Allegro Rules

Capita Selecta Language Processing

Instructors: John Nerbonne, Gertjan van Noord, Wilbert Heeringa
(course under development)
Course Number: LIX010B05

Topics for Bachelor Theses

Please see below.

Course Description

The goal of this project-oriented course will be to implement some "allegro rules" (also known as "fast speech rules" or Schnellsprechregeln) in phonology and then to compare dialect pronunciations on the one hand with standard speech when it is produced quickly on the other. Schmidt and Herrgen (1989) have conjectured that measures of "dialectality" (Dialektizität) might be infected by recordings of standard speech as it is modified by fast speech rules.


Herrgen and Schmidt (1989) have conjectured that measures of dialectality (Dialektizität) might be infected by the fact that the transcriptions (or recordings) of dialectal speech reflect the use of (standard) allegro rules. If these are compared to standard speech in which allegro rules have not applied, then the measurements are misleading. That is, some dialect recordings, including transcriptions, appear to be nonstandard, but only because the recording (transcription) shows an allegro form, rather than a so-called "citation-form". In this project, we will attempt to develop software to investigate how large these effects are.

What are "allegro rules"?

Fast speech rules in German include rules such as post-tonic schwa deletion ([hAp] for habe, [wErdn] for werden, [nOIn] for neuen as well as neun, but also the simplification that leads mehr and Mäher to be pronunced the same); the syllabification of nasals ([wErd=n] for werden); nasal assimilation to preceding consonants ([hAb=m] for haben, [bIt=n] for bitten, [hak=N] for hacken, even [lif=F] for liefen); the deletion of obstruents before syllabic nasals ([hAm] for haben, [lem] for leben, [reN] for regen); epenthesis of homorganic stops ([kOmpst] for kommst, [rEntst] for rennst, and [zINkt] for singt); palatalisation of /s/ before palatals ([aiSraNk] for Eisschrank); degmination, i.e., deletion of homorganic obstruents ([EN=lain] with a single [l] for Engellein) (see Wiese, 2000, p.231ff); elimination of initial glottal stops ([AbEnt] instead of [?AbEnt] for Abend), vocalizing final /r/ ([Aba] for aber), or simplifying the affricate /pf/ to [f] ([fEniC] for Pfennig). One task will be to find a list of allegro rules, ideally all those that play a role in the sample of data used (see below).

Note that other obligatory rules may be used together with allegro rules, such as final devoicing ([hAp], not [hAb] for habe).

It is not intended that we incorporate the effect of allegro rules if these are used regionally, e.g., the deletion of final /t/ in words such as nicht, vielleicht or sonst, which is found in northern and middle Germany, but not in the south. (Ramers & Vater, 1995, p.50).

Implementing Phonological Rules

Finite-State Automata Utilities (also known as "FSA Utilities") is a Prolog package which facilitate the implementation of phonological rules. Note the tutorial for FSA Utilities.

Calculating Pronunciation Distance

L04 is a software package designed for the measurement of pronunciation differences. For our purposes it will be important to use the software to find the least distance between a dialect recording and the whole set of possible allegro rule outputs. Note the tutorial on the use of L04.


The data will we use to test the work and also to test the idea that allegro rules are infecting the observation of dialectality is the data of the Phonetischer Atlas Deutschlands (PAD), which we have digitized in Groningen. The data is available here, transcribed using the system of X-SAMPA.


Week Date Theme Leader Material
1 6 Feb. Intro Nerbonne Background
Pronunciation Comparison
2 13 Feb. Phonetic Transcription Nerbonne Phonetics
Implementing Phonology Van Noord FSA Basics
3 20 Feb Phonology Nerbonne Phonology
Implementing Phonology Van Noord Ex.1, Ex.2
Lab! 22 Feb! L04 Heeringa Tutorial
4 27 Feb. Project Planning Nerbonne
Lab! 1. Mar FSA Van Noord Tutorial
5 6 Mar. Project Meeting
6 13 Mar. Project Meeting
7 20 Mar. Final Meeting

Bachelor's Thesis Topics


Wolfgang Dressler (1975) "Methodisches zu Allegro-Regeln." In: Wolfgang Dressler & F.V.Mares (eds.) Phonologica 1972 Munich: Fink. pp.219-234.

Herrgen, Joachim & Jürgen Erich Schmidt (1989) "Kontrastive Dialektgeographie" in Wolfgang Putsche, Werner Veith, & Peter Wiesinger Dialektgeographie und Dialektologie, (Deutsche Dialektgeographie (90)), Marburg: N.G.Elwert, pp.304--346.

Ramers, Karl-Heinz & Heinz Vater (1995) Einführung in die Phonologie Hürth: Gabel.

Wiese, Richard. (2000) The Phonology of German Oxford:OUP.

John Nerbonne
Last modified: Tue Apr 4 14:52:34 CEST 2006