What's the English name of the oi sound written as "eu" and commonly found in Germanic words like Deutschland, and names like Euler and von Neumann?

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    English speakers use the same sound in Deutschland, Euler, and von Neumann as in toy, oiler, and choice. People who know about lexical sets might refer to it as the "choice vowel". – Peter Shor Nov 22 '12 at 12:28
  • @Peter Shor: I'm sure you have more reason than me to pronounce von Neumann's name "correctly" - but I've always said "new-man", and no-one has ever corrected me. In my youth I used to read Mad magazine, so lots of people would have mentioned Alfred E. Neuman. Have we all been getting it wrong, or does the doubling of the "n" make a difference there? – FumbleFingers Nov 22 '12 at 18:23
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    @FumbleFingers: I've always heard von Neumann pronounced to rhyme with toy man (a slightly anglicized pronunciation), and Alfred E. Neuman pronounced new man (a more anglicized pronunciation). I don't believe the extra 'n' makes the difference; it's just how much the name has been anglicized. I know Americans named Dougherty can pronounce their name in at least three different ways (with a 'k', a 'g', and an 'h'), so the spelling doesn't tell you the pronunciation. Compare Houston, TX, and Houston St., NYC. And the title character of Young Frankenstein, if you've seen it. – Peter Shor Nov 22 '12 at 18:53
  • @Peter Shor: oic - so even your version isn't exactly what von Neumann would call himself. As with Porsche, I think my gut instinct would be to use fully-anglicised forms wherever these are at least "credible". For example, I always say Dockertee regardless of spelling or how others pronounce it (unless I'm speaking to the person thus named, in which case I usually make at least some effort to reproduce his own pronunciation). – FumbleFingers Nov 22 '12 at 19:29

There's no single word for it. It’s the diphthong /ɔɪ/, a glide which ‘begins between back half-open and open positions, moves upwards and forwards towards [ɪ]; lips open rounded changing to neutral’ (‘Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language’).

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    It's rare that a sound in English has a special name that is other than its sound or its spelling, with schwa being the most common exception. – tchrist Nov 22 '12 at 15:59
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    There are technical names for individual symbols, like ash or digraph for [æ], caret for [ʌ], barred I for [ɨ], or U umlaut for [ü]. But diphthongs normally don't have special names, just because there are so many possible combinations, and most languages only use a few phonemic diphthongs; English only has /oy/, /ay/, and /aw/. Borrowed English words with the German <EU> spelling (or the German <ÄU> spelling, which is pronounced identically) are automatically pronounced with the English /oy/ phoneme. – John Lawler Nov 22 '12 at 18:50

The oi sound is a phonemic diphthong, one of the three main German diphthongs.

It is a combination of the "open mid-back rounded vowel", like in "dog" in American English, and the "near-close near-front rounded vowel", which doesn't exist in American English.

The referenced links below have audio clips to hear the vowels.


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    That's not how most English speakers pronounce book. And there are a lot of English speakers who don't pronounce dog like that, either. – Peter Shor Nov 22 '12 at 14:31
  • good point on book, I removed that comment. And I clarified that the vowel for dog is specific to American English. – joulesm Nov 22 '12 at 14:41
  • I'm only guessing but think it should be the three main German diphthongs. (It's unrelated to the question, agreed.) – Kris Nov 22 '12 at 15:44
  • No problem Kris, always happy to make grammar corrections! Especially when I'm posting in a grammar forum :P – joulesm Nov 22 '12 at 15:48

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