Final hardening

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Final hardening is a technical term from linguistics , in particular from phonetics and phonology , and describes the process that sound consonants (i.e. plosives , affricates and fricatives ) lose their voicing at the end of a syllable ( i.e. their final sound ) and are pronounced voiceless .

This phenomenon is not a feature of all languages, but only exists in certain individual language systems , for example in northern German , Dutch and Turkish , but not in southern German or English . For example, the word wheel in northern German is pronounced like Rat [ ʁaːt ] contrary to the spelling . In contrast, the voicing of the consonants is retained in the initial and internal sound of a word.

The hardening of the final voice is one of those linguistic features that are learned unconsciously when acquiring the mother tongue in infancy and subsequently remain unconscious to the unskilled speaker. The consequence of this is that such a voice transfers the hardening of the final voice when speaking foreign languages ​​to those who do not show this phenomenon, which contributes to the typical foreign accent .

Languages ​​with final hardening


The standard German final hardening is a special development in northern Germany - it does not occur in southern Germany or in parts of central Germany, nor in Austrian German or Swiss standard German . It relates to the following consonant phoneme : the plosives / bdg /, the fricatives / vz ʒ / and the affricate / ⁠ ⁠ / .


This is a context-dependent neutralization of a phonological opposition, because the phonemes / b, d ... / and / p, t ... / are otherwise in opposition to each other in German, as can be shown with minimal pairs :

  • Bull  : Bottle
  • Village  : peat
  • cool  : wedge
  • wise  : white
  • Wall  : Fall

The final hardening is a basic and productive phonological rule in northern German, comparable e.g. B. with the aspiration of voiceless plosives in German ( pardon! Is spoken, for example, "automatically" with a breathy p , even if the French pronunciation with nasal vowels is otherwise retained). This means that the hardening of the final voice (and the partial regressive assimilation) naturally also applies to new words and phonemes (e.g. when integrating foreign words: club, grog, jogg !, trend, standard, brav, kurv ! , or when used regional language words in standard German: e.g. stow! ). Although new obstruents be integrated phonemes from other languages into German phonemic system, they are the devoicing (and partial regressive assimilation) (subject to the voiced sh-sound / ⁠ ʒ ⁠ / and the affricate / ⁠ ⁠ / : orange colored, manag (s) !, managed , but in many varieties of standard German are anyway unvoiced).

The final hardening should have started during the transition from Old to Middle High German . In the area of ​​the internal German consonant weakening , the opposition of Fortis and Lenis disappears not only in the final, but also in the initial and in every other position.

The current spelling of German does not reflect the hardening of the final voice , it prefers the so-called stem principle (a word stem is always spelled the same as far as possible). In Middle High German, on the other hand, it was still customary to take account of the hardening of the final voices in the script, so spellings such as <tac> vs. <tages> ("day"), <nît> vs. <nîdes> ("envy") etc. Also in early New High German (approx. 1500–1650), final hardening was sometimes marked as <horse> vs. <horse> ("horse").

A comparable phenomenon can be found synchronously in the languages Dutch and Afrikaans , which are related to German , but not in English, which is also related. German native speakers are therefore easily identified when speaking a foreign language by the typically German accent they cause, i.e. if they also practice the hardening of the final speech in languages ​​where it does not occur (see interference ).


The final hardening affects the voiced consonants b < b >, d < d > and z < z >, which - if they come in the final or before the final s < s > - to the corresponding unvoiced consonants f < f >, þ < þ > and s < s > become. For the voiced consonant g < g > the result remains open, since there is no graphical change (presumably the voiceless consonant χ was not graphically realized separately). Examples for the final hardening are:

  • urgerm.äs. * ǥeƀ e 'give!' > vorgot. * ǥiƀ > got. gif (see inf. gib-an );
  • urgerm. * χlai̯ƀaz 'bread'> vorgot. * χlai̯ƀz > * χlai̯ƀs > got.hlaifs ( hlaib-is )
  • urgerm. * χau̯ƀiđ a 'main'> vorgot. * χau̯ƀiđ > got. * χau̯ƀiþ ( haubid-is )
  • urgerm. * ǥōđaz 'good'> vorgot. * ǥōđz > * ǥōđs > got.goþs ( god-is )
  • urgerm. * mai̯z 'more'> vorgot. * mai̯z > got. mais

Czech, Polish

Voiced consonants in the final are pronounced voiceless in Czech , the spelling is not affected. In total there are eight pairs of voiced and unvoiced consonants that are also used in assimilation . Examples of final hardening are:

voiced consonant voiceless consonant Spelling pronunciation German translation
v f Václav Václaf
b p zub zup tooth
d t had Has Snake
G k smog smoky smog
H ch sníh sních snow
z s obraz obras image
ď ť teď teť now
ž š must must man

