Fortis and lenis

As a Fortis ( from Latin strong, powerful, energetic, brave, Pl: Fortes ) is a spoken with great intensity consonant referred, for example, p [ p], t [t ], k [ k], beta [s ], f [ f], sh [ ʃ ].

The contrast to the Fortis is the Lenis ( gently, softly, Pl: Lene ).

In the High German consonant articulation can characterize each according to how strong the pressure of the Phonationsstroms and how high the muscle tone of the speech organs involved in phonation. So you can consonant after the muscle tension in strained (English tense ) and unstressed (English lax ) consonants and divide by the pressure strength of Phonationsstroms in strong and weak or Fortes and Lene. Normally, pressure strength and muscle tension are coupled together so that Fortes are generally formed with strained articulation organs.

Fortes and Lene in German

In the High German is word-initial and word inside a clear difference between Fortes and Lene. At the end of a syllable, it basically comes to devoicing, that is, it only Fortes are spoken.

Fortes stand out in the German standard high-level language at normal speaking volume by the following features:

  • Aspiration
  • For pressure / stretched
  • Voiceless.

Lene characterized at normal speaking volume by the following features:

  • No aspiration
  • Pressure weak / unstressed
  • Voiced.

Voter turnout or absence of voice ( voiced / unvoiced ) is considered in the German language as a secondary property, as there are Aussprachevarietäten in which this opposition is phonologically irrelevant. In addition, the turnout at the whisper can be omitted entirely without the intelligibility is affected: [b ], [ d ], [ V], etc.

Fortes and Lene in the southern German -speaking countries, in Eastern Austria, and in the Saxon

In Saxony, Thuringia, Vienna, Burgenland and parts of southern Germany, the plosives are generally, so that no difference exists without tuning pitch and with less pressure weakness and tension, so pronounced as voiceless lenes without aspiration between the following pairs.

  • B, p = [ B]
  • D, t = [ D]
  • G, k = [ ɡ̊ ]

One speaks here of the domestic German consonant weakening, which were adopted by the North German variant of High German only partially. A specific North German slowdown, which has prevailed in the oral standard German, the attenuation -ig → ​​- I, for example, in words like often, little, edgy, etc. (see also German stage as a precursor of the oral standard German ).

Example from the Saxon: Gänn se vleisch mol the Govver auvmochen.

The distinguishing feature voiced / unvoiced not exist in the closure sounds southern German dialects, that is, that are distinguished from each other partially in the southern German pronunciation variations of the German Fortes of Lene's because of other properties, such as aspiration, duration, closure duration, etc.

This can be the basis of takeover ( dialect ) German vocabulary with principle voiced lenis consonants are seen in adjacent languages, where voicing is a defining characteristic. Lenis consonants are voiceless there is one ( unless they are written by means of education as voiced ), eg Czech piglovat " iron ," Pichler " tome (of book ) ," herkot " damned (of God ) ", purkrabí " Burggraf " tucet " dozen ", or a number of place names such as Šumperk " Moravian Schönberk " or Vimperk " Winterberg ".

In high- Alemannic dialects in addition, the feature of aspiration is missing. However, Fortis and Lenis are clearly distinguishable, as for example in / s / and / z / after diphthong in Bavarian. Recent measurements suggest that the duration constitutes the essential distinguishing feature. If the air flow is interrupted for longer at a plosive, the air also escapes then with more pressure.


The international phonetic alphabet does not provide special notation to denote the contrast between Fortes and Lene. Only in the extended IPA for the notation of speech disorders, there are additional characters for stronger articulation (eg [t ͈ ] ) and weaker articulation (eg [t ͉ ] ).

Various solutions have been used for the notation of the Fortis - Lenis contrast. In the literature on the Zurich German Fortis lenis contrast has been noted, for example, the following ways:

  • As a Stimmhaftigkeitskontrast ( eg [ t] - [ d], [f ] - [ v] );
  • Like a Geminationskontrast (eg [t ː ] - [ t], [f ː ] - [f ]);
  • Like a Stimmhaftigkeitskontrast, but with Stimmlosigkeitsmarkierung of actually voiced the character (eg, [ t] - [ d], [f ] - [ V] ).

Sometimes, mixed notation systems are used, in which the Fortis - Lenis contrast of plosives is listed in a different way than that of the fricatives ( eg [ t] - [d ], [ ff ] - [f ] ).

Example plosives

/ b / and / p / are in German plosives, in which both the place of articulation as well as the articulating organs are identical. In the northern varieties, the two sounds differ in waveform and sonority of each other. / b / has a greater sonority than / p /. / p /, however, is aspirated, voiceless and is accompanied by a relatively stronger Phonationsstrom pronounced as / b / and with greater muscle tension.

The corresponding to [b ] Fortis is [ p], the corresponding to [ p] Lenis is [b ].