1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: German
  4. >
  5. Are there homophones in other…

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KarinGrant

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?

December 31, 2015

26 Comments

Sorted by top post

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SimoneBa

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.

December 31, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/schmidzy

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).

December 31, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SimoneBa

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.

December 31, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/schmidzy

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... :)

December 31, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SimoneBa

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... !

December 31, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/schmidzy

Haha! Thanks for the laugh.

December 31, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mizinamo

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.

January 1, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LucBE
  • 1528

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...) :-)

January 1, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KarinGrant

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. :)

December 31, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/S0S_90

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.

January 1, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KarinGrant

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.

January 1, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mizinamo

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.

January 1, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LucBE
  • 1528

Ouch. The words "German" and "not reliably" in the same sentence! Must be VW fall out!

;-)

January 1, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/velvelajade

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".

January 18, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Adam9812

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"

January 1, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/S0S_90

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.

January 1, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/finndj

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.

December 31, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KarinGrant

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.

December 31, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/finndj

Yes, exactly! Then again, I heard that in Polish there is a noun that exists in all 5 genders!

December 31, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/gabzerbinatoEng

Polish has 3 genders.

December 31, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/schmidzy

Some people view the masculine animate and masculine personal as separate genders. Just two different ways of looking at it.

December 31, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/gabzerbinatoEng

Oh I didn't know about that. Indeed interesting, it's the first language I hear about that has more than 3 genders then.

December 31, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/velvelajade

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.

January 18, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Siebenundzwanzig

Yeah, sure is. I like that about German, too. The difference is that the gender used typically helps things to make sense.

December 31, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/rowschank

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.

So,

  • Aram: Cutting file, Aṛam: Charity
  • Puram: Before, Puṛam: Outside
  • Karu: Embryo, Kaṛu: Black (adjective form)
  • Mara: of Wood/Tree, Maṛa: Forget
January 2, 2016
Learn German in just 5 minutes a day. For free.