Unstressed e's and middle v's.

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Marcellus
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Unstressed e's and middle v's.

Postby Marcellus » 2009-01-27, 6:57

The intricacies of Danish pronunciation are always a source of consternation among learners of the language. In my own case, I've never had too much trouble producing the individual sounds themselves; rather, my main difficulties stem from knowing precisely which sounds to use (or even to omit). This difficulty is only exacerbated by the fact that there seems to be some lack of consensus on this point even among native speakers themselves.

Unstressed e's, especially at the end of a word, are a prime example. Every piece of learning material I've come across seems to insist that these are always pronounced, yet I've noticed a tendency among many speakers to drop them, especially in rapid speech. However, the degree to which this is done seems to vary wildly--some speakers almost always drop them, some only occasionally (or in certain words) and others (including newscasters, from whom the majority of my Danish audio input comes) almost never--except, on occasion, when they do (the word "ikke" seems to be an especially common victim). And as far as I can tell almost nobody seems to pronounce the terminal e's when they immediately follow another vowel (though again, no learning materials ever seems to make any mention of this, as though the phenomenon never existed in the first place).

Another problem of mine concerns v's in the middle of words. I know that sometimes this is pronounced as a normal v, other times as a sort of short, unstressed u-sound, but in certain words (tyve, gave, have, for example) it seems to take either form, depending upon the individual speaker. What's more, it would seem that the pronunciation can even vary for the same speaker between individual forms of the same word--I recently heard an audio clip in which the speaker would always pronounce the simple form of "prøve" with a distinct v, yet "prøven" and "prøver" always took the unstressed form.

This leaves me with two problems. Firstly, which of these standards should I adhere to? As I non-native speaker, I think I'd generally want to aim for a slightly clearer than average pronunciation (erring on the side of enunciation, so to speak), but at the same time I don't want my speech to sound too terribly stilted or unnatural. Secondly, are there any rules or even general guidelines for determining when an unstressed e should be dropped or which form the letter v should take in the middle of a word? Anyone care to shed a bit of light on these phenomena?

SImon Gray
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Re: Unstressed e's and middle v's.

Postby SImon Gray » 2009-01-28, 18:16

Those are some great observations. I'll try to answer in kind.

Marcellus wrote:my main difficulties stem from knowing precisely which sounds to use (or even to omit). This difficulty is only exacerbated by the fact that there seems to be some lack of consensus on this point even among native speakers themselves.


That's a correct assessment. Well, as long as you understand Danish in all it's consonant-less glory, don't worry about the correct pronunciation; there is none. That said, people generally use the slurry pronunciation, while the more formal and conservative pronunciation is reserved for stressing certain things and - by some people - when reading aloud (I don't).

Marcellus wrote:Unstressed e's, especially at the end of a word, are a prime example. Every piece of learning material I've come across seems to insist that these are always pronounced, yet I've noticed a tendency among many speakers to drop them, especially in rapid speech.


This is what happens: the "E" which used to be pronounced at the end of a sentence is instead used to lengthen the preceding vowel sounds, N-sounds, M-sounds, NG-sounds, L-sounds, and certain other things... in most sentences, not all! It's actually a bit like how English "save, tape, mane, etc" aren't pronounced "sa-vuh, ta-puh, ma-nuh", but rather "saiv, taip, main" if that helps at all. When I was learning English, this wasn't explained either (how can you?), but you just learned to read them this way. Of course, if the book says specifically that the E's at the end have to pronounced as E's, then the book is wrong or perhaps tries to ease the burden of learning Danish by defering people to a very conservative pronunciation.

examples:

"at synge" is really pronounced "a sønng" (with a lengthened NG-sound)
"en sjov måde at tale på" => "en sjorw mååd a taal på" (lengthened Å- and A-sounds)
"alle landende er større end Danmark" => "all lann-nøh er støer end Danmark" (lengthened L- and N-sounds)

Marcellus wrote:the word "ikke" seems to be an especially common victim


"eg-øh", "eg", "ek" are all acceptable pronunciations (I really hope you understand my attempts at phonetic Danish :P I use the alphabetical pronunciations of the characters).

