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Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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Subject: Non-native pronunciation of English
Question: Many German adults learning English pronounce ''the'' something like
''ze'', whereas many Dutch pronounce it as ''de''. Neither German nor
Dutch have a voiced /th/, but both languages have /d/ and /z/. So why
does one language tend towards /z/ while the other tends to /d/?

Reply: That is an interesting question, the answer is not obvious (to me). The only tentative answer I can think of is that, I believe, the Dutch word for "the" itself sounds like 'de', whereas none of the forms of the German word for "the" could be mistaken for foreign pronunciations of the English word. But I am not at all sure that that is the real answer to your question.

Geoffrey Sampson

Reply From: Geoffrey Richard Sampson      click here to access email
Date: 20-Sep-2012
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Non-native pronunciation of English    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (22-Sep-2012)
  2. Re: Non-native pronunciation of English    Elizabeth J Pyatt     (20-Sep-2012)
  3. Re: Non-native pronunciation of English    Robert A Papen     (20-Sep-2012)

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