Friday, 5 November 2010

Danish


Occasional comments on this blog made by a Danish reader remind me of my impression that of all the languages of Europe the one with the most difficult phonetics (for the outsider) is Danish.

It is the only (standard literary) European language whose vowels I feel despairingly uncertain about identifying, and even the consonants are not without problems.

Why should this be?
  • No two published sources seem to agree on the makeup of the vowel system or how to write the vowels in IPA. I try to follow the system used by Peter Molbæk Hansen in his Udtaleordbog (Gyldendal, 1990) — but he recognizes thirty distinct vowels (16 short, 14 long) as against the 20 [sic] or 17 [count them] listed in the Wikipedia article on Danish language or the 27 listed in its article on Danish phonology. (At least the latter article acknowledges that the vowel system is “unstable”, with various potential ongoing mergers.)
  • Vowels undergo striking lowering when adjacent to /r/, which is uvular. After a vowel, (historical) /r/ gets vocalized and sometimes absorbed by the vowel, leading to further difficulties in identification.
  • Several sets of adjacent vowels are very similar to one another.
    ˈmiːləmile
    ˈmeːləmele
    ˈmɛːləmæle
    ˈmaːləmale
    That looks fine, but then you find that the is considerably closer than cardinal 2, the “ɛː” is about cardinal 2, and the “” is about cardinal 3. Everything is pushed forward and up. (I also get the impression that the “” is slightly centralized — a push-chain?)
  • All the plosives are voiceless, but with a contrast of aspiration, often verging on affrication. Postvocalically they are strikingly lenited, sometimes disappearing completely. There’s a suburb of Copenhagen called Amager which is ˈɑmɑːˀ. It must once have had a velar consonant corresponding to the written g. Someone who comes from Amager is an amager (uncapitalized), which is ˈɑmɑːˀɑ. Clear? Furthermore, the word mad ‘meal’ is supposed to be /mað/ (i.e. [mɛð̞]. But that final approximant sounds to me awfully like a lateral.
  • There is a phonation phenomenon known as stød, represented in the examples just given by the ad hoc symbol ˀ. This is the phonologically contrastive use of creaky voice on a vowel or vowel plus sonorant. There are plenty of minimal pairs, such as mor moːɐ̯ ‘mother’ vs mord moːˀɐ̯ ‘murder’.
  • As with English, the spelling does not enable you to predict the pronunciation with any certainty.
Any comments comparing Danish to a throat disease will be deleted.

69 comments:

  1. I was thinking about learning a Scandinavian language. This one sounds like a challenge. I don't know if there's any use in learning a Scandinavian language though. A lot of them (Scandinavians) seem to be very good at English.

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  2. Are the [a] and [ɑ] sounds phonologically contrastive? From Wikipedia they don't seem to be, but you've transcribed 'male' as /ˈmaːlə/ and 'Amager' as /ˈɑmɑːˀ/.

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  3. @Phil - try Icelandic.

    Unlike the other Scandinavian languages it's retained a high degree of inflexion and lots of interesting grammatical features that other Indo-European languages have lost (for example the dual number).

    It also has a tradition of coining new words from native Norse roots, like 'sjónvarp' for 'television'. This means you have to learn a new word for everything instead of relying on localised versions of common international vocabulary as you can with most European languages.

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  4. Damn! I've always wanted to learn Danish - I got impressed by a Danish porn magazine one of my brothers fetch home when we were children. Would Swedish be so phonetically difficult? (I understand some of its features resemble tonal languages, which scares me a bit.)

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  5. "Essentially", every time you try to suppress your gag reflex in Denmark, somewbody in Sweden sings in a puzzled or haughty way.

    Jokes aside, quite different.

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  6. "...that final approximant sounds to me awfully like a lateral".

    I've only ever spent a few weeks around Denmark but I've been puzzled never to've found any accounts of Danish pronunciation that mentioned what I've noted as marked lateralisation of their /ð/.

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  7. Just a few comments from a native speaker:
    /ð/ is indeed a tricky consonant to describe. I think the symbol /ð/ has been chosen mainly for historical reasons (it corresponds to Swedish and Norwegian /d/ and /t/, and to Old Norse /d/, /t/ and /ð/).
    It Danish dialects, it has often been weakened to /j/ or even reduced to zero. Indeed, I'd recommend to foreigners who cannot pronounce it to replace it with /j/, but definitely not with /l/.
    To articulate it, start out with a velarised /l/ (as in English 'full'), and then lower the tip of the tongue so that it touches the lower front teeth.
    I guess the alternatives to the current notation would either be /l/ with a diacritic to specify a lowered tip of the tongue, or /j/ with a diacritic to specify a raised tongue position.

