AUTHOR: Basbøll, Hans
TITLE: The Phonology of Danish
SERIES: The Phonology of the World's Languages
PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press
Jason Brown, Department of Linguistics, University of British Columbia
This book is a comprehensive study of the sound patterns of Danish.
Part One: Introduction and Contrastive Units
Chapter 1: Introduction
This chapter provides an introduction to the Danish language, to previous
studies on the phonology of Danish, and to the historical context of the
language. Also introduced is the methodology used throughout the book, which is
based in part on Occam's razor and principles of psychological interpretability.
Finally, the notational conventions are laid out, and the relationships between
different levels of representation are defined.
Chapter 2: Segments, Prosodies and Letters
Here are outlined the basic phonological units of Danish, including the
contrastive sounds and the orthographic representations. The full vowels and
consonants are listed, and there is a discussion dedicated to the behavior of
the neutral vowel schwa. Also discussed are diphthongs, issues of vowel length,
stress, and the famous ''stød''. The Danish orthography, and the transparency
between orthographic and phonological/phonetic form is discussed.
Part Two: Distinctive Features and Segment Types
Chapter 3: Distinctive Features and Major Classes
This chapter gives a brief overview of distinctive features and natural classes,
including their relationship to phonetics and the notion of binarity. The
approach of this book is toward binary features, rather than unary or
multivalued features. The roles of the various distinctive features are then
discussed, with an emphasis on the features sonorant, stop, and lateral (and
Chapter 4: An Analysis in Binary Distinctive Features
A distinctive feature analysis of the phonemes of Danish is presented in this
chapter. First, consonants are treated, and place features are discussed. Next,
vowels are discussed, and the same type of place analysis is applied to the
vowels, starting with rounding and vowel place features. The other features for
vowels are then explored, including approximant, front, and grave. The feature
specifications for the neutral vowels are outlined, and some final remarks are
made concerning the features voice and spread glottis as they pertain to obstruents.
Chapter 5: r-processes and the Potentials of Multivalued Features
This chapter discusses the vowel-lowering and retraction processes associated
with the phoneme /r/, and the implications that it has on the distinctive
feature analysis of the language. The process itself basically brings vowels one
step closer in quality to the pharyngeal /r/, and a binary feature analysis is
not capable of capturing the generalizations surrounding r-colouring. Thus, a
multi-valued feature is proposed, namely [distance], which is relevant for all
vowels in the vowel space. The author goes on to note that [distance] is not
really a distinctive feature in the system, but rather an indirectly defined
feature that performs a descriptive duty. The new set of features, including
[distance], is then tested, especially with respect to segments that are defined
Part Three: The Sonority Syllable and Phonotactics
Chapter 6: Developing the Sonority Syllable Model
The possibilities are explored in this chapter for a syllable model based on
sonority. After an overview of other approaches to sonority, the importance of
the syllable peak is discussed, and a model based on distinctive features and
implicational relations is outlined. The model is then enhanced with a time
dimension. Several alternatives are explored, including different distinctive
features in differing relationships. Finally, the model is set forth as the
basis for phonotactic description, and several questions surrounding the
adequacy, or the demands, of the model are posed. Finally, the model is
discussed in the broader context of phonotactic typology.
Chapter 7: Phonotactics of the Monomorphemic Monosyllable
This chapter explores the phonotactics of the language, specifically the
restrictions on onset and coda consonant clusters. The domain of investigation
here is the monomorphemic syllable. Employing the Sonority Syllable Model
developed in previous chapters, the author shows how the model makes predictions
about what types of clusters are allowed. Two- and three-member clusters in
onsets are discussed, and the relatively more complex analysis of codas is
presented. Next, restrictions on syllable peaks and final clusters are discussed
and tested against the model, and a set of filters is proposed to capture all of
the co-occurrence restrictions.