Marcellus wrote:Another problem of mine concerns v's in the middle of words. I know that sometimes this is pronounced as a normal v, other times as a sort of short, unstressed u-sound, but in certain words (tyve, gave, have, for example) it seems to take either form, depending upon the individual speaker. What's more, it would seem that the pronunciation can even vary for the same speaker between individual forms of the same word--I recently heard an audio clip in which the speaker would always pronounce the simple form of "prøve" with a distinct v, yet "prøven" and "prøver" always took the unstressed form.


What I call embedded V's (= not at the beginning of a sentence and not as the first letter of a word inside a compound word) are always pronounced like the English W, which to me is just a kind of U-sound anyway (hey, Latin also didn't have U's; they used V's for both V- and U-sounds :P). This means that words such as

"løve", "have", "save", "love", "tavle", are pronounced "løøw", "haaw", "saaw", "lååw," and "tarwløh"

However, compound words such as "kurvand" (mineral water) and "vinduesvasker" (window washing man) are pronounced with normal V's: "kur-van", "vindusvaskar".

B's also have this characteristic; they're often (but not always) degraded to W-sounds when they're embedded.

"løbe, tabe" => "løøw, taaw"

The key thing to remember is that it's not a crime to pronounce them as V's (and B's), it's just often quicker for the lazy Danes to pronounce them as W's. Spoken Danish likes to drop sounds that take too long to say.


Some other things your book might have gotten wrong:

- Embedded T's are actually pronounced like D's similar to American English. If you try to pronounce these as actual aspirated T's you will sound posh (just as you would in the US).

- Embedded K's are pronounced as hard G's.

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Re: Unstressed e's and middle v's.

Postby yvonne_v » 2009-01-28, 21:32

SImon Gray wrote:What I call embedded V's (= not at the beginning of a sentence and not as the first letter of a word inside a compound word) are always pronounced like the English W, which to me is just a kind of U-sound anyway (hey, Latin also didn't have U's; they used V's for both V- and U-sounds :P). This means that words such as

"løve", "have", "save", "love", "tavle", are pronounced "løøw", "haaw", "saaw", "lååw," and "tarwløh"

An extreme example of this would be the word tvivl. I love how it actually has more vowels than consonants :lol:
Native: Italian
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Beginner: Danish
Studying at school: German
Please corrrect my mistakes in any language

SImon Gray
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Re: Unstressed e's and middle v's.

Postby SImon Gray » 2009-01-29, 12:34

yvonne_v wrote:
SImon Gray wrote:What I call embedded V's (= not at the beginning of a sentence and not as the first letter of a word inside a compound word) are always pronounced like the English W, which to me is just a kind of U-sound anyway (hey, Latin also didn't have U's; they used V's for both V- and U-sounds :P). This means that words such as

"løve", "have", "save", "love", "tavle", are pronounced "løøw", "haaw", "saaw", "lååw," and "tarwløh"

An extreme example of this would be the word tvivl. I love how it actually has more vowels than consonants :lol:


The first V is pronounced sharply (tviwl), so I don't quite agree. TV- is pronounced as it's written, not TW (except in parts of Jutland).

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Marcellus
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Re: Unstressed e's and middle v's.

Postby Marcellus » 2009-01-29, 13:35

SImon Gray wrote: Well, as long as you understand Danish in all it's consonant-less glory, don't worry about the correct pronunciation; there is none.


Well, that would certainly explain why all Danish-English dictionaries I've encountered thus far always seem to include the English pronunciations (despite targeting English speakers, who would presumably already know these), but never the Danish...

This is what happens: the "E" which used to be pronounced at the end of a sentence is instead used to lengthen the preceding vowel sounds, N-sounds, M-sounds, NG-sounds, L-sounds, and certain other things... in most sentences, not all!


