Appendix:List of shibboleths

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This appendix lists shibboleths: words and phrases whose pronunciations are used to identify a language or dialect.


Boston accent[edit]

English accents[edit]

Northern Irish English[edit]

  • aitch vs. haitch
    • some consider aitch to be the form used by Protestants and haitch the form used by Catholics

social shibboleths[edit]

Southern USA accent[edit]

  • nice white rice
    • exhibits the monophthongisation of the digraph /aɪ̯/ as [aː]

Alemannic German[edit]


  • rødgrød med fløde (red groats with cream)
    • IPA(key): [ˈʁœðˠˀˌɡ̊ʁœðˠˀ mɛ ˈfløːð̩ˠ]
  • (file)



  • yksi (one)
    • IPA(key): /ˈyks̠i/
    • Used in the 1918 civil war to to detect Russians among captured combatants.
  • höyryjyrä (steamroller)
    • IPA(key): /høyryjyræ/
    • Consisting of back-to-back phonemes (y, ä, ö; aspirated h, rolling r) hard for any non-native speaker to pronounce without an accent, it was used in WWII to detect Russians from intercepting spoken messages.


  • un bon vin blanc (a good white wine)
    • IPA(key): /œ̃.bɔ̃.vɛ̃.blɑ̃/
    • Used to showcase the four French nasal vowels.



  • שיבולת \ שִׁבֹּלֶת(shibólet, ear of grain).
    • The original shibboleth, mentioned in Judges 12:5–6 of the Hebrew Bible as a word that was used to detect Ephraimites fleeing a military defeat, because they couldn't pronounce it the way those from other tribes did.


Southern Brazilian accent[edit]


  • доро́га (doróga, road; path) (Used to check German spies during World War II, German soldiers had difficulty pronouncing Russian /r/ and/or voiced consonants.) (Vasily Zaytsev, Behind the Volga there was no land for us. Sniper's Notes, First published in 1981.)



  • паляни́ця (paljanýcja, a type of bread)
    • IPA(key): /pɐlʲɐˈnɪt͡sʲɐ/.
    • Allegedly, Ukrainian nationalists used the word to identify Russians. The main difficulty for Russians is to pronounce a palatalised /t͡sʲ/, which is extremely rare, especially in such positions. Most Russians also tend to reduce an unstressed /ʲɐ/ to /ʲɪ/.

West Frisian[edit]