Duration as a contrast enhancer in a Northern German dialect

Author(s): Stefanie Jannedy and Melanie Weirich


This study investigates durational differences of /ç/ and /∫/ in three minimal pairs, elicited in isolation and in carrier phrases, in German. Data was collected from five groups of speakers in Berlin and – as a contrast - from a group of high school students in a northern German small town. Both, Berlin and the small town near Hamburg belong to the lower German dialect area, however, speakers from these two areas differ with regard to the acoustic realization of these two fricatives. Berlin speakers in general have a stronger tendency to merge [ç] and [∫] to various degrees while speakers from the north keep these two sounds quite separate on various acoustic dimensions. In this study, we are investigating the duration of these two contrasting fricatives in these two German varieties. Berlin speakers across five different speaker groups show similar durational patterns in the carrier phrase condition while the northern speakers have a greater durational difference, showing that the contrast is also preserved in [∫] being longer than [ç] when normalized for word duration. We attribute the durational differences between the Berlin speakers and the northern German speakers as a prosodic guise of contrast enhancement between these two fricatives.