Pronunciation of ‘ä’

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Woods
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Pronunciation of ‘ä’

Postby Woods » 2012-04-05, 18:29

There’s one Swedish guy who told me it depended on the word whether ‘ä’ is read [e] like in ‘bed’ or [æ] like in ‘have’ and one had to remember word by word.

There’s another Swedish guy who told me ‘ä’ is pronounced [æ] when it’s a long vowel and [e] when it’s a short one. He’s the one I believe so far.

There’s also one girl who told me ‘ä’ is always pronounced the same way (i.e. [æ]), no matter if it’s a short or a long vowel, and only the length differs. I think she’s wrong but she’s studied Swedish language in her university for four years.

So there’s different opinions and I’m not in Sweden right now to check out, so I need somebody to prevent me from learning Swedish the wrong way.

Is it true that ‘ä’ can be a short or a long vowel and it’s pronounced [æ] when it’s a long one like in ‘rät’ and [e] when it’s a short one, like in ‘rätt?’ Then if there was a word ‘rett’ it would be pronounced the exact same way as ‘rätt,’ wouldn’t it?

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Johanna
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Re: Pronunciation of ‘ä’

Postby Johanna » 2012-04-06, 9:09

Long <ä> is pretty much always /ɛː/, with [æː] as a possible allophone before r. Actually, the only exception that comes to mind is the word är, which can be pronounced either [ɛː] or [eː], depending on where you're from.

When it's short it's a lot more complicated, there's very little logic to it, and to make matters worse it depends on the area. Some keep the distinction between /ɛ/ and /e/, some have merged them, leaving either /e/ or /ɛ/, and of those who keep the distinction, some words might have /e/ in some places and /ɛ/ in others. And just as with the long version, [æ] is a possible allohone before r.

The Stockholm area has weird things going on wither their <ä> and <ö> though, I'm not entirely sure, but I think most people there have [æː], [æ] for /ɛː/, /ɛ/.

This is for accents of Standard Swedish, in the dialects things can be a lot different. But not many people speak actual dialects anymore :(
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Jurgen Wullenwever
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Re: Pronunciation of ‘ä’

Postby Jurgen Wullenwever » 2012-04-06, 9:36

Ninjad again, but I post it anyway. 8-)

There is only one vowel /ä/ [ɛ] and the vowel quality is the same regardless of quantity. :!:

In official descriptions they usually have the information that /ä/, both long and short, is usually [ɛ], but pronounced [æ] if it is followed by r, but that was a development that never came to these parts of the country, and today it seems to have gone even further in making all /ä/ into [æ/æ:] according to what has been said by some researchers, but I do not experience any such. :o

The quality of the vowel is a little shifting, so it could be [ɛ] or [æ] anyway. It is not really important. :|

What is important, is the difference between /e/ and /ä/, but the spelling is not true in this case, since /ä/ is often written <e>, and /e/ is sometimes written <ä>. :?

Added to that is that many speakers do not even have short /e/, they use short /ä/ instead. :evil:

AND, perhaps most noticeable, many are those who FOLLOW the faulty spelling in their pronunciation. :( (Blessed are those who do not, as our saviour stated. :twisted: )
Chekhov wrote:I don't know about naive worldviews, but Jurgen Wullenwhatever pisses me off to no end because of his extreme pessimism and cynicism. You'd think the world was going to end imminently when talking to that guy.

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Re: Pronunciation of ‘ä’

Postby Hunef » 2012-04-06, 13:24

This is my take. In the most generally accepted form of spoken Standard Swedish (with Standard Swedish I mean written Modern Swedish), ä is pronounced [æ] when short in front of r, [æ:] when long in front of r; otherwise (which is the majority of the cases) it is [ɛ] when short and [ɛ:] when long. It's actually as simple as that, no exceptions as far as I know. (Exceptions would be the regiolects and sociolects etc.; let's not speak about the traditoonal dialects because they don't have much to do with Standard Swedish and follow their own rules.)

