Does English sound like other Germanic languages?

--   Sat Feb 21, 2009 7:49 pm GMT
<<Well, that's precisely what it is!>>

That's precisely not what it is.
Jasper   Sat Feb 21, 2009 10:56 pm GMT
BOB: "I don't know about Americans being overly nasal or high-pitched when compared to some speakers of British RP. "

This comment needs to be broken down into two parts:

Overly nasal? Absolutely. Kate Winslet commented that "Learning to speak American English was difficult because they speak with a more-closed palate than we; this is hard to learn to do without sounding nasal." Added to this tendency is the tendency for speakers from the Northern Tier of the US to raise their vowels. While vowel-raising doesn't qualify as "nasal" per se (the vowels aren't necessarily aspirated through the nasal cavity), it's PERCEIVED that way when compared with a certain norm.

High-pitched? RP loses this one. I once read that the frequency range of spoken British English is notably higher than that of American English, making AE easier to learn for Francophones, whose frequency range is closer to AE...
Ben   Sat Feb 21, 2009 11:35 pm GMT
Brits are WAY more nasal than Americans.
Bob   Sat Feb 21, 2009 11:39 pm GMT
Jasper, I can come up with just as many anecdotes of British speakers with a perceived nasal quality. By using the word perceived, you're conceding that it is subjective which proves my point that you can't generalise.

I gave the example of Kenneth Williams who is British and has a high, whiny voice that BE speakers will agree is nasally . But what does that prove? Just that we can find nasally sounding speakers in any dialect. So there's nothing absolute in your judgement or Kate Winslet's. Maybe tones in BE tend to rise more frequently relative to other tones but that doesn't make it high-pitched overall.

I think it's absurd to think a certain frequency range (or what it lacks) facilitates English learning for a Francophone.
ESB   Mon Feb 23, 2009 6:31 pm GMT
where is Frisian spoken?

By the way, American English is a middle-of-the-mouth, slightly "lispy" language. Maybe that's what Kate Winslet meant, although she didn't really express it properly.
common points   Mon Feb 23, 2009 7:07 pm GMT
"It it wasn't for how English sounds, I would think English is a kind of a Germanic-Romance tongue. Only when you hear somebody speaking English you realize that it's a true Germanic language. "

Well, from my point of view written english has a very typical germanic look too; not only spoken English. That English has borrowed some french words doesn't change nothing. Most of the time (especially for the most used words) romance words have been heavily Englicized in spelling.

In spelling what "look" germanic to me would be for exemple:
- omnipresence of "W" (almost a germanic trademark from a romance speaker's point of view): "was", "view", "written","words", "borrowed"...
- presence of "ing" endings. "spelling", "speaking", "nothing"
- presence of "k": "spoken", "think", "speaking" "spoken", "
- presence of "sh"
- presence of many consonant endings
- presence or double "o": look, too,
Guest   Mon Feb 23, 2009 7:48 pm GMT
<<<< I would think English is a kind of a Germanic-Romance tongue. >>
Well, that's precisely what it is! >>


English sounds like a germanic language
ESB   Mon Feb 23, 2009 9:16 pm GMT
To tell you the truth, English pronunciation is unlike any European language's.

Whether you consider German, Dutch, French, Spanish, Russian, Polish, or any other European language, they can all be described as "frontal" or "dental" languages, in the sense that the front teeth play a big role in the production of most sounds. For instance, /t/, /d/, /l/ are all dental sounds in most European languages, just to give some examples. The tongue is always somewhere around the teeth.

English is in a category of its own. Its pronunciation is farther back. The tongue does not deal with the front teeth; /t/, /d/, /l/ all occur behind the teeth. Of course, there are exceptions, but in 90% of the cases English pronunciation differs strongly.

American English is pronounced even farther back. But the beginnings of this "farther-back" pattern can be observed even in BP.
Leasnam   Mon Feb 23, 2009 9:18 pm GMT
<,- presence of "ing" endings. "spelling", "speaking", "nothing"
- presence of "k": "spoken", "think", "speaking" "spoken", "
- presence of "sh"
- presence of many consonant endings
- presence or double "o": look, too, >>

Also, the combination "tch" (batch, catch, ditch) is a dead ringer to Romance speakers that English is unlike their language.