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  8. @ Thomas Widmann: That doesn't sound too difficult, if you're describing it right and I'm doing it right.

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  9. According to Danish phonology, /ð/ is an approximant [ð̞], like how Spanish /d/ is pronounced most of the time.

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  10. I noticed the Danish phonology article on Wikipedia calls /r/ a uvular/pharyngeal approximant. Is this different from the uvular approximant that might occur in, say, French?

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  11. Thomas Widmann: a velarised l?? Surely it has palatal rather than velar resonance?

    Kevin: that claim was my starting point. I think it is wrong, as I said.

    Carlos: yes, different. The French /r/ is typically fricative (or even trilled) rather than approximant.

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  12. @ John: Thank you, but what I was trying to ask is why it said "uvular/pharyngeal" in that article. Would this be a different place of articulation than uvular?

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  13. "is" ----> "was"

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  14. @John Wells, yes, definitely velarised (i.e., [ð̞ˠ]), although this might only apply to the younger generations (I'm 38, and mine is definitely somewhat velarised).

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  15. @ John: As a linguist, and Dane, I've certainly noticed velarisation in the [ð], the younger generations, especially from Copenhagen, tend to pronounce it so it would be transcribed in narrow IPA as a ð with a lowering sign for approximant, a minus sign below plus a superscript gamma for velarisation. It tends to affect high front vowels so that [i] sounds rounded, [y], or maybe better described as centralised from the velarisation, [ɨ]. Also [e̝] sounds rounded or centralised sometimes.

    Also, the [ð] isn't its own phoneme, according to the analysis I've learnt, but rather just an allophone of /d/, so that "mad" would simply be /mad/.
    Anyway, interesting to read about one's own language from another point of view.

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  16. @Jake, if you'd record yourself saying it, I'd be delighted to comment on the result. I actually don't think it's a very difficult sound to produce, it's just fairly unique.
    @Carlos, the French /r/ is similar, but I don't know enough about French phonetics to comment. The Danish /r/ can often sound a lot like an Arabic `ayin.

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  17. @ Marc: So would it be OK to pronounce Danish "mad" with a final (alveolar or dental?) [d], like e.g. the final consonant in English "mad"?

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  18. @Anonymous: No. In syllable final position the /d/ is prunounced [ð]. The pronunciation with a final (unvoiced) [d] would belong to a final underlying /t/.

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  19. I see, Marc... Just another question: Bearing in mind what Mr Wells says about the difficulties of Danish pronunciation, what advice would you give to foreign learners wanting to master it? Do you know of any practical handbooks on the issue?
    Mange tak!

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  20. I learnt Danish when I was 16 when I had some, but not very much phonetic training. (I remember sitting across the lunch table from our Danish exchange studing staring at his teeth to see what he was doing as he taught me to say "rødgrød med fløde". I am told I have a decent Danish accent. I would describe the difference between a a Danish ð and an English one thus: The English one can have the tip of the tongue peeking through the teeth, with the frictioning breath coming out on either side of the tongue. The Danish ð is similar to the sound heard in English in people with certain speech impediments, as some post-stroke or cerebral palsy speakers. The blade of the tongue is pressed against the lower teeth, and the frictioning breath comes out over the tongue and under the upper teeth.