Hmm. Actually, I did once notice that a certain speaker seemed to distinguish "hjemme" from "hjem" insofar as the former was pronounced something like "jem'm" (which confused me even more at the time). Still, it seems rather subtle distinction to make--doesn't this ever cause a bit of confusion?

It's actually a bit like how English "save, tape, mane, etc" aren't pronounced "sa-vuh, ta-puh, ma-nuh", but rather "saiv, taip, main" if that helps at all. When I was learning English, this wasn't explained either (how can you?)


Well, normally we explain it in song. Incidentally, I think we may have stumbled upon a revolutionary new way of teaching Danish pronunciation. :yep:

Of course, if the book says specifically that the E's at the end have to pronounced as E's, then the book is wrong or perhaps tries to ease the burden of learning Danish by defering people to a very conservative pronunciation.


The strange thing is that it's not just one book that says this--it's every single Danish textbook I've come across. And when they have an audio component, the native speakers invariably follow this rule as well (well, almost invariably, but not pronouncing them tends to be far more the exception than the rule). Even Wikipedia's article on Danish Phonlogy, which points out rather a large number of instances where the pronunciation is normally realized quite differently from what the written form woul suggests, repeatedly shows the Es being pronounced as a shwa sound. It's almost as though every single English resource on the Danish Language absolutely refuses to acknowledge that anything else ever happens.

"eg-øh", "eg", "ek" are all acceptable pronunciations (I really hope you understand my attempts at phonetic Danish :P I use the alphabetical pronunciations of the characters).


That's good to hear, as I constantly fluctuate between the three on account of not knowing which to use! :D

What I call embedded V's (= not at the beginning of a sentence and not as the first letter of a word inside a compound word) are always pronounced like the English W, which to me is just a kind of U-sound anyway (hey, Latin also didn't have U's; they used V's for both V- and U-sounds :P). This means that words such as

"løve", "have", "save", "love", "tavle", are pronounced "løøw", "haaw", "saaw", "lååw," and "tarwløh"

However, compound words such as "kurvand" (mineral water) and "vinduesvasker" (window washing man) are pronounced with normal V's: "kur-van", "vindusvaskar".


What about words such as "tolvte" or "selve", in whose simple forms (tolv, selv) the V is completely silent, but whose modified forms seem strange to pronounce without it? Or is "selve" pronounced the same is "selv", only with a lengthened l-sound?

Some other things your book might have gotten wrong:

- Embedded T's are actually pronounced like D's similar to American English. If you try to pronounce these as actual aspirated T's you will sound posh (just as you would in the US).

- Embedded K's are pronounced as hard G's.


Fortunately, those two points are covered in pretty much every book I've seen--even my 1958 edition of Teach Yourself Danish, and that one still includes the soft G as a perfectly ordinary and essential sound!


That all said...

Not too long ago I came across a certain
Online guide for future Danish citizens, which I took to viewing as a sort of standard for pronunciation--in part because it was by far the longest text I could find with an accompanying audio version, and in part because...I don't know, I guess I liked the way it sounded or something. In any case, it would now seem that the pronunciation used here is in fact the sort of "reading aloud pronunciation" you mentioned above. Would it sound particularly particularly odd if I were to adopt this style in normal speech? As I mentioned before, being a non-native speaker, I really don't think I'd mind sounding a little excessively clear (at least at first), and I suspect that if I were to try to mimic the more slurred style, I'd be rather more likely to succeed in sounding utterly incomprehensible than I would in impressing native speakers with my delightful grasp of colloquial Danish...

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Re: Unstressed e's and middle v's.

Postby SImon Gray » 2009-01-29, 17:46

Hmm. Actually, I did once notice that a certain speaker seemed to distinguish "hjemme" from "hjem" insofar as the former was pronounced something like "jem'm" (which confused me even more at the time). Still, it seems rather subtle distinction to make--doesn't this ever cause a bit of confusion?