I guess this would apply to "dge" (bridge, edge, dodge) as well...
Language Lover   Mon Feb 23, 2009 10:37 pm GMT
I can't judge English objectively either. Dutch sounds something like English to me as does Norwegian. I can't tell you why, though. All Germanic languages that I've heard sound "Germanic" to me. Travis probably can explain it, but even when I listen to a Germanic language I can't speak, I can still pull some words out of what I hear. I guess that's why I wasn't so impressed when I heard that the Born on a Blue Day guy learned some Icelandic. Good for him, and all-but the guy recites pi for hours on end. If I recited pi, it would go like this-Apple, Blueberry, Rhubarb, Dutch Apple, Cherry, Lemon Meringue, Chocolate Cream...
I think they should have given him a language further from English.

This was meant to inform and to be slightly funny. Please return to the topic.
rara   Mon Feb 23, 2009 11:01 pm GMT
There are some accents in England that sound just like Dutch. I think they are Scottish accents and they trill their 'r's.
12345   Tue Feb 24, 2009 12:11 am GMT
where is Frisian spoken? »
In Frisia, north west province of the Netherlands.
Regina   Thu Feb 26, 2009 7:24 am GMT
English, sounds nothing like a Germanic language ><" I don't know why alot of people say that. The sounds of English, sound like no other language.
Travis   Thu Feb 26, 2009 7:49 am GMT
Well, that is not really true. While English may generally sound, well, superficially different from other Germanic languages, the matter is that it had a good number of key phonological properties that clearly groups it with the other Germanic languages and separates it from, say, the Romance languages. The first of these is strong stress-timing combined with strong reduction of unstressed phonemes; while these do vary in strength in different Germanic languages, they are still shared characteristics of all Germanic languages in practice. The second of these is aspiration of word-initial or stressed prevocalic plosives not following /s/, which English shares with all Germanic languages other than Dutch and Alemannic. The third of these is a complex vowel system which, while derived from historical vowel length, now combines both vowel length and or vowel quality to maintain vowel distinctions; this is in common with practically all Germanic languages today other than Austro-Bavarian, which has lost the phoneme distinctions linked with historical vowel length altogether. These features alone make the Germanic languages stand out from the other Indo-European languages, and likewise group English with them rather than apart from them.
Damian in Edinburgh   Thu Feb 26, 2009 8:02 am GMT
Kenneth Williams actually died in 1988, his sudden death due to a drugs overdose being subject to a great deal of speculation, and he is best remembered for his parts in the Carry On films, as well as his performances in the long running BBC Radio 4 program Just A Minute - a program I have referred to in an another thread.

His voice was, indeed, extremely nasal and quite frankly I think he exaggerated it a great deal, so much so that it became a distinct part of his theatrical persona. He was a born exhibitionist in a very theatrical way and he used his voice to enhance his presence but as so often happens with people like this he was a deeply insecure individual in so many ways, much like the classic clown whose facade hid a totally different person behind it.

High camp can best describe Kenneth Williams's voice and the nasality of it was inherently an obvious feature of it. He was very much a Londoner - he lived his entire life in the Bloomsbury/Regents Park area of Central London, and it's clear that as he grew up and destined to go into the theatrical profession he cultivated his very recognisable voice and facial expressions.

In spite of his tortured inner self and innate insecurities mostly related to his sexuality (the poor bloke was born much too soon) he became a very successful performer and appeared on the London West End stage alongside the most famous of actors and actresses, as well as in all those comic films of the Carry On series.

He was extremely erudite, had an enormously wide range of general knowlege, and his skill in the love and use of the English Language was clearly demonstrated in the Just a Minute program I mentioned.

That weird voice of his was, naturally, a gift from heaven for all mimics and impersonators. I don't believe that nasality features in any big way in the general British accent but it certainly did where KW was concerned, but as I say, that guy was unique.

He was a dedicated diary keeper - he virtually recorded his entire life in a diary, dutifully written up in longhand on a day by day basis, right the way through from the days of the London Blitz of WW2, as a young teenager, through to his very last night on this earth at the age of 62. The last words on the last entry in his diary logged up just hours before he was found dead in bed by his elderly mother were: " what's the bloody point!"

His diaries were edited and published in book form by Russell T Davies, who knew KW very well, and RTD was quite unfazed to discover entries in the diary in which KW referred to him in very unflattering terms.

How interesting to discover that I sound Dutch! I don't know whether to be pleased - or suicidal myself! Neither I suspect. I certainly do trill my "Rs" but no way am I guttural - I'm from Edinburgh, for heaven's sake!