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  21. @ Professor Wells
    Yes, Danish is an extremely fascinating language for the phonetician and to acquire a native-like pronunciation is quite a challenge.
    As you noticed blødt d (soft d) is indeed somewhat lateralized. I remember reading it somewhere. Unfortunately I don't seem to recall whether it was in Heger's, Brink & Lund's, Basbøll's, Grønnum's or someone else's books, as almost ten years have elapsed since when I studied Danish phonetics (in 2000 I had planned to write an article on it but I never got round to doing it as Danish pronunciation came out to be more than a young scholar could chew; however, a sum of my findings have been brought together in Canepari's Handbook of Phonetics, see the phonosynthesis of Danish in ch. 16).
    If I find the exact reference, I'll post it. Blødt d is precisely a voiced lateralised dental approximant (dental or lamino dental, i.e. with a lowered tip and with lateral contraction, in IPA ð̻̞˞).
    /i/ is indeed significantly centralised but only before blødt d as are the other short (or shortened) front high vowels /i, e; y, ø/ (which –for the sake of the foreigner taking his first steps in the language– it would be better to transcribe as /i, ɪ, y, ʏ/)
    When I discovered the striking effects of r vocalisation (e.g. vare pronounced as [ˈvaˑa], pore as [ˈphɔˑɔ], senere as [ˈs̺ɪnʌʌ] or bære, bærer, bæger, bager all commonly pronounced [ˈpe̞ˑʌ, ˈpɛ̈ˑʌ]) and schwa assimilation (e.g. pige as [ˈphiˑi, ˈphii] or pine as [ˈphiin̩, ˈphiːn̩]), a whole new world opened up for me. I was totally spellbound by it.

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  22. @Anonymous: Hmm, I don't know so many books on the topic, but if you are willing to read in Danish, then Nina Grønnum has written a book called "Rødgrød med fløde. En lille bog om dansk fonetik" which gives a good overview...

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  23. Like Mister Wells I was also puzzled to read that the soft d is/can be velarised. Would the Danes be so kind as to send me a sample of it?

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  24. Fernando Lamadrid5 November 2010 17:55

    At last, someone trusts Canepari. His descriptions are usually accurate as is, not too accurate, but definitely much more than the official IPA.

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  25. @Fonio: Here's an example of it in the word "æde": http://da.forvo.com/search/%C3%A6de/

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  26. Danish is the mother tongue of Otto Jespersen and Eli Fischer Jørgensen. Surely someone's done a strict old-fashioned phoneme analysis?

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  27. About the pronunciation of "æde": Wouldn't it be better to say that final /d/ becomes dark /l/, whatever the position of the speech organs may be? Would a Dane be able to hear the difference if this [ð] were impersonated by the "l" in the English word "full"?
    And I entirely agree with Sidney - by the way, wasn't the late Peter Ladefoged also of Danish ascendancy?

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  28. @Anonymous: I'm not sure that would be a good idea. I would rather be more confused, I think... And yeah, for me there's quite a difference from the "ball l" to the soft d...

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  29. @Anonymous, to a Dane, the /l/ in English 'full' sounds completely different from a Danish /ð/. However, I tried to get my (Scottish) wife to pronounce /l/ and then lower the tip of her tongue, and it suddenly sounded exactly like Danish /ð/, so the position of the tip of the tongue is of great importance.

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  30. I've now uploaded a sound file in which I say 'røde, røgede ørreder' /ˈrœːðə ˈrʌjəðə ˈɶrʌðʌ/, phonetically probably somewhat closer to /ˈʕœɫɫ ˈʕʌɫɫɫ ˈɶʌɫʌ/ (twice): http://widmann.org.uk/roederoegedeoerreder.wma

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  31. Isn't the "stød" a glottal stop?

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  32. Nah, it's rather a part of the prosody, and exists in the sound rather than standing on it's own – i.e. the IPA ad hoc [ˀ] is just a convention. It has been described as a type of creaky voice.

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  33. @ Last Anonymous (#5764): According to Wikipedia, it is usually a creaky voice and usually only a glottal stop in "emphatic pronunciation". Maybe Thomas, who seems to be a native speaker with a good knowledge of phonetics, has an answer for that though.

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  34. This seems to be quite a diverse group. It seems we have Icelanders, Danes and many others following this blog. That's a bit OT, but it's just neat to me.

    About Danish though. I agree that it's phonetically very challenging. I thought the pronunciation looked almost impossible when I first looked at the language, but now that I know more about it, thanks in part to what I learned here, it doesn't look as bad.

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  35. @James, I agree it's normally creaky voice or similar, although a weak glottal stop can also feature.
    Phonologically, it probably best to treat it as a suprasegmental entity, because it might move according to the syllable structure. For instance, brev 'letter' used to be /breːˀv/ (this is how my grandmother, born 1916, used to pronounce it when speaking slowly and carefully). The /v/ then became vocalised (/breːˀw/), and the /e/ got lowered after /r/ (/brɛːˀw/), after which diphthong shortening applied, leading to */brɛˀw/; this is impossible because the stød has to follow either a long vowel or a short vowel + semivowel or voiced consonant, so the stød moves, leading to modern /brɛwˀ/. This is quite regular – e.g., I pronounce mord 'murder' as /moɐ̯ˀ/, not /moːˀɐ̯/.