Hjem is a very short sound, hjemme is a much longer sound. A Dane can always tell the difference, so there's never any confusion.

The strange thing is that it's not just one book that says this--it's every single Danish textbook I've come across. And when they have an audio component, the native speakers invariably follow this rule as well (well, almost invariably, but not pronouncing them tends to be far more the exception than the rule). Even Wikipedia's article on Danish Phonlogy, which points out rather a large number of instances where the pronunciation is normally realized quite differently from what the written form woul suggests, repeatedly shows the Es being pronounced as a shwa sound. It's almost as though every single English resource on the Danish Language absolutely refuses to acknowledge that anything else ever happens.


It's odd, but I'm not surprised. They probably take the pronunciations directly from Danish dictionaries and dictionaries are usually fairly conservative. Remember, the modern spoken variant of Danish is a relatively new invention. If you listen to radio/tv from the late forties, people speak like your textbook says they are supposed to.

What about words such as "tolvte" or "selve", in whose simple forms (tolv, selv) the V is completely silent, but whose modified forms seem strange to pronounce without it? Or is "selve" pronounced the same is "selv", only with a lengthened l-sound?


"selve" is an exception. It's pronounced "sæl-vøh" ("selv" is pronounced "sæl").

"tolvte" is pronounced "tolte" ("tolv" is pronounced "tol") - not O as in Odin/Omega/Ole, but as in Vold/Hold/Told/Trold/Old.

Not too long ago I came across a certain
Online guide for future Danish citizens, which I took to viewing as a sort of standard for pronunciation--in part because it was by far the longest text I could find with an accompanying audio version, and in part because...I don't know, I guess I liked the way it sounded or something. In any case, it would now seem that the pronunciation used here is in fact the sort of "reading aloud pronunciation" you mentioned above. Would it sound particularly particularly odd if I were to adopt this style in normal speech? As I mentioned before, being a non-native speaker, I really don't think I'd mind sounding a little excessively clear (at least at first), and I suspect that if I were to try to mimic the more slurred style, I'd be rather more likely to succeed in sounding utterly incomprehensible than I would in impressing native speakers with my delightful grasp of colloquial Danish...


You're free to pronounce things like the guy in those mp3's and it won't seem that strange, but you won't be able to speak very fast. I'm guessing you will automatically pick up the slurry style as you get more annoyed with how some words seem to take too long to say.

However, I suggest you try to always pronounce the common words "af/at/ad" as "a"; "med" should be pronounced "mæ", "jeg" as "jar", and "vil" as "ve". You seem to have "ikke" down as well, so that's good :) If you do this you've covered a lot of tricky pronunciation.

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Marcellus
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Re: Unstressed e's and middle v's.

Postby Marcellus » 2009-02-03, 11:31

In order to better identify my pronunciation difficulties, I decided to upload a clip of me attempting to read a short passage in Danish. I understand this is all the rage these days.

Min bror har en lille gård på landet. Der plejer vi at tilbringe vores sommerferie. For os, der bor i en gade i byen, er livet på landet en anden og roligere verden, og vi elsker den frie natur.

Min brors gård ligger for sig selv i sognet, omgivet af marker på alle sider, of med en lille skov i nærheden. Der er flere hundrede meter til den nærmeste hus. En kilometer længere borte ligger der en landsby med huse og gårde omkring den hvide kirke, hvis tårn man kan se på lang afstand.


How does it sound? Stilted? Indistict? Weird? Any specific words that stand out as being incorrectly/oddly pronounced? Any feedback would be most appreciated.

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Re: Unstressed e's and middle v's.

Postby Phileas » 2009-02-03, 18:01

That was very good! I definitely understood everything you said.
I only have a few minor mistakes, to correct.

