Are there homophones in other languages?
One thing I like about learning German is that once you learn what all the letters and letter combinations sound like, it actually can be easy to spell a word you've never seen or heard before. Rather in English, one must know the context of certain words in order to be able to spell them correctly, like pair and pare, steal and steel, plain and plane, etc. I have yet to come across two German words that are pronounced the same but spelled differently. Are there any in German or other languages besides English?
There are absolutely tons of German homophones (though fewer than in English).
die Seite (page/side) / die Saite (string/chord on a string instrument)
der Leib (rump/body) / der Laib (loaf of bread)
das Läuten (the ringing) / (den) Leuten (dative form of die Leute (the people))
Häute (skins) / heute (today)
das Meer (the sea) / mehr (more)
isst (eats) / ist (is)
hast (has) / (die) Hast (the haste) / hasst (hates)
I could go on...
Mandarin, being composed of a limited number of syllables, is replete with homophones. Same goes for Japanese, I think.
The first one that comes to mind in German would be ist/isst. Also hast/hasst. I would bet there are plenty of others. Some might argue that the double-s sound is longer, but most people would have a hard time distinguishing that at a conversational rate of speed!
On the other hand, there are also pairs like der Weg (the way) / weg (away), which are spelled the same but pronounced differently (roughly, VAYG vs. VECK).
May I just point out that Weg is not pronounced "vayg". The German "e" does not make an "ay" sound. In other words, if you're pronouncing Weg it should (ideally) not end up sounding like the English "vague". That's just the American/(and other native English speakers') way of mangling it.
Yes, I understand. I just couldn't think of a better way to spell it using English phonetics to show the difference between short and long e... :)
It's really tricky that one. Reminds me of this ancient Doris Day song I used to listen to as a kid and wonder who the hell this Kay Sarah was... until, years later, when I learnt Spanish, I finally figured out that she'd been trying to sing Qué será... !
I've never heard anyone claim that double-s sounds longer.
As far as I'm concerned, double consonants are nearly always just an orthographic convention to mark the preceding vowel sound as short - so "ist, isst; das, dass; hast, hasst" are pronounced completely identically.
You may get geminate consonants at a morpheme boundary ("abbinden" might be "ab-binden") but in the middle, no. "Sabber", for instance, just has a single /b/ sound just as "jabber" would in English.
Man ist was man isst. Bratwurst.
(A line from a Dutch stand up comedian about the "hated" Germans, some thirty odd years ago, that I remembered. I don't remember the context, though...) :-)
Good examples. Yes, I agree with the longer 's' sound with isst vs ist and hasst vs. hast that's why I wasn't technically considering them to be homophone pairs, but you make a good point about how it still could be confusing in a regular conversation. :)
As a native speaker I can assure you that there is no difference in the pronounciation of "ist" and "isst" or "hast" und "hasst". There is no such thing as a longer s-sound. It's like mizinamo said: The vowel before the double consonant is short but vowels can also be short without the double consonant. That's why they're homophones.
Interesting. In a different comment thread, I had seen someone ask how to tell the difference between hearing ist and isst besides context. I swear someone commented that the 's' in isst was longer. Guess that person was incorrect. Thanks for the clarification.
When I mentioned it to my wife she says she's sure she can hear a difference between ist/isst and hast/hasst in her head.
I'm pretty sure I can't.
So I'm not sure whether she thinks she does, because of the difference in spelling, or whether I'm the odd one out.
At least you can say that Germans don't reliably make a difference between them.
Ouch. The words "German" and "not reliably" in the same sentence! Must be VW fall out!
Veyg vs. veck. The "y" clues me in that its a long e. The "k" in "veck" is actually a very hard, short g which to English ears sounds like a "k".
Possibly the first one that one learning German must deal with is das/dass, the first meaning "the" for neutral nouns, and the second being "that" as in "it is good, that you are here"
Depending on who is speaking there can be a little difference in the pronounciation. But in most cases you are right - there's no difference.
Yes! In Swedish, there is ett plan and en plans whose spellings are the same and their pronunciations the same, and only gender separates them, although that doesn't make them homophones, but something else whose term escapes me.
Ah, like die Leiter (ladder) and der Leiter (leader, manager). Since English doesn't have genders for nouns, that's something we don't have.
Yes, exactly! Then again, I heard that in Polish there is a noun that exists in all 5 genders!
Some people view the masculine animate and masculine personal as separate genders. Just two different ways of looking at it.
Oh I didn't know about that. Indeed interesting, it's the first language I hear about that has more than 3 genders then.
That website is no longer available, unfortunately. I'm not sure if the youtube channel still exists or not, but the website has not been in working order for a few months now. This site has a snapshot of it though. https://web.archive.org/web/20161022140537/http://deutschhappen.com/list-of-german-homophones
She founded Edukwest and Edukwest Europe. I think dropped deutschhappens due to lack of time.
Yeah, sure is. I like that about German, too. The difference is that the gender used typically helps things to make sense.
We have two letters in Tamil corresponding to the English "r" (three if you count the American pronunciation): the alveolar tap (ர) and the alveolar trill (ற) [and the retroflex approximant, if you include the Americans: ழ].
Now, over the past many hundred years, the alveolar tap has evolved to be spoken with a bit of trill, and therefore, in spoken language, the trill and the tap sound the same, but the words when they're swapped don't mean even nearly the same.
- Aram: Cutting file, Aṛam: Charity
- Puram: Before, Puṛam: Outside
- Karu: Embryo, Kaṛu: Black (adjective form)
- Mara: of Wood/Tree, Maṛa: Forget