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  36. Sorry ...

    I keep hearing that our 'soft d' /ð/ is lateral, but I can't hear it, myself. Guess that's why I'm not a phonologer.

    Funnily enough, my native dialect is supposed to be one of those dropping the 'soft d' completely, but I've never been able to pick it up, myself. I only use it in exaggeration, and speak more or less Received Pronunciation naturally.

    --o--

    "@ Marc: So would it be OK to pronounce Danish "mad" with a final (alveolar or dental?) [d], like e.g. the final consonant in English "mad"?"

    No. It would more likely end up sounding like /mat/ "mat" (pale, dull, lacklustre).

    "Are the [a] and [ɑ] sounds phonologically contrastive?"
    I'd say so.
    "fare" (danger, run, farrow) /fɑːɐ/
    "fager" (fair, beautiful (archaic)) /faɐ/.

    But my impressions don't match the dictionary as you can see. And I don't seem to able to tell /a/ from /æ/ ...

    --o--

    If anyone is interested the historical work (trying to rival the OED) Dictionary of the Danish Language is online. (Sadly it uses a somewhat non-standard pronunciation transcription.)

    So is the more modern (and more concise) Danish Dictionary.

    --o--

    Just to be pedantic Amager is an island, and only the West bit is considered a (working class) suburb. The East is more gentrified.

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  37. "Nah, it's rather a part of the prosody"

    If you have prosody in Danish, you're doing it wrong. There's a reason They say "Danish is basically /&schwa;ːːːːːːːːːːːːːːːːːːːːːːːːːːːːːːːːː/.

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  38. I'll defer to Widman, but I'd have sworn I had /ø/ in "røde".

    Now I'm starting to worry that my French is far more wrong that I thought ...

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  39. @phil: I think Norwegian is the one Scandinavian language in which the written and spoken are closest to each other, making it easier to learn. Mastering Norwegian will help you understand and converse more easily with other Scandinavians; at least my experience is that it's more difficult for Danes and Swedes to understand each other whilst everyone understands the Norwegians. I personally believe Swedish is the most beautiful of the three, in case that's a criterion for you.

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  40. Jérôme Poirrier6 November 2010 07:43

    @Carlos and Sili
    Beware before comparing Danish r with French r, since the term is extremely ambiguous. Thomas Widman’s comparison with Arabic `ayin is probably less risky.
    Actually, I personally see « French r » as a pure phonological abstraction, whose actual phonetic realizations are extremely variable.

    There is probably some positional variation involved : intervocalic r VS not intervocalic r ; and specific realization in tr/pr/cr clusters.

    And above all, there are variations linked to geography (Eastern border VS the rest of France), to socialects (Titi Parisien VS gentry), and date of birth (singer Edith Piaf’s era VS nowadays).

    Indeed,
    1) my late grandfather, born in 1916, pronounced « r » as singer Edith Piaf did when singing « La vie en rose », i.e. with an « r grasseyé » (akin to Arabic ghayin غ), that is a uvular sound
    both voiced and not smooth ( ?? « creaky » ??).

    2) My 42-year-old cousin from Marly-le-Roi near Paris sounds like a Titi Parisien (cf French Wikipedia on « Titi Parisien ») when he utters « Paris » and « Marly » with a voiced pharyngeal approximant (akin to Arabic ‘ayin ع ).

    3) As for my own accent, it is identified by the rest of France as « de l’Est » ( = from the East of France, understand the Swiss and German borders : Franche-Comté, Alsace, Lorraine), because some of my Rs are voiceless uvular fricatives (a bit like a low energy Arabic Kha خ ), and some others of my Rs are voiceless uvular SMOOTHED fricatives (a bit like a uvularized Russian х ). However, a few of my Rs can be voiced, though, maybe because I do not live in Franche-Comté any more.


    So I think the matter of « French r » is complicated, and has not been extensively described so far ( I’m only improvising on the subject );
    but it is actually good news for foreign learners of French :
    since a huge quantity of sounds do qualify as « r » in the ear of French listeners, so one can feel free to use just any of them. By the way, when Thomas Widmann’s voice utters « røde », the r is not that far from the one my French cousin from Marly uses intervocalically, only I’m not sure my cousin would use it initially too.
    (Ah, and no need to ask me who does use « THE standard R », because really, I have no idea… ;) )

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  41. @ Emily: And I've heard others that say Danish sounds the best. People are going to have different opinions on that of course. I have Norwegian heritage. That's why I was looking at Scandinavian languages.