Firstly, in some words, which end in "e" you tend to pronounce that last letter as an "a." In the same way that the pluralized form of the word would be pronounced.
The most noticeable instance of this, was the word "sommerferie."
Instead of pronouncing it like "sommerferi-eh," you say "sommerferi-ah." Which is the same way "sommerferier" would be pronounced.
I also noticed it with the words "huse" and "kirke."

The first time you said "meter" it was a little off. The "t" is pronounced like a d, and you didn't pronounce it at all. It might just have been a slip of the tongue, because when you said "kilometer" it was correct.

I must admit, I chuckled slightly, when you said "skov." You didn't pronounce the "v," so the word became "sko" instead, meaning "shoe."
It is pronounced "skou" or "sk-oh," the "oh" being like the English "oh."

I was really impressed by your r's, they are notoriously hard for speakers of English to pronounced, but I must say, you have pretty much nailed it.

I hope this was of some help.

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Marcellus
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Re: Unstressed e's and middle v's.

Postby Marcellus » 2009-02-05, 13:12

Phileas wrote:Firstly, in some words, which end in "e" you tend to pronounce that last letter as an "a." In the same way that the pluralized form of the word would be pronounced.
The most noticeable instance of this, was the word "sommerferie."
Instead of pronouncing it like "sommerferi-eh," you say "sommerferi-ah." Which is the same way "sommerferier" would be pronounced.
I also noticed it with the words "huse" and "kirke."


Normally I try to distinguish them more clearly, but I suppose in trying to speak quickly here I just sort of blurred them together. Out of curiousity, what precisely is the difference? Most of the time I make it them equivalent to "alte" vs. "alter" in German, though I suspect this isn't quite the case.

The first time you said "meter" it was a little off. The "t" is pronounced like a d, and you didn't pronounce it at all. It might just have been a slip of the tongue, because when you said "kilometer" it was correct.


It seems when speaking Danish I tend to have to fight my inherent impulse to pronounce t's as t's. :) With proper Danish words this usually isn't a problem (probably because I've never heard the pronounced any other way) but with "international" vocabulary I sometimes still goof up. I suppose the only remedy to that is practice.

I must admit, I chuckled slightly, when you said "skov." You didn't pronounce the "v," so the word became "sko" instead, meaning "shoe."
It is pronounced "skou" or "sk-oh," the "oh" being like the English "oh."


Ah, well, clearly "en lille sko" was precisely what I meant. You see, a number of years back some rapscallion discarded a wee moccasin on my fictional brother's farm, and while our first impulse was indeed to remove it and shake our fists with burning indignation toward today's irreverant youth, with nothing but fields spreading out for hundreds of meters in all directions, the shoe ultimately proved a useful reference point by which to navigate. We've since come to view it as filling an important role in define the unique character of our farmscape, and indeed it is to the footwear that said scape owes a significant portion of its distinctive charm. My brother and I have whiled away many a happy summer afternoon lounging about in the shadow of our lovely little shoe. It holds a very dear place in our hearts.

In all seriousness, though, it's good to have some confirmation that these words indeed sound appreciably different; I had been wondering about that some time. It's also worth noting that Danish speakers would appear to have a much better ear for picking up subtle vowel differences in normal conversation than I could ever lay claim to myself. This may explain why consonant have since come to seem little more than an annoying hinderance. :D

I was really impressed by your r's, they are notoriously hard for speakers of English to pronounced, but I must say, you have pretty much nailed it.


The Danish R seems more or less identical to that in German (which I have previously studied--incidentally, this has been a huge boon in picking up vocabulary, and even in guessing the meaning of many words I've never encountered before), so it didn't really pose too much trouble for me. Indeed, I seem to find it particularly easy to become fast friends with most of the various R's this fine world has to offer--I suppose I'm only far to eager to escape from that horrible, celery-stalk-sounding thing found in English whenever I can.

I hope this was of some help.


Quite so. I'll try to keep all of this in mind when mumbling passages aloud to myself in the future.


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