Examples:
    rka ['lær.ka] n. 'lark',
    ra ['læ:.ra] v. 'teach',
    länsa ['lɛn.sa] v. 'empty',
    läsa ['lɛ:.sa] v. 'read'.
Johanna wrote:The Stockholm area has weird things going on wither their <ä> and <ö> though, I'm not entirely sure, but I think most people there have [æː], [æ] for /ɛː/, /ɛ/.
Isn't it even more open, almost like [a:] and [a]? I guess it's their approximative way of getting closer to Standard Swedish, their former ä used to be (and is still among some old and working class middle aged people) [e:] and [e], they simply started to use a sound they already had in their inventory - [ɛ] and [æ] didn't exist in Old Stockholmish unlike [a].
Note that Ostrogothian has such vowels too and they're definitely much older than the Stockholmish ones. Does anyone know if there's a connection?

Jurgen Wullenwever wrote:AND, perhaps most noticeable, many are those who FOLLOW the faulty spelling in their pronunciation. :( (Blessed are those who do not, as our saviour stated. :twisted: )
Yeah, I hate this. The most notable example is the (originally German) prefix er- as in erhålla v. 'receive'. This is pronounced [æ:r-] but due to the orthography many (most?) people today pronounce it [e:r-]. I hate how the orthography forces ignorant people to mispronounce a word, a mispronounciation that after some while becomes almost a norm such that people - like me - who use the old pronounciation are laughed at. :?
Last edited by Hunef on 2012-04-06, 13:48, edited 1 time in total.
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Woods
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Re: Pronunciation of ‘ä’

Postby Woods » 2012-04-08, 6:44

I came for clarification and you got me twice as confused :(

Indeed I want to speak Stockholmish. It’s the only place I’ve been so far, I like the accent and I need to take one dialect as an example and speak it without mixing with other dialects which would sound messed up. I don’t know if you’ve noticed these non-native English speaking guys who speak half-American, half-British but to me it sounds pretty fucked up.

What’s the difference between /ɛ/ and /e/? I’ve only seen my French dictionary distinguish between them and as far as Swedish is concerned I’d rather expect /e/ to depict the “e” in “vet,” so I wouldn’t expect it do have anything to do with “ä.” But you probably don’t mean that sound when you say /e/. By /ɛ/ you mean the sound “e” like in “heaven” (American English), right?

Jurgen Wullenwever wrote:The quality of the vowel is a little shifting, so it could be [ɛ] or [æ] anyway. It is not really important. :|


To me it’s important, because I first started pronouncing all the “ä”s as [æ], then changed some of them to [ɛ] and then I didn’t know which one to use to pronounce a particular word anymore. I changed my pronunciation of “bättre” [‘bætre] to [‘betre], but I kept “lära” [‘læra]. I think I would force “läsa” to [‘læsa] even though it sounded better to me as [lesa], maybe because of German “lesen,” but now I see there’s also the rule you outline.

So let me summarise it so I walk off with a little bit of the clarification I came for. If I want to speak Standard Swedish, I must always pronounce “ä” as [ɛ], except for the cases when it’s followed by “r” where I should pronounce it as [æ]. This is true for all the cases, no matter short or long. If I want to sound Stockholmish, I must always pronounce “ä” as [æ]. I’m not sure I can accept this, because the two guys who explained it to me in different ways both lived in Stockholm and all my observations of “ä” when I noticed it was pronounced in different ways depending on the word were based on my stay in Stockholm.

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Re: Pronunciation of ‘ä’

Postby Jurgen Wullenwever » 2012-04-08, 8:49

Woods wrote:Indeed I want to speak Stockholmish.

We hate Stockholmish. :evil: Besides, almost no one actually speaks real Stockholmish today, as it was spoken in ages past (although that Stockholmish do we not hate :) ), but you mean to speak as people do there today. I lived there for nine years, 1991-2000, but instead of acquiring their speech, I went the other way, and fueled my Nercian provincialism. :twisted:

Woods wrote:What’s the difference between /ɛ/ and /e/? I’ve only seen my French dictionary distinguish between them and as far as Swedish is concerned I’d rather expect /e/ to depict the “e” in “vet,” so I wouldn’t expect it do have anything to do with “ä.” But you probably don’t mean that sound when you say /e/. By /ɛ/ you mean the sound “e” like in “heaven” (American English), right?