Chapter 8: Extending the Phonotactic Description: Polymorphemic Monosyllables,
and Disyllables with Schwa
Chapter 8 extends the discussion begun in chapter 7 regarding phonotactics and
consonant clustering to the realm of polymorphemic monosyllables, disyllables
that end in schwa, and other polysyllabic forms with initial full vowels and
neutral vowels that follow. Since a good deal of Danish morphology is suffixing,
this creates the possibility for new types of consonant clusters. While some
suffixes are syllabic, others are not: -s (genitive ending), -t (neuter ending
of adjectives), -st (superlative ending), and -sk (adjectivizing ending).
Discussed also are ''interludes'', or intervocalic consonant clusters in
disyllabic forms, and the inventories of possible interludes. Schwa-syllables
are also treated, which, because of their potential morphological complexity,
can result in large clusters. Again, a set of filters (simpler in nature than in
previous chapters) is applied in order to derive the correct clustering effects.
Finally, the dynamics of disyllabic forms and schwa-syllables is treated in the
Sonority Syllable Model developed earlier.
Part Four: Syllables, Schwa-Drop, and Prosody
Chapter 9: The Syllable as domain of segmental phonology: consonant gradation
and short /a, o/
This chapter explores the syllable as a phonological domain in Danish. After
some general background on syllabification principles, syllabification as it
applies to Danish is discussed. Consonant gradation in Danish is next explored.
Drawing on patterns of segmental distributions presented in earlier chapters,
the author illustrates how syllable structure is responsible for the
alternations between the stops, fricatives, and /r/ in prevocalic and
postvocalic positions. The parallel behavior of short /a, o/ are discussed, in
particular their syllable-based restrictions.
Chapter 10: Stød and Sound Structure: a moraic analysis
In this chapter, the properties of length, moraicity, and the phenomenon of stød
are explored. First, the morpho-phonological properties of stød are outlined,
followed by an overview of moraic theory, especially that of Hyman (1985). The
author proposes a moraic analysis for the treatment of stød, dispensing with the
notion of 'stød-basis', which has been commonly used in the literature on
Danish. Under this view, light syllables cannot have stød, while heavy syllables
(bimoraic with either long vowels or a syllable closed with a sonorant
consonant) can host stød. The author then confronts the problems faced with such
an analysis, including accounting for problematic alternations and also
accounting for which heavy syllables have no stød. Finally, some principles of
syllable and mora ''creation'' are set forth (syllabification and moraification
principles, including prosodic wellformedness conditions). The chapter closes
with a brief discussion of prosodic typology, comparing Danish to other Romance
and Germanic languages.
Chapter 11: Schwa-assimilation and ''productive stød-addition''
This chapter discusses the processes of schwa assimilation and the deletion of
schwa, and relates this behavior to stød. The various conditions for schwa
assimilation and deletion are outlined, and are related to the syllabic and
moraic structures proposed in earlier chapters. The effect of consonant length
is then discussed. Finally, the productive use of stød addition in many
inflectional paradigms is discussed in light of the analysis of schwa assimilation.
Chapter 12: Stress Phonologically: prosodic and segmental prominence
The basic properties of stress in Danish are outlined in this chapter. A
detailed discussion of the historical approaches to stress in the language are
given. Discussed are primary, secondary, and tertiary (or absence of) stress.
Also related are the issues of vowel length, vowel quality, and stød (and
consequently, syllable weight). Also mentioned are compounds.
Part Five: Word Structure and its Relation to Prosody
Chapter 13: Systematically Graded Productivity of Endings (SGPE): a model for
word structure and its implications for Danish phonology
This chapter introduces the SGPE model for word structure, which is based on the
productivity of morphological affixes. After some discussion of morphological
productivity (especially following Bauer 2001), the various ''grades'' or
productivity of endings in Danish are outlined. Each of the endings is treated:
fully productive, semi-productive, and unproductive. Then notions like the basic
word and minimal stem are dealt with. Next, inflectional endings are discussed,
as well as lexicalized endings, and an analysis of verbal forms as built on
stems is presented. Finally, the relationship between morphology and the
segmental phonology is outlined, with emphasis on vowel shortening, deletion of
the alveolar non-lateral approximant, and stød (as well as the non-stød principle).
