 'to resign' is pronounced [ˈʔapd̬aŋkən].[4] This is in contrast with the Standard Northern pronunciation, which requires the lenes to be devoiced in this position: [ˈʔapd̥aŋkn̩]. Southern standard accents (Southern German, Austrian, Swiss) generally realize the lenes as voiceless in most or all positions, and do not feature syllable-final fortition: [ˈab̥d̥aŋkn̩].

See also


  1. Mangold (2005), p. 62.
  2. "Pronunciation: Part 2". Retrieved May 6, 2012.
  3. Mangold (2005), pp. 53, 63.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Mangold (2005), p. 63.
  5. Mangold (2005), pp. 37–40, 63.
  6. Mangold (2005), pp. 57, 63.
  7. Mangold transcribes the voiced palatal fricative with the symbol j, i.e. as if it were an approximant. However, he explicitly states that /j/ is the lenis fricative counterpart of the fortis fricative /ç/ (Mangold (2005:44, 51)). It is also worth noting that among the lenis obstruents, /d͡ʒ, ð, ʒ/ as well as the fortis counterpart of the /ð/ (that is /θ/) appear only in loanwords.


  • Mangold, Max (2005), Das Aussprachewörterbuch (6th ed.), Duden, ISBN 978-3411040667 
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