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  42. "@Carlos and Sili
    Beware before comparing Danish r with French r"

    I hadn't even thought that far. I was thinking of the value of my French /ø/ and /œ/ compared to my Danish ones.

    And, I guess, /e/ as well.

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  43. @Sili: What do you mean by if I have a prosody in Danish? I don't think most people think I sound wrong, as I'm a native speaker of it. The stød is considered to be a part of Danish prosody, together with intonation and length.

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  44. That looks fine, but then you find that the eː is considerably closer than cardinal 2, the “ɛː” is about cardinal 2, and the “aː” is about cardinal 3.
    Is there any good reason (other than spelling) why they don't transcribe them as /iː ɪː eː ɛː/, then?

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  45. [ɪ] is usually seen as a lax vowel, which Danish /eː/ is not. Furthermore, it resembles the Danish spelling better.

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  46. "@Sili: What do you mean by if I have a prosody in Danish? I don't think most people think I sound wrong, as I'm a native speaker of it. The stød is considered to be a part of Danish prosody, together with intonation and length."

    The standard complaint about Danish is that it's flat, without intonation. My own English certainly suffers from lack of prosody. I suspect that this is also why Danes accuse Swedish of sound "sing-song".

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  47. One reference to Danish “soft d” reminding a foreign ear of a lateral is in H. Basbøll & J. Wagner (1985), Kontrastive Phonologie des Deutschen und Danischen. Tübingen: Niemeyer.
    As the title says, the book is about phonology not phonetics. However, to some extent at least, it also contains phonetic details. The sound is described as an “alveolarer (which I don’t think it is) stimmhafter Sonorant” and phonologically classified under the Halbvokale. The authors remark how “Auditiv kommt der Lateral [l] am nächsten”, see p. 81.

    @ Sil
    It is not a plain lateral (approximant). It’s a LATERALISED approximant, which means that the tongue is laterally contracted (in the same way standard British English r is).

    @ Marc & Thomas Widmann
    Those examples do have a dark resonance. Thank you for pointing that out!
    Is that something restricted to the younger generations and to the Copenhagen area?

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  48. @Sili: Danish might be flatter than Swedish, but that doesn't make Danish lack it. My mentioning prosody was only because I said that stød is a part of it.

    @Fonio: As far as I know – and experience– yes, this is a thing belonging to the greater Copenhagen area, although it might be spreading...

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  49. @Fonio, I lived in eastern Jutland from I was born till the age of 30, at which point I emigrated to Scotland, so either my /ð/ isn't velarised, or the velarisation is spreading.
    @Sili, I'm sure the first vowel in "røde" used to be /ø/, but it's been lowered by the preceding /r/.

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  50. Christian Jensen8 November 2010 10:22

    Anyone interested in hearing the Danish "soft d", stød and vowels can hear my take on these at the URL below. I am a native speaker of Danish and a phonetician. I follow the Danish tradition of transcribing the sounds in "Dania" (developed by Otto Jespersen), which unfortunately are neither Unicode nor IPA compliant.

    The site is in Danish, but if you paste the link to my site into Google's translate function, you get a very usable English version of the page (with some mistakes, obviously).

    Link: http://fonetik.dk/dansk_udtale/oevelser/

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  51. Re Danish stød and prosody. Words with stød in Danish correspond to words with accent 2 in Swedish and Norwegian, words without stød correspond to accent 1 words, and the contrast dewrives from more ancient Scandinavian dialects. In the modern languages, word accent contrasts are tonal, while the stød is glottal constriction of varying degree, hence the description as creak rather than occlusion.

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  52. Ladefoged was indeed of Danish origin, but he was born in Scotland. His accent was (in his own words) "debased RP", and he pronounced his name /ˈladəˌfoʊgəd/ ~ /ˈlædeˌfəʊgəd/.

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  53. You all don't know how happy I am to see such obviously accomplished phoneticians describing the difficulty of Danish. I sent this to my (Danish) wife with glee. I'm not sure she believed me when I told her how out of the European mainstream and difficult Danish was.

