Does English sound like other Germanic languages?

Robb   Sat Feb 21, 2009 3:27 am GMT
Being a native English speaker, it is absolutely impossible for me to separate sound from meaning, so I can't judge the language objectively. It's something that has always interested me, though.

Does English sound like its fellow Germanic languages? Though there is significant variation, all of the other Germanic tongues, both North and Western, all have the same "feel" to me, just as Romance languages (minus French) do. English seems to have lost some of the characteristic sounds, though, such as uvulars and trills. Does this make the language sound overall softer and less guttural?

Also, if you had to choose, which Germanic language does English sound the closest to?
-   Sat Feb 21, 2009 3:51 am GMT
Sorry, I don't see how High German can sound like any other Germanic language, since it went through an additional sound shift that changed it's sound completely.
Robb   Sat Feb 21, 2009 3:55 am GMT
Sorry, but it still does sound Germanic. To me, someone who speaks virtually no German, it has a similar cadence and "feel" to it as Dutch. German could never be mistaken for another language, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't sound similar to another.

Now, could we try to answer my question instead of commenting on something completely irrelevant?
Aidan McLaren   Sat Feb 21, 2009 4:26 am GMT
It sounds very similar to Scots; the Scottish version of English.

It sounds similar to German and Dutch.

It used to sound very similar to Frisian, but that was before Frisian was influenced by Dutch and German.
Sova   Sat Feb 21, 2009 4:44 am GMT
English isn't gutteral- and this seems to cause a misunderstanding of what is a gutteral language. Most languages in Europe retain a gutter sound or 2 including French, German, Spanish, and even some dialects of Scottish English. Still no European language I've heard is really "gutteral", as the Semitic languages are. I remember being in a Czech course and the teacher just gave up on getting English speaking (particuarly the Americans) to pronounce "ch".

It's not really harsh, it's a string vowels tied together wuth muffled "errs" and in the case of Americans kind of nasally and high-pitched. Silly might be better, and since may English speakers have a remarkable skill at projecting, kind of obtrussive and annoying
Travis   Sat Feb 21, 2009 5:45 am GMT
One thing is that English does tend strongly for the strong stress-timing and stress variation typical of most Germanic languages (aside from maybe Swedish, especially East Swedish dialects), and likewise has the strong tendency towards fortis plosive aspiration shared by all Germanic languages other than Dutch and Alemannic and weak obstruent voicing shared by all Germanic languages. Also, like other Germanic languages, it is very favorable towards consonant clusters in any position or closed syllables overall, including in initial and final positions. In all these ways, English (very) strongly differs from, say, practically all Romance languages and is very similar to most other Germanic languages. Likewise, English shares the vowel phoneme complexity shared by all Germanic languages, even though it generally lacks rounded front vowels.
Bob   Sat Feb 21, 2009 5:57 am GMT
I don't know about Americans being overly nasal or high-pitched when compared to some speakers of British RP.

What about Kenneth Williams from the "Carry On" series of comedy films? Don't tell me he's nasally because he's got a big snout... But he uses it pretty aggressively!

Anyway I don't really think it's got much to do with particular dialects in general.
12345   Sat Feb 21, 2009 10:33 am GMT
A lot of people from the States who hear a song or whatever in Dutch think it's German.
Ollie   Sat Feb 21, 2009 11:11 am GMT
"A lot of people from the States who hear a song or whatever in Dutch think it's German"

Yes, in Britain too. Dutch and German sound the same to a lot of English-speakers, with the only exception being the extra gutteral Dutch "g"
Guest   Sat Feb 21, 2009 1:00 pm GMT
Yes spoken English resembles a little German and Dutch. Not to mention Icelandic. Icelandic and English sound very similar. 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.
just a comment   Sat Feb 21, 2009 2:38 pm GMT
Yes, English sounds germanic to me.

All germanic languages have different soundings when you know them. But they also have sort of same "feel", in rythm and musicality that it is easy to recognise, like slavic languages do together.

English definitly has that "feeling". I find its musicality very close to Dutch one. when I didn't knew english I was anable to distinguish to other germanic languages. From My point of view all were "northern languages"
Amabo   Sat Feb 21, 2009 2:49 pm GMT
In my time, I've had considerable interaction with Dutch speakers.

I often find that when people are speaking Dutch in the background (in a pub or restaurant, for example), it can be very disorienting; it sometimes sounds like it ought to be English (some sort of BE dialect) but then I find myself frustrated because it doesn't make sense.
Damian in Edinburgh   Sat Feb 21, 2009 4:05 pm GMT
Right - let's consider spoken Dutch similar is it to spoken English? Judge for yourselves.

Here we have a British guy...Steve McClaren....who comes from the North of England but who now manages a Dutch football team...FC Twente. He is being interviewed on Dutch TV and as he is not really conversant with Dutch he is speaking in his native English.

Even though the vast majority of Dutch people are quite competent in the speaking and understanding of English, with varying degrees of fluency, the subtitles appear when he is speaking.

One is certainly more guttural and, to be candid, much harsher that the other and it's isn't English! To British ears the English sounds quite soft and honeyed and issuing forth with quite mellifluous tones compared with the Dutch which can, to British ears again, sound like a rusty old chain saw.

Even the most dreich of British accents, and we surely do have them - and as a Scot I admit we too have similar, but far less strident, sounds in the way many of us speak - can quite compare with Dutch for gutturality. Much as I love our Dutch Euromates I do think they must be the world's greatest consumers of throat pastilles.
12345   Sat Feb 21, 2009 6:59 pm GMT
Hehe, I don't have any throat problems. I think your throat should accommodate for a while to our guttural sounds, but if you're used to it shouldn't be a problem at all.
Oh, and subtitles appear very quickly. Also when someone speaks Frisian or a very different dialect. Like if I'd be interviewed by Dutch television, and I'd speak my Low-Saxon dialect, than they'd subtitle it.

If I speak my dialect Germans can usually understand it. Dutchies from other parts of the country have more problems with it which is quite funny as I live in the Netherlands.

To my opinion Dutch doesn't sound like English. If there actually is a language that sounds like English it's Frisian. And well I can understand most of Frisian as I live 5km from the Frisian border :).
Caspian   Sat Feb 21, 2009 7:46 pm GMT
<< I would think English is a kind of a Germanic-Romance tongue. >>

Well, that's precisely what it is!