German Vowel Phonology

A simplified overview of the Standard German vowel system, with interactive audio samples.

IPA Vowel Chart

Overview of the sixteen German vowels, comprising fourteen different qualities, two of them with long/short distinction:

FrontNear-frontCentralNear backBack
Near-closeɪ Mitteʏ Müllerʊ Mutter
Close-midstehlenøː HöhleOfen
Midə bitte
Open-midɛ Stelleɛː Käseœ Hölleɔ offen
Opena Kammkam

Note: The single vowel [ɐ] (near-open central vowel, like [ə] but more open) may be considered an allophone of the sequence /ər/.

Long/Short Distinction

Comparison of the eight long/short vowel pairs:

kama Kamm-unrounded
ɛː Käseɛ Stelle-unrounded
stehlenə bitte↓ open, → backunrounded
Mieterɪ Mitte↓ open, → backunrounded
Mühleʏ Müller↓ open, → backrounded
Mutʊ Mutter↓ open, ← front ⚠️rounded
Ofenɔ offen↓ openrounded
øː Höhleœ Hölle↓ openrounded

Note that the roundedness quality does not change with the long/short distinction.


How vowels are written and pronounced in the German alphabet:

German letterLong pronunciationShort pronunciationRoundedness
akama Kammunrounded
äɛː Käseɛ Stelleunrounded
estehlenɛ Stelle ⚠️ / ə bitteunrounded
iMieterɪ Mitteunrounded
oOfenɔ offenrounded
öøː Höhleœ Höllerounded
uMutʊ Mutterrounded
üMühleʏ Müllerrounded

Note: The letter "y" is considered a consonant that is pronounced the same as "j", but in some loanwoards it is pronounced like the vowels "i" or "ü".


How vowel quality of the three umlaut letters differs:

LetterLong p.Short p.UmlautLong p.Short p.ChangeRoundedness
akama Kammäɛː Käseɛ Stelle↑ closeunrounded
oOfenɔ offenöøː Höhleœ Hölle← frontrounded
uMutʊ MutterüMühleʏ Müller← frontrounded

Note that the roundedness quality does not change with umlauts.

Copyright Notice

This "German Vowel Phonology" page is based on information from the German Wikipedia article Aussprache der deutschen Sprache and therefore released under the same "Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported" license.

Copyright of audio samples:

Copyright © 2021 by Thomas Heller [ˈtoːmas ˈhɛlɐ]