    On the vowels: I'm not the world's worst language learner. I get around in about nine languages, and I've heard from native Russians, Germans and Arabs that I have "no accent" or other very nice things about my pronunciation of their languages. But the night I met my wife, I tried again and again and again to impress her by getting the simplest thing right: her name, Eva. The first vowel I simply could not do, making it either too /i:/ or too /e:/. I still don't know properly how to describe it, and can only randomly get it right when I'm trying to explain it to an English speaker. However, maybe not surprisingly, when I'm speaking Danish it's more likely to come out right. Five years of learning the language--and one, after all, fairly close to two Germanic languages I already know--and only recently do I feel like I sound better than idiotic.

    I've always described stød to myself as a fleeting glottal stop, never having heard it called creaky. Now that I do, it makes perfect sense.

    To those non-Danophones who asked: Danish is very simple to learn to read, but if you just want to learn a Scandinavian language for fun, and don't want to challenge yourself with one of the hardest-to-pronounce languages you'll come across, try Swedish or Norwegian. Seriously, they are indeed far easier.

    Thanks again, everyone. This has been ridiculously educational, not to mention kind of like a little support group.

    Finally, I can't believe nobody linked this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-mOy8VUEBk

    (Made by Norwegians.)

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  54. yeah, I agree..
    I am from Poland and it is very hard for me to know how to pronounce.
    But I think there is no things which You just cant learn, so ... :)

    Big smile from Poland

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  55. You led me a merry dance with that YouTube link, RLG. And in view of the fun everyone here's been having with blødt d, I can't believe nobody linked to this bit of merriment either: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGYVgsLKaZI&feature=related

    I did get to understand quite a bit of spoken Danish, and even to be told my accent was "fantastikt" (which must have been either the "talking dog" reaction unsurprisingly common in Danish NSs or facetiously backhanded), but it completely mucked up my Swedish, and the only accent I could attempt thereafter was mangled pan-Scandinavian.

    I have seen and heard stød described as a fleeting glottal stop ever since my first Danish textbook, before the days of tape recorders, but the only imitation of it that would satisfy NSs when I got hold of some was indeed creaky voice, though I hadn’t then come across the term. But I think I may have twitted them with talk of creaking doors even then, and I can't imagine why such a helpful intuitive term has not become more widely known for this prosody.

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  56. *Clears throat*

    Danske lyder som en hals sygdom.
    Danish sounds like a throat disease.

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  57. David Marjanović5 December 2010 01:25

    I'm coming here way too late... but I've watched the infamous "med – no L!" YouTube video, and I've been to Copenhagen, where I met Sili in the flesh. I agree with this:

    Blødt d is precisely a voiced lateralised dental approximant (dental or lamino dental, i.e. with a lowered tip and with lateral contraction, in IPA ð̻̞˞).

    It works when I interpret the blødt d as "[lˠ] and [ð] at the same time" or "[lˠ] with added friction at the tip of the tongue". The difference to plain [lˠ], which is what word-final /l/ sound like, is hard to hear, but now that I know what to pay attention to, I can do it.

    Sili is from Odense [ˈoːn̩sə]*. Enghave, which is between Copenhagen and its airport, is [ˈɪ̝ŋg̊hɛʊ̯]; I was surprised to find out that the g is pronounced. The r in the name Trine is a voiceless fricative which also commonly occurs in Parisian French in this position; it's not [x], and it's not a plain [χ]**; it might be [ħ], except it doesn't seem to distort the following [iː]. Probably [ʀ̞̊] is a good way to put it.

    And when I write "[ə]", I really mean a cardinal [ə].

    * Complete deletion of /d/ before syllabic /n/. My dialect of German usually does that to all lenis plosives in front of syllabic consonants: Regen "rain" – Austrian standard [ˈʀeˑg̊ŋ̩]***, dialect [ˈʀeˑŋ̩]****.
    ** That's the chi symbolizing the voiceless uvular fricative. The Blogspot font fails to distinguish it from x.
    *** Length of the vowel, closedness of the vowel, and shortness of the following consonant coming as an almost indivisible package which is phonemic.
    **** Vowel length not phonemic, but caused by stress.

    =======================

    Over on Language Hat, the Danish sound system was once described as exhibiting two important trends: "all vowels become [ə], and all intervocalic consonants become vocalised".

