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Allegedly, during the invasion of the Netherlands by Nazi forces commencing on May 10th, 1940, the Dutch used "Scheveningen" or "beschuit" as a shibboleth to distinguish German speakers from Dutch. I don't quite understand that, as most Germans don't speak Dutch, full stop, and it would be trivial to distinguish them thereby, while presumably if you have gone to the trouble of learning Dutch, you'd know how to pronounce "Scheveningen".

At any rate, that story is often cited, eg in this insightful article that has many more examples:

Mcnamara, T. "21st Century Shibboleth: Language Tests, Identity and Intergroup Conflict " Lang Policy (2005) 4: 351. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10993-005-2886-0






> while presumably if you have gone to the trouble of learning Dutch, you'd know how to pronounce "Scheveningen".

It’s actually hard to do. This is a good choice of shibboleth.

I’d propose “squirrel” as an english word to find german speakers.

Famously, pacific theater allied forces occasionally used “lollapalooza” as a shibboleth, also for fairly obvious reasons.


Ha. That is nice, because Eichhörnchen (squirrel) is also a hard one in German.

The same issue exists in French, as well! "Écureuil" (squirrel) is somewhat difficult for English speakers to pronounce, and "squirrel" (écureuil) is somewhat difficult for French speakers to pronounce.


Scheveningen is one of the districts of The Hague. It's also a variation of the Sicilian chess opening (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6) which is how I learned that story.

Anyways, someone who is Dutch (I'm not) would know how to pronounce it. Someone purporting to be Dutch highly likely would botch it miserably.

A modern example of this sort of shibboleth is:

https://twitter.com/richardfausset/status/861297977813590019


I think it’s because in German, sch is one consonant (like sh in English), while in Dutch, sch is a consonant cluster of s-ch, ch as in Loch Ness.

Also, in many dialects of Dutch, including the standard, the long e in the first syllable of Scheveningen is pronounced closer to the English long a than the German long e, and the final -n is silent. So a typical Dutch pronunciation would be (something like) [sxeɪ̯vənɪŋə], vs. German [ʃe̝ːvənɪŋən].

Yes, but presumably you’d learn that when you learn Dutch. I maintain that it is easier for a German speaker to learn the pronunciation of “Scheveningen” than to learn the entire Dutch language, and that L1 German speakers that learned Dutch as a foreign language will pronounce “Scheveningen” correctly, or, at any rate, not make the trivial mistake of analysing “sch” as the trigraph "sch," pronounced [ʃ], rather than as the letter "s" and the digraph "ch", producing the consonant cluster [sx].

>Yes, but presumably you’d learn that when you learn Dutch.

Learning it theoretically (and adapting to it somewhat) and being able to fluidly pronounce it as a native are two different things...

>and that L1 German speakers that learned Dutch as a foreign language will pronounce “Scheveningen” correctly

Technically correctly. Not natively correctly. There would still be differences...


>while presumably if you have gone to the trouble of learning Dutch, you'd know how to pronounce "Scheveningen"

The idea behind that scheme was not about people "knowing" how to pronounce or not.

The idea was that native speakers would pronounce it differently than people who merely learned the language as foreigners -- which could then be identified even if it was subtle.




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