Re: German »ß«

From: Stephan Stiller <>
Date: Sat, 16 Feb 2013 08:08:38 -0800

>> Or a non-name example: "Buße" (repentance)
>> vs "Busse" (buses). But then, non-name examples are far less likely to
>> remain ambiguous in context.
A reason why Jukka's original example – like most proper name examples –
was better than mine is that it's truly minimal in that context will
really not help /and/ the pronunciation is identical. I wrote "most"
because there's gotta be variation in the pronunciation of a surname
like Rößler. Note though that those names would, if invented today, all
get an unambiguous spelling with either "ss" (preceding short vowel) or
"ß" (preceding long vowel or diphthong); you have a lot of unusual_{from
today's point of view} letter doubling in names.

> Minimal pairs for “ß” vs. “ss”, not involving proper names,
> are extremly rare; in fact, I only know the two mentioned
> in this very note. Between ordinary words and proper names
> (or place names), you can, of course, find more minimal pairs,
> e. g., “Füßen” (a declension form of “Fuß” = foot) and “Füssen”
> (a town in Bavaria).

Interesting would be a non-name minimal pair whose components have
identical pronunciation. Perhaps none is in ordinary use (otherwise we'd
know?), though one can come up with compound words like
"Maißtier"/"Maisstier". Not that they make much sense, plus this one
actually fails the pronunciation test. But some construction along those
lines ought to be possible (and easy, with a corpus). And there probably
/is/ an uncontrived example if we allow a pairing with a geographical
name, similar to what you're mentioning.

Of course in my worldview, all-caps writing is deprecated :-) I might
have never written a ß-"SS" outside of this exchange. Which isn't to say
that I don't laud efforts at precision, at popularizing a capital ẞ, or
at orthographic reform in general :-)

Received on Sat Feb 16 2013 - 10:13:40 CST

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