At the end of a word, all plosives, fricatives and affricates are voiceless in Polish if they are not within a cross-word consonant cluster:

Lute Pronunciation at the end of the word example
Plosives: b / d / g [p / t / k] pociągu [pot̠͡ɕɔŋgu] "of the train" <> pocią g [pot̠͡ɕɔŋk] "train"
Fricatives: w / z / ź / ż [f / s / ɕ / ʂ] męża [mɛ̃: ʐa] "of the man" <> ż [mɔ̃: ʂ] "man"
Affricates: c / dz / dź [t͡s / d͡z / t̠͡ɕ] kadzi [kadʑi] "tub" <> ka [kat̠͡ɕ] "tub"
Combinations, e.g. B. zd [st] objazdy [ɔbjazdɨ] "Rundfahrten" <> obja zd [ɔbjast] "Rundfahrt"

Bulgarian, Russian

As in Czech, there is also a loss of voicing in Russian and Bulgarian . Here, too, it is not reflected in the typeface. In contrast to German studies, however, in Slavic studies this phenomenon is referred to as final de-voicing, since the terms hard / soft are already used differently, see Palatalization .

voiced consonant
voiceless consonant
Spelling pronunciation German translation
ж / ⁠ ʒ ⁠ / ш / ⁠ ʃ ⁠ / нож "Нош" knife
д / ⁠ d ⁠ / т / ⁠ t ⁠ / город "Гoрат" city

Old French

In Old French there was a hardening of the sound. This is partly still visible today, e.g. B. in:

  • neuf [ nœf ] 'new (m.)' vs. neuve [ nœv ] 'new (f.)'; bœuf [ bœf ] “beef; Ox ”and nef [ nɛf ]“ nave ”from Latin no v um , bo v em or na v em ;
  • the same induration is only graphically also in other franz. Words on -f (which was silenced in the pronunciation today) , cf. clef "key"; cerf "deer"; nerf "nerve" from Latin cla v em , cer v um or ner v um .
  • grand "great" (from Latin gran d em ) was still written < grant > in Old French , but then relatinized to < gran d > in the script ; the voiceless pronunciation has persisted with compositions, cf. un grand homme [ œ̃ gʀã t ɔm ] "a great man" or grand-oncle [ gʀã t õkl ] "great-uncle".



  • Arabic : Ahma dTurkish : Ahme t
  • Arabic: Muhamma d → Turkish: Muhamme t

synchronous: the final hardening is reproduced orthographically, e.g. B.

  • Dative: keba b i (into roasted meat) - nominative: keba p ; kulü b e (to the club) - kulü p (club)
  • gi d ecek (he will go) - gi t (go ')
  • Genitive: birli ğ in (the unit) - nominative: birli k (unit)

However, without hardening of the v [⁠ v ⁠] to f or z [⁠ z ⁠] to s [⁠ s ⁠] :

  • eve (home) - ev (house)


  • Hadumod Bußmann (Ed.) With the collaboration of Hartmut Lauffer: Lexikon der Sprachwissenschaft. 4th, revised and bibliographically supplemented edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-520-45204-7 .
  • Paul / Schröbler / Wiehl / Grosse: Middle High German grammar. 24th edition. Tubingen 1998.
  • Duden , German spelling. 23rd edition. Mannheim 2004.
  • Duden, the pronunciation dictionary. 4th edition. Mannheim 2000.
  • Wilhelm Braune (greeting), Frank Heidermanns (arrangement): Gothic grammar. (Collection of short grammars of Germanic dialects. Main series A, Vol. 1). 20th edition. Max Niemeyer, Tübingen 2004, ISBN 3-484-10852-5 , ISBN 3-484-10850-9 .
  • Arend Mihm: On the history of the hardening of the final sound and its research . In: Linguistics . No. 29 , 2004, pp. 133-206 .

Web links

Wiktionary: final hardening  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Karl Heinz-Ramers: Introduction to Phonology. 2nd edition, Munich 2001, p. 88 f.
  2. ^ Ulrich Ammon, Hans Bickel, Jakob Ebner, Ruth Esterhammer, Markus Gasser, Lorenz Hofer, Birte Kellermeier-Rehbein, Heinrich Löffler, Doris Mangott, Hans Moser, Robert Schläpfer, Michael Schloßmacher, Regula Schmidlin, Günter Vallaster: Variant Dictionary of German . The standard language in Austria, Switzerland and Germany as well as in Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, East Belgium and South Tyrol . Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, New York 2004, ISBN 3-11-016575-9 , pp. LVII .