Page 1 of 11

Svenskt uttal / Swedish pronunciation

Posted: 2014-05-19, 16:09
by dEhiN
Is the Swedish r a retroflex or post-alveolar rhotic? Or is it an alveolar tap? I started learning the alphabet using Livemocha and in their alphabet module the r sounds like an alveolar tap. But then I was listening to Rix FM (online) and whenever the dj said Rix it sounded like the r was a retroflex or post-alveolar sound. Or is the difference an accent variation?

Re: Swedish r

Posted: 2014-05-19, 17:47
by Johanna
It depends on the accent. Down south it's uvular, either a trill or a voiced fricative, in most of Sweden it's an alveolar tap, but in some places it's post-alveolar (I think usually an approximant, but I'm not sure), and one of those places happens to be Stockholm, so it's not uncommon in media.

Not all Stockholmers use it, that city has a lot of different accents just like any big or big-ish city.

I don't think it was retroflex though, that would sound too exaggerated in that position for a native.

Re: Swedish r

Posted: 2014-05-19, 18:17
by dEhiN
Ok thanks; I'll just stick to an alveolar tap.

Re: Swedish r

Posted: 2014-05-19, 18:18
by Johanna
Good decision :)

Re: Swedish r

Posted: 2014-05-19, 19:41
by Jurgen Wullenwever
My usual r is apico-alveolar, and probably similar to Welsh rh, if that is any help, but I use a few other variants as well. Swedish r is pronounced in many ways, so there really is no specific sound that is normal r.

Re: Swedish r

Posted: 2014-05-19, 20:40
by onlyhuman
I think this is an interesting conversation.
Some years ago I was obsessed with Swedish and Sweden in general. After studying Swedish at home and in adult high school I was so proud of myself I could communicate with Swedes in simple and small sentences.The only place in Sweden I've seen so far is Göteborg and I thought the r-sound there was similar to the r in here in southern Germany.

Well, I gave Swedish up because of the sj-sound. It's a sound that I simply can't reproduce, no matter how hard I try. Some strange sound like our sch or h comes out of my mouth all the time. I do actually recognize the sj-sound when I hear it but I just can't pronounce it. Words like stjärna are either "scherna" or "huerna" in my mouth :?

Re: Swedish r

Posted: 2014-05-19, 21:34
by dEhiN
onlyhuman wrote:I think this is an interesting conversation.
Some years ago I was obsessed with Swedish and Sweden in general. After studying Swedish at home and adult high school I was so proud of myself I could communicate with Swedes in simple and small sentences.The only place in Sweden I've seen so far is Göteborg and I thought the r-sound there was similar to the r in here in southern Germany.

Well, I gave Swedish up because of the sj-sound. It's just a sound that I simply can't reproduce, no matter how har I try. Some strange sound like our sch or h comes out of my mouth all the time. I do actually recognize the sj-sound when I heard it but I just can't pronounce it. Words like stjärna are either "scherna" or "huerna" in my mouth :?


Don't give up a language because of one sound! I haven't yet come across this sound, although I did read a bit about it on Wikipedia's Swedish phonology page. I say if you're still interested in Swedish and Sweden, pick it up again.

I know a bit of Tamil, and one of the l sounds is pronounced as a velar lateral approximant (at least in Sri Lanka) and Romanised as 'zh'. I went years before learning this and then figuring out how to properly pronounce the sound. So for almost 10 years I was mispronouncing the letter! But people still understood me. And once I finally learned the proper sound, I started correcting myself.

The fact that you recognize the sj-sound is a good first step. Eventually, with practice, you will be able to pronounce it. And depending on how you learn, try different methods. While listening to sounds help for me, I learn best by reading a linguistic breakdown of the sound.

Re: Swedish r

Posted: 2014-05-20, 15:38
by onlyhuman
So, tell me how you cope with the "sj" sound? I'm just curious and open for hints. :yep:

Re: Swedish r

Posted: 2014-05-20, 16:02
by Johanna
The sj-sound varies a lot between accents, and even though in most of Sweden it's a big mess, there are ways to get around it and find something that's both not too hard to wrap your tongue around and won't leave you wondering what type of sj-sound to use in that specific word :) Like these:

• Pronouncing the sj-sound like [x] and the tj-sound like [ɕ] or [ʃ], like they do in the southernmost part of Sweden.

• Pronouncing the sj-sound like [ʂ] and the tj-sound like [ɕ] or [ʃ], like they do in the northernmost part of Sweden.

• Pronouncing the sj-sound like [ɕ] or [ʃ] ([ʂ] might be a possibility as well, but I'm not sure) and the tj-sound like [t͡ɕ] or [t͡ʃ], like they do in Finland.

And even though they're this different, no one will have any trouble understanding you as long as you're consistent.

