LINGUIST List 10.103

Fri Jan 22 1999

Sum: Danish phonology

Editor for this issue: Jody Huellmantel <>


  1. Julian Bradfield, Danish phonology

Message 1: Danish phonology

Date: Fri, 22 Jan 1999 14:18:30 +0100 (MET)
From: Julian Bradfield <>
Subject: Danish phonology

A couple of months ago, I posted a query about descriptions of Danish
phonology, and in particular the front vowels and soft <d>. With
apologies for the delay, here is the summary.

On descriptions, "George Hinge" <> suggested the
introduction to Lars Brink, Den store danske udtaleordbog, Munksgaard
1991; Carolyn Sobel <> mentioned her dissertation A
Generative Phonology of Danish; and Henrik Jrgensen
<> gave the following list of comprehensive resources:

Steffen Heger: Sprog og lyd, Copenhagen 1981.
Nina Grnnum [recent title from Akademisk Forlag, Copenhagen, not yet
Basbll & Wagner: Kontrastive Phonologie des Daenischen und des

On the question of unrounded front vowels, George Hinge, who describes
his pronunciation as rather conservative "standard", says he
distinguishes no fewer than six heights:

 I distinguish in the same context, i.e. /__<(g)er, re(r)>: /i:/
 tiger fire, /e:/ eger (oak-boats) flere, /e^:/ laeger laere(r), /ae:/
 kager, /ae:^/ faerre, /a:/ fare. The short vowels are fewer, /r__C:
 /i/ trist, /ae/ frist kringle, /ae^/ rest kraeft graense traette
 (developing into /a/), /a/ rast kraft, and without <r>: /i/ tisse
 rille kigge, /e/ pisse pille fedt, /e^/ laesse faelde taet, /ae/ masse
 falde mat, and before <p, k> /a/ tak lap.

He says this is an unstable system in transition.

Supporting this, Henrik Jrgensen says:

 The pronunciation of 'e', 'ae' and 'a' in front of and after 'r' is a
 complicated matter. Whereas vowels tend to occupy a much more narrow
 space in younger generations than in older ones, the corresponding
 phonemes in contact with 'r' are regularly opened. Among the younger
 generations, the phonemic distinction /e/ : /ae/ : /a/ is extinct after
 /r/. There are many variations, also on a -lect base.

As for the soft <d>, the common factor of the replies is that it is
rather difficult to describe or classify!
Henrik Jrgensen says:

 Post-vocalic /ed/ ("soft 'd'", not the same phoneme as /d/, in spite of
 Hjelmslev and others) is difficult to classify within conventional
 pnonetic notation. Sometimes the term 'approximant' has been used, but
 Basbll and Wagner assume that it is just a semi-vowel. It is certainly
 not a lateral, but my experience with foreign learners is that a plain
 [l] may do the job. No native speaker would feel satisfied, though.
 There is definitely no opening between the sides of the tongue and the
 teeth, and no closure in front, rather contact at the sides and opening
 in front.

Thanks to all respondents.
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