Chapter 14: Prosody of Simplex Lexemes: stød and stress
This chapter discusses vowel length, stød, and stress, and the underlying
lexical specifications for each. It also discusses how lexemes which end in a
stressed short vowel which are followed by a sonorant consonant should be
handled; namely, in terms of extra-prosodicity. The phenomenon of stress is
again taken up, and the notions of lexical strata (i.e. native core vocabulary
vs. loans) is used to illustrate differences in stress. Stød in native and loan
lexemes is also taken up, and a complete typology of stød in various syllable
types is established.
Chapter 15: Prosody of Simplex Words: Stød and Stress in Inflection
The behaviors of stød and stress in simplex words are outlined here. Focus is on
inflectional endings, specifically fully productive endings that also occur as
unproductive ones. Topics covered are stress in nouns, morphemes that display
stød alternations, the ''wordform'' analysis, which is based on simplex/complex,
verb/non-verb, lexicalized/non-lexicalized dichotomies, stød in inflected nouns,
adjectives, verbs, and adverbs. Finally, there is a discussion of the potential
of stød as a phonetic aid to the listener, which may help parse morphological forms.
Chapter 16: Prosody of Complex Words: Stød and Stress in Word Formation
This chapter examines the behaviors of stød and stress in complex words; that
is, derived forms and compounds. The chapter builds upon earlier chapters (in
particular those of Part 5) by adopting the same principles of word structure
and the same approach to morphophonology (by reference to endings). First
compounds are dealt with, then derivational structures (including lexicalized
elements). The issues of stress and weight are dealt with again here with regard
to stød in these more complex words.
Chapter 17: Epilogue: From Word to Utterance
Where the previous chapter worked up to word-level phonology, this chapter
explores utterance phonology and intonation. The first part of the chapter is
dedicated to phrasal stress, followed by a brief outline of Danish intonation.
Finally, the approach taken throughout the entire book is applied to an example
sentence, and the phonology is derived from the phonemic level up to the
prosodic word structure.
Following chapter 17 is an appendix dedicated to the use of various phonetic
symbols (such as those used in the book, standard orthographic symbols, and
those used in other relevant works), and to the relations between contrastive
segments, phonemes, and morphophonemes.
This book is extremely comprehensive in its scope. The author sets out to
provide a full account of the phonology of Danish, and accomplishes this task.
While the text may at first seem a bit on the long side, it soon becomes clear
that the depth of the analysis requires several chapters to flesh out.
For the most part, the book is fairly easy to follow, and there are areas where
lots of interesting material is presented. For instance, included in chapter 1
is a very interesting discussion of language history, and the history of Danish
linguistics. Also, the discussion throughout the book of the famous Danish
''stød'' will be of interest not only to Danish scholars, but also to a much wider
audience. Occasionally the material is a bit dense; Chapter 13 is a bit hard to
follow; lots of new terminology is introduced and used, and the discussion moves
deeply into morphology. However, the reader who follows the discussion will be
rewarded, as much of the analysis of later chapters depends on understanding
these concepts and terminology.
In terms of editorial issues, there are a few (somewhat minor) typos to be found
in the text, and there is an error in the header for chapter 12 (which is
mistakenly titled ''Word Structure – It's Relation to Prosody'' – the heading for
Part 5, which starts with chapter 13), but these can be easily ignored, if the
reader even notices them to begin with. These minor shortcomings aside, it is
clear that the book definitely lives up to the standard of the series ''Phonology
of the World's Languages''. This book will be of high value to those interested
in the phonology and morphology of Danish, as well as to phonologists generally.
Bauer, Laurie. 2001. _Morphological Productivity_. Cambridge: Cambridge
Hyman, Larry. 1985. _A theory of Phonological Weight_. Dordrecht: Foris.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Jason Brown is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of British Columbia.
His research focus is on phonological theory, with special interests in the
phonetics-phonology interface, phonological representations, and feature theory.