Re: Swedish r

Posted: 2014-05-20, 16:10
by onlyhuman
Johanna, are you familiar with German? Do you think it sounds annoying when Germans pronounce it like "sch"?

Re: Swedish r

Posted: 2014-05-20, 16:14
by Johanna
Nope, since there are Swedish accents that do the same :)

The important thing is to keep your sj-sound, when it's in an initial position, distinct enough from the tj-sound, so if you're going with a German sch-sound I recommend the Finland-Swedish way.

Re: Swedish Pronunciation [formerly 'Swedish r']

Posted: 2014-05-20, 20:20
by Jurgen Wullenwever
mōdgethanc wrote:It's a voiceless trill? What?

Yes, it seems so. Is that odd in some way? Sometimes it comes out voiced, but it seems the usual one is unvoiced. (This is a new discovery for me.) It is a weak sound in my speech.

onlyhuman wrote:So, tell me how you cope with the "sj" sound? I'm just curious and open for hints. :yep:

For my part, the Swedish "back sj" is exactly as North German (Hamburg) ach-laut [x], a velar fricative without scraping.

My Swedish "front sj" is merged with "rs" and "tj" as an apico-alveolar fricative [ɕ].

(I assume that the lexical distribution of back sj and front sj in Central Swedish is known.)

Re: Swedish Pronunciation [formerly 'Swedish r']

Posted: 2014-05-20, 20:53
by onlyhuman
Juergen, would you be so kind and make a recording of your pronunciation, please? Maybe some words with the sj-sound?

Re: Swedish r

Posted: 2014-05-22, 13:15
by onlyhuman
Johanna wrote:The sj-sound varies a lot between accents, and even though in most of Sweden it's a big mess there are ways to get around it and find something that's both not too hard to wrap your tongue around and won't leave you wondering what type of sj-sound to use in that specific word :) Like these:

• Pronouncing the sj-sound like [x] and the tj-sound like [ɕ] or [ʃ], like they do in the southernmost part of Sweden.

• Pronouncing the sj-sound like [ʂ] and the tj-sound like [ɕ] or [ʃ], like they do in the northernmost part of Sweden.

• Pronouncing the sj-sound like [ɕ] or [ʃ] ([ʂ] might be a possibility as well, but I'm not sure) and the tj-sound like [t͡ɕ] or [t͡ʃ], like they do in Finland.

And even though they're this different, no one will have any trouble understanding you as long as you're consistent.



How is it pronounced in your dialect, Johanna?

Re: Swedish Pronunciation [formerly 'Swedish r']

Posted: 2014-05-22, 13:48
by dEhiN
Since this thread has now become about Swedish Pronunciation, I have a few more questions for our resident Swedish speakers:

1) Apart from sj and stj (or is it just tj?), are there any other consonant clusters that have their own unique sound?

2) I'm having a hard time distinguishing å, o, a, and u. It's because my English brain sees those letters (well at least o, a, and u) and immediately goes for the English pronunciation. I know that ö is like the German ö, such as in "schön", and the ü is like the French u, such as in "une". But å, o, a, and u I can't seem to differentiate.

Tack själv!

Re: Swedish Pronunciation [formerly 'Swedish r']

Posted: 2014-05-22, 15:44
by Jurgen Wullenwever
dEhiN wrote:1) Apart from sj and stj (or is it just tj?), are there any other consonant clusters that have their own unique sound?

The spelling is not to be trusted. Stj is the same as sj, and there is a large number of other spellings for the sj-sound.

In addition to the ordinary latin letter sounds, b d f g h j k l m n p r s t v, Central Swedish has back sj, front sj, tj, ng, rs, rt, rn, rl, rd, thick l.

The vowel inventory is often ranged from seven short and nine long up to fourteen short and fourteen long.

All those might not appear together for any one person.

onlyhuman wrote:Juergen, would you be so kind and make a recording of your pronunciation, please? Maybe some words with the sj-sound?

I will try as soon as possible.

Re: Swedish r

Posted: 2014-05-22, 17:15
by Johanna
onlyhuman wrote:How is it pronounced in your dialect, Johanna?

I speak one of the messy ones :P And my every-day Swedish is a regional form of Standard Swedish rather than the actual dialect of my area, although I can speak that too, but they don't really differ when it comes to the sj-sound and tj-sound anyway :)

I have two main ways of pronouncing the sj-sound, and they're simply 'back' and 'front'. The back one is [x], the front one can be [ɕ] or [ʃ] (possibly [ʂ] as well, I'm not sure), depending on exactly what sounds are next to it and where in the syllable you find it.

I use the back one when it's the first sound of a word root, in medial position anything goes, and in final position the front one rules supreme. As for the tj-sound, it's completely merged with the front sj-sound.

