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The Spelling and Pronunciation
of Written Danish Syllables

The generalities that exist for the pronunciation of written Danish are in terms of syllables rather than words per se. That is to say, a particular letter such as g has one pronunciation at the beginning of a syllable but an entirely different one at the end of a syllable. Generalities is the proper word to use because there are no hard-and-fast rules; there being exceptions to any proposed rule.

It should be noted that the spoken word came first. The generalities have to do with the way the spoken words were depicted in written form rather than the pronunciation of a particular letter. For example, the d at the end of a Danish syllable usually represents the sound of ð eth, as in other. It is unknown as to why the Danish scribes that created the spelling for Danish words chose to represent the phoneme at the end of syllables as d rather than ð, the th sound in other. Nevertheless that is the way it is and the problem is to try to recover the pronunciation of the words from the spelling.

The Consonants

Danish Consonants
Letter ContextSoundAlternate
Expression
b allb as in blackbb
dinitial d as in doordd, t, tt
final ð as in other
f allas in farff
ginitial as in gogg
finalas y as in yet
h except in
hv and hj
as in house
j after vowelas i as in feel
all other
except sj
as y as in yet
k allas in kickkk
l allas in like
never as in kill
m allas in manmm
n allas in nownn, nd
p allas in post
r mosta guttural sound as in hr
final or
between two
vowels
vocalic r
as in bird
s allas in seass, ds
t allas in timett, dt
v allas in vinehv, w

Letter
combination
ContextSoundAlternate
Expression
ng allas in thingn in front of k
nk in front of t
sj allsh as in show

The Vowels

A distinctive characteristics of some Danish vowels is that they are pronounced with the lips pushed forward. This is described as pronunciation with rounded lips. In the table below the degree of opening refers to the space between the tongue and roof of the mouth. Front and Back refer to the place where the vowel is articulated.

Danish Vowels
Degree of
Opening
Place of
Articulation
 FrontCenterBack
 SpreadRoundNeutralSpreadRound
Narrow[i]
as in feel
[y]
as in über
  [u]
as in boom
Middle[e]
as in window
[ø]
as in feu
[ə]
as in uh
 [o]
as in pull
Wide[ε]
as in bed
[œ]
as in heard
  [a]
as in bad
[ɔ]
as in hot


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