English does not have an [e] vowel. French is better for comparison, since it has (or had) <é> [e] and <è, ê, ai> [ɛ].

The "ä before r" distinction is not important, and as a foreigner you could completely disregard it, as it is not really current. (I do not have it, but I do not speak Stockholmish.) In Uppsala, just north of Stockholm, they had passed that development stage, and made all ä into [æ] or something, while I am not sure of the Stockholmers. They had [a:] instead of [æ:] before r, but there were different kinds of speech, northern suburban (upper class)/southern suburban (working class)/immigrant suburban (broken Swedish), and most people in Stockholm were first or second generation from other parts of the country.

You could try to listen to internet radio and hear how they speak, since that is approximately what you are after. http://sverigesradio.se/p1/

Woods wrote:I don’t know if you’ve noticed these non-native English speaking guys who speak half-American, half-British but to me it sounds pretty fucked up.

How else could we speak, when we have grown up with hearing both on TV?

If, in Swedish, you mixed Scanian, Gothenburgish and Stockholmish, it would sound odd, but the second language speakers in Sweden often speak incomprehensible anyway. The exception is women from former communist countries, who often have acquired a clear Swedish, sometimes broken, sometimes not, depending on the individual.
Chekhov wrote:I don't know about naive worldviews, but Jurgen Wullenwhatever pisses me off to no end because of his extreme pessimism and cynicism. You'd think the world was going to end imminently when talking to that guy.

Jag är rebell: jag sockrar teet, saltar maten, cyklar utan hjälm, och tänder glödlampor.
(Ovanstående var förut, nu försöker jag minska sockret och saltet.)

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Re: Pronunciation of ‘ä’

Postby Johanna » 2012-04-08, 13:09

There's not really one Stockholm accent either, it varies between soacial classes and different parts of the city. And I do mean the modern speech, not any old dialect.

I agree with Jurgen that the best choice would be to go for that standard radio and TV accent, it's close enough to how most stockholmers speak that no one will notice, not even if you shed all traces of your foreign one.
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Re: Pronunciation of ‘ä’

Postby Lugubert » 2012-07-06, 17:02

My parents were from Skåne and Norrköping, and I have lived most of my life in the Göteborg area. It is very difficult if at all possible to assign a region to my lack of dialect. Already as my pre-school years, kids in Stockholm immediately understood that I lived in Göteborg - and vice versa!

That said,
Hunef wrote:Examples:
    rka ['lær.ka] n. 'lark',
    ra ['læ:.ra] v. 'teach',
    länsa ['lɛn.sa] v. 'empty',
    läsa ['lɛ:.sa] v. 'read'.


isn't me. I have the same sound for <ä> in all of those.

I also pronounce <best> 'beast' and <bäst> 'best' with that vowel. I think that in Värmland, their <ä> is more open than my <e> .

For comparison, what I hear on British telly for 'head' comes dangerously close to how I was taught to pronounce 'had', 'pet' I hear almost as 'pat' etc...

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Re: Pronunciation of ‘ä’

Postby Jurgen Wullenwever » 2012-07-07, 19:30

Lugubert wrote:I have the same sound for <ä> in all of those.

I also pronounce <best> 'beast' and <bäst> 'best' with that vowel.

It might be good to know that the older Swedish pronunciation of best is [be:st] with a long [e:], rhyming with hest and rest, although other versions have come into use later.
Chekhov wrote:I don't know about naive worldviews, but Jurgen Wullenwhatever pisses me off to no end because of his extreme pessimism and cynicism. You'd think the world was going to end imminently when talking to that guy.

Jag är rebell: jag sockrar teet, saltar maten, cyklar utan hjälm, och tänder glödlampor.
(Ovanstående var förut, nu försöker jag minska sockret och saltet.)


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