Dividing double consonants in German

I’ve always followed the general rule regarding the underlay for doubled consonants between two vowels, in that they should be divided, e.g. ‘mat-ter’. Gould affirms this (p. 461), but specifically under the heading for the English language. I’m setting words by a German poet, who has questioned this practice. So, for the avoidance of any doubt, could someone confirm that this rule is also normally followed in the German language?

Each language has its own hyphenation rules: you certainly can’t assume that an English rule is true for German.

A quick flick through my Baerenreiter Matthew Passion has ‘Weis-sa-ge’, ‘zer-riß’, ‘ver-ra-ten’, and ‘rek-ke-te’; but also ‘Mitt-ler’, voll-en-det’, and ‘er-öff-ne’.

So, in the absence of a German hyphenation dictionary, I’d certainly follow the poet’s advice.


It very much depends on the text, certainly dont rely on the English rules. You could try searching for “Silbentrennung” or check the “Duden” (sort of the German Oxford English Dictionary). But be aware, as some words don’t have a hyphenation in the Dude, but for singing, they need to have some. For example “Abend”.


Many thanks to you both.

Getting a poet’s advice on orthography may be similar to getting a composer’s advice on engraving—they may not always follow “best practice” but rather “what looks the most interesting”. Cf: stemlets, modal key signatures, contra-metric beaming, pointy fermatas, the list goes on.


There is no German Juicio Brennan?
Bad luck!

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I studied this once as part of my doctoral minor in German, but it was decades ago. The above examples confirm my memory that one normally divides between double consonants, but that is outranked by the need to divide between parts of a compound or inflected word (the last 3 examples above).

Dividing between double consonants even has a rule that a “ck” combination is rendered in music as a double “k” so it can be divided between the two "k"s. Thus Mahler’s song “Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder” becomes in the actual text underlay “Blik-ke mir nicht…”

Overall, it’s a matter of some subtlety, not to be trusted either to a single rule or to a poet’s advice. (Or to my muddy memory, for that matter.) There ARE sources for advice on this matter, I’ve seen them, I just don’t remember where they are.

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I’ve seen this in editions, but it is far less common now to the point where I certainly wouldn’t advice using it, as it is a hindrance when trying to read and understand the text.


The practice of dividing “ck” into “k-k” has been deprecated.
When in doubt, consult https://www.duden.de, for example Duden | blicken | Rechtschreibung, Bedeutung, Definition, Herkunft - the entry “Rechtschreibung” contains a section “Worttrennung” that shows the legal subdivisions of a word: bli-cken

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In general, when setting German, you have to decide whether or not to use the orthography of the 1996 (and later) reforms. If the text is contemporary, it’s probably a good idea to observe the reforms unless the poet (or anyone else that might matter) hates them.

Once you’ve made that decision, the division is fairly straightforward assuming you understand German. The examples given by @benwiggy will be mystifying unless one understands the structure of the words (in which case they’ll make perfect sense).

If one were producing an edition of an older work, it’s very likely that the syllabification used in any earlier printed edition will be correct. If you’re setting a contemporary text, you can learn some rules (have a look at Duden | Worttrennung for example – though it’s not comprehensive) or you can look up the individual words.

As @Pietzcker has advised, Duden | Wörterbuch is useful for contemporary syllabification but it won’t help you with words that aren’t supposed to be divided in print (including common words like aber and neue).

If you want to search for more info online, try using the words Worttrennung, Silbentrennung, and maybe Regeln.


Valuable advice. Thank you.

On the matter of dividing doubled consonants more generally, I’ve set hundreds of texts in the Welsh language, and it has never caused a problem - mainly because there are only two possible doublings. They are nn and rr, which are invariably divided in syllabification. The other apparent candidates - ll, dd and ff - are classed as single letters, and are never divided. We do, however, share the English trap of ‘ng’ (think ‘in-gress’ v. ‘sing-er’, or ‘dan-gos’ v. ‘ang-au’ in Welsh): so much so that the standard English-Welsh dictionary provides the syllabification of each word containing this combination.