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Human-Robot Interaction Lab Sønderborg

Listen: A few examples of speech sound differences between the languages

Apart from intonation, there are of course characteristic differences between the pronunciation of speech sounds between the languages. Let us just very briefly mention some other obvious differences to give you a general idea.

For instance, the long a-sound is different in Danish, Swedish and Norwegian.

Please note that not all “letters” are pronounced, i.e. the written word may be pronounced differently. (From school, you will have got used to thinking about “letters” that are being “pronounced”, but we will separate “letters” (written signs) from “sounds” (which are spoken, i.e. pronounced)).


  1. What do the long a-vowels in these Swedish, Danish and Norwegian words sound like to you? (There are also separate audio files with only the long a-vowel sound.)

    a)     Swedish: Pratar du…

    b)    Danish: Taler du også…

    c)     Norwegian: Har du…


    But it does not stop there: even within the same language, the speech sounds may be pronounced in different ways. Listen and compare:


  2. Compare the long a-vowels in different varieties with each other.

    a)     Central Swedish: Pratar du…                –   b) Scania Swedish: Pratar du…

    c)     Copenhagen Danish: Taler du også… –   d) Jutland Danish: Taler du også…

    e)     Southeast Norwegian: Har du…          –   f) South Norwegian: Har du…


    There may be speech sounds in each language that are not shared by the other languages. And there may be speech sounds in some language-internal varieties that are not shared by the other varieties of the same language.

    Take the r-sound as an example. The most famous difference in Europe is the distinction between “rolling” r (pronounced with the tip of the tongue, Swed. rullande r, Norw. rulle-r) vs. the “burring” r (pronounced with the tongue root, Swed. skorrande r, Norw. skarre-r) (see the text to regional varieties).

    There are also other pronunciation variants and other pronunciation processes involving the r-sound. We cannot go through all the possibilities here, but in (3) we give a few examples.


  3. Compare the r-sounds.

    a)     Central Swedish: Pratar du…                –   b) Scania Swedish: Pratar du…

    c)     Danish: …andre sprog…                          –   d) Taler du også…

    e)     South East Norwegian: …andre sprog… –              f) South Norwegian: …andre sprog au…

    How many different r-sounds can you make out? Can you pronounce them yourself?


    Finally, before we go on, there are pronunciation phenomena that arise when individual speech sounds are pronounced together. For example, there are a lot of assimilations and left-out endings in Danish. In the audiofile (4a), you hear two reductions in Copenhagen Danish iIn the phrase Synes du, man skal bruge (“Do you think you should use”):

  4. Listen to the speech and compare it to the writing.
  • First, the verb synes is pronounced without an “e” in the ending (syns = “have the opinion”).
  • Second, in the verb bruge, the consonant “g” is not pronounced at all and the verbal infinitive ending “-e” is left out altogheter (bru = “use”).

    In (4b), the three words jeg er en.. (“I am about”) practically melt together into one single word.

  • Jeg is pronounced like “ja” in an unstressed position.
  • The r-sound at the end of er is a so-called vocalized “r”, i.e. it is also pronounced like a vowel sound, somewhat similar to a short “a”.
  • We are thus left with three vowel sounds in a row: ja ea en…

    The vowel sounds in the three words are then assimilated to each other, i.e they are pronounced so that they sound more alike than they would if the words had been pronounced one at a time. The result is: jeg er en jeean.


  1. Copenhagen Danish:Synes du, man skal bruge
    ”Do you think, you should use…”
  2. Copenhagen Danish: Jeg er en… tyve år gammel.
    ”I’m about… twenty years old.”


Finally, there are differences in vocabulary and grammatical differences in inflection and sentence structure. But those differences are already well documented and described in dictionaries and in textbooks for language learners.

Last Updated 04.04.2022