This works since it's only in initial position using the tj-sound instead of the sj-sound makes any difference in meaning, and this is also the most common way by far, and what you hear in media the most. The problem for learners is that there's no way to know which words get a front sj-sound medially and which get a back one, not to mention that that differs a bit depending on where in the country you are.

I made a recording: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/459 ... /Sj-tj.mp3
skina, människa, kanske, garage, känsla

Re: Swedish r

Posted: 2014-05-22, 17:50
by dEhiN
Johanna wrote:
onlyhuman wrote:How is it pronounced in your dialect, Johanna?

I speak one of the messy ones :P And my every-day Swedish is a regional form of Standard Swedish rather than the actual dialect of my area, although I can speak that too, but they don't really differ when it comes to the sj-sound and tj-sound anyway :)

I have two main ways of pronouncing the sj-sound, and they're simply 'back' and 'front'. The back one is [x], the front one can be [ɕ] or [ʃ] (possibly [ʂ] as well, I'm not sure), depending on exactly what sounds are next to it and where in the syllable you find it.

I use the back one when it's the first sound of a word root, in medial position anything goes, and in final position the front one rules supreme. As for the tj-sound, it's completely merged with the front sj-sound.

This works since it's only in initial position using the tj-sound instead of the sj-sound makes any difference in meaning, and this is also the most common way by far, and what you hear in media the most. The problem for learners is that there's no way to know which words get a front sj-sound medially and which get a back one, not to mention that that differs a bit depending on where in the country you are.

I made a recording: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/459 ... /Sj-tj.mp3
skina, människa, kanske, garage, känsla

Johanna why do you pronounce the initial "k" in kanske [k], but the initial "k" in känsla as [ʃ]? Is it because of the vowel that follows?

Re: Swedish r

Posted: 2014-05-22, 17:50
by onlyhuman
Johanna wrote:
onlyhuman wrote:How is it pronounced in your dialect, Johanna?

I speak one of the messy ones :P And my every-day Swedish is a regional form of Standard Swedish rather than the actual dialect of my area, although I can speak that too, but they don't really differ when it comes to the sj-sound and tj-sound anyway :)

I have two main ways of pronouncing the sj-sound, and they're simply 'back' and 'front'. The back one is [x], the front one can be [ɕ] or [ʃ] (possibly [ʂ] as well, I'm not sure), depending on exactly what sounds are next to it and where in the syllable you find it.

I use the back one when it's the first sound of a word root, in medial position anything goes, and in final position the front one rules supreme. As for the tj-sound, it's completely merged with the front sj-sound.

This works since it's only in initial position using the tj-sound instead of the sj-sound makes any difference in meaning, and this is also the most common way by far, and what you hear in media the most. The problem for learners is that there's no way to know which words get a front sj-sound medially and which get a back one, not to mention that that differs a bit depending on where in the country you are.

I made a recording: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/459 ... /Sj-tj.mp3
skina, människa, kanske, garage, känsla

Tusen tack! :!:

You pronounce the words kanske, garage, känsla the way I learned in adult high school and this sounds absolutely natural to me.

I hope I haven't misheard it but in skina and människa I hear a different sound than in the other words and exactly with this sound I've got big difficulties.

And....your voice is very nice and pleasant.

Re: Swedish Pronunciation [formerly 'Swedish r']

Posted: 2014-05-22, 18:00
by dEhiN
Jurgen Wullenwever wrote:
dEhiN wrote:1) Apart from sj and stj (or is it just tj?), are there any other consonant clusters that have their own unique sound?

The spelling is not to be trusted. Stj is the same as sj, and there is a large number of other spellings for the sj-sound.

In addition to the ordinary latin letter sounds, b d f g h j k l m n p r s t v, Central Swedish has back sj, front sj, tj, ng, rs, rt, rn, rl, rd, thick l.

The vowel inventory is often ranged from seven short and nine long up to fourteen short and fourteen long.

All those might not appear together for any one person.

onlyhuman wrote:Juergen, would you be so kind and make a recording of your pronunciation, please? Maybe some words with the sj-sound?

I will try as soon as possible.


Are the rs, rt, rn, rl, and rd letters the retroflex sounds? I'm assuming ng sounds like in English "ring"? What's the difference between the thick l and the regular latin l? Also, are the ordinary d/l/n/t letters pronounced dentally or alveolarly or a mix? Because I know different languages pronounce the same latin letter differently. English d/t/n are alveolar while English l is usually dental. But French d/l/n/t are all alveolar and Spanish d/l/n/t are all dental.

Juergen, if you are making a recording, can you make one with the vowels as well please? Or do you know of any good sites which showcase the long and short vowels?

I recognize that like any language, Swedish has different dialects. But as a beginner learner of Swedish, it's overwhelming and confusing to learn about the regional/dialectal differences. So I don't know if there's a dialect of Swedish that is considered "standard" (maybe Central Swedish?) that is usually taught to SFL students. Is there such a dialect?