    =======================

    Sili, I'd be surprised if your French /ø/ and /œ/ were off, but if you're still not sure, skype me. My Skype name is easy to guess. If you can't guess it, find my e-mail address in Google Scholar...

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  58. David Marjanović5 December 2010 01:27

    Good news: this blog doesn't use the default font of Blogspot. My second footnote is superfluous.

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  59. I really appreciate your post and you explain each and every point very well.Thanks for sharing this information.And I’ll love to read your next post too.

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  60. There's a lot of discussion about how Danish 'r' lowers surrounding vowels, but can anyone comment on the effects of Danish soft d on the preceding vowel?

    For example, in a song, I once heard the word 'tiden' pronounced [ˈtiːðən] ("TEE-then"). However, as I was reading the word aloud in class, my Danish teacher corrected me to what sounded more like [ˈteð̞ˀn], where the first vowel sounds more like the 'e' in Danish "det", and not like in Danish "de".

    It seems like soft d also affects a preceding 'a' or 'e'. Just want to hear other people's thoughts so I can practice my pronunciation. :-)

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  61. Especially in the capital area, the soft d is heavily velarized, and it tends to centralize vowels, and since Danish lacks central vowels it sounds like rounding instead. That means that a word like "side" can sometimes result in something like "syde", and "ned" can sound like "nød".
    I'm not sure I recognize "tiden" sounding like "teden"...

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  62. Thanks for the clarification, Marc. From what I hear, it just sounds as if the soft d muffles the preceding vowel, so that's what I've been trying to do when I speak Danish, either that or somehow combine an 'l' with a 'th' sound, haha.

    My teacher, though from western Denmark, says she speaks with a standard Copenhagen accent, and she does sound like what you described above, "heavy velarized".

    I'd have to disagree with the person above who said Danish soft d is how the Spanish soft d is pronounced most of the time. I speak fluent Spanish, and the soft d there sounds more like English 'th' in "then". The tongue certainly is in the same position, though I find the sound is prolonged more in English than in Spanish. If you watch Spanish TV, you can see them sticking out their tongue for soft d in pretty much the same way English-speakers do for 'th'.

    In Danish, it seems that the tip of the tongue is below the lower teeth instead, so a different sound would be produced. And when I watch their mouths, it almost looks as if the tongue is curling upwards to make an 'l' sound.

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  63. Yes. I agree with that. The Spanish and Danish soft d are totally different. The only time the tongue sticks out is when children are taught the soft d looking at the teacher sticking his/her tongue all the way out haha :P

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  64. Here's another question for you all. To what extent, if any, does vowel breaking or diphthongization of pure vowels occur in colloquial Danish?

    The Wikipedia article on Danish phonology admits of only one instance: "strække" ('stretch') and "strejke" ('strike'), implying that this occurs only when the vowel is followed by 'r' and is before a labial and alveolar.

    Den Danske Ordbog (DDO) online shows those two words as having different pronunciations: [ˈsdʁagə] and [ˈsdʁɑjgə] respectively, though I know dictionaries often prescribe how people 'should' talk, not how they 'do' talk.

    But whenever a Dane pronounces a word like "tale" ('to talk') or "gave" ('gift'), I hear that long vowel realized as [æɪ], so that it sounds almost like an English long 'a', [eɪ]. A song I recently heard rhymes "lagner" ('sheets') with 'aner' ('suspect'). The first word clearly should begin with a diphthong because of the 'g', but the second word should begin with a flat vowel, as DDO gives it [ˈæːnʌ]. To my ears, they both sound as if they contain the sound [æɪ].

    Am I hearing correctly, or am I being too American with my ears? (if that makes any sense, lol)

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  65. Obvious you didn't try hungarian language, which is the same, it has some really strange phonetic. Though i know that danish is really special when it comes to phonetic. I admire it.

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  67. @Marc, do u think, I can use a lateral fricative /ɬ/ or /ɮ/ (like the Welsh ll, not Castillian) for Danish d as in mad?

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  68. @Samopriya Basu:
    No. The Danish [ð] as in "mad" isn't characterised by any fricativity at all, you don't hear any noise from it. So a lateral fricative wouldn't be a better option.

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  69. A person from Amager is not called "en amager" except maybe by the sorts of people who watch or perform on Paradise Hotel. Say, somebody like Amalie.

    The proper term is "en amagerkaner".

    Yours,
    A person from Amager

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