Danish: Pronunciation of -et endings in certain words

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by Madrid829, Oct 20, 2013.

  1. Madrid829 Senior Member

    Washington, DC
    US English, Great Lakes area
    Hej foreros--

    There are certain words, such as hagget, noget, maget, and universitetet, where when spoken conversationally they sound almost more like "haggel," "nogel," etc. Am I imagining this? Is there any rule that goes along with this?

    Tak! :)
  2. bicontinental Senior Member

    English (US), Danish, bilingual
    No, you're not imagining this...the ”t”-sound in the [-et] ending of the words you mention is indeed very indistinct and is pronounced essentially like a soft d (e.g. mad, food, gade, street) in Danish; it is considered an alveolar approximant [ð] and noget, for example, is pronounced [ˈnɔːəð]. This approximant is notoriously somewhat difficult for foreigners to learn, and it is frequently perceived as an ‘l’ sound, as you also mention above. You may find this previous, but related thread on 'the soft d' interesting: http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=1496840&highlight=soft+d+in+Danish.

    PS: The four words you mention are not all spelled correctly. I assume you mean hakket, noget, meget, universitetet?
  3. Madrid829 Senior Member

    Washington, DC
    US English, Great Lakes area
    OK, thank you! Oops, yes, I did mean hakket—thanks. I will check out that link.
  4. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    I would not agree on calling it indistinct, but it is true that there is a tendency to let the "t" at the end of a word sound like a soft "d". In fact if you really hear a "t" it usually indicates that the speaker is from Jutland. An "l"-sound? No way!

    Difficult for foreigners to learn? That is really generalizing things. I have never met someone who could speak at least halfway decent English, whom I could not theach how to pronounce words with soft "d", in a matter of about 10 minutes.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2013
  5. Madrid829 Senior Member

    Washington, DC
    US English, Great Lakes area
    I don't have too much difficulty with the soft 'd'—at least I don't think I do! I am restricted to movies and audio and don't have any Danes around whose mouths I can stare at while they talk, but I think one reason why it sometimes sounds more like an 'l' to me (the -et, not the soft 'd') is that it sounds like there is less going on in the throat/back of the tongue than with the soft 'd.' Yes? No? One of you feel free to record an x-ray video of you speaking so I can inspect it :)
  6. Dan2

    Dan2 Senior Member

    English (US)
    The thread title is "Pronunciation of -et endings in certain words" and the OP starts, "There are certain words...". Could someone clarify whether the pronunciation of -et described by bicontinental and Sepia holds only for certain words with final unstressed -et, or if, as I would expect, it holds for all final unstressed -et (at least, as the neuter definite marker). Thanks.

    Sepia says, "An "l"-sound? No way!". I don't doubt that for someone whose "ear" is trained to the sounds of Danish, "No way!" is a good description. But I've seen native speakers of various other languages claim that they hear [l] or something like it in Danish "soft d". In addition to Madrid829's post see the thread bicontinental mentioned for some more examples. There are others. If Sepia says it's not an [l] then it's not an [l], but I think we can learn something about phonetics by trying to understand why non-Danes often hear it as an [l].
  7. bicontinental Senior Member

    English (US), Danish, bilingual
    Your assumptions are correct. As a rule of thumb, the unstressed –et at the end of a word, (as the neuter definite marker, and the past participle of many verbs incl. regular verbs ending in -e) is pronounced [ð].
    It has also been my experience that non-native speakers hear an [l] for the soft d and the unstressed ‘-et'. The Danish [l] is different from the English (AE) [l], but even so, neither sounds like the ‘–et’/soft d to my ear. Sometimes a comparison is made with the English voiced , e.g. the, them, but that doesn’t really work either as it results in an unnaturally forced, emphatic ‘soft d’- sound. It would be quite interesting to get a phonetician’s perspective on this.

    In my opinion, indistinct is a reasonable adjective to use about the letter ‘t’ when it’s not pronounced as such, (def. indistinct, Merriam- Webster: not easily seen, heard, or recognized, unclear, vague) http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/indistinct?show=0&t=1382556141 This is in contrast to a distinct [t]…and by that I mean a ‘t’ which is readily recognizable as a ‘t’… as in, telefon [teləˈfoˀn], torsk (cod)[ˈtɒːsg], taske (bag) [ˈtasgə], etc.
    The word tåget (foggy) has both: [ˈtɔːwəð]

  8. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    Intersting point - at least I'll clarify a bit why it is not an "L". One of the most important differences in the "motorics" of a soft "D" and an "L" is that, when you do the L, only the tip of your tongue touches the teeth. When it is a "D" - hard or soft - or a "T" is has contact with almost all of the upper teeth. What now decides wheter it is going to be a soft D, a hard D or a T is how much air pressure builds up beind the teeth and how the tongue deals with that.

    However, the motorics of the tongue when speaking an L and a D are so different that I still tend to say: An "L"? No way.

    For people who are more "visual" than I am, when it comes to studying phonetics I can recommend watching news anchors - they are shown close up, looking straight into the camera, and most of them have excellent pronounciation. Danish TV-news on the Internet are usually NOT blocked from being watched abroad.
  9. Madrid829 Senior Member

    Washington, DC
    US English, Great Lakes area
    Thanks for the further description of the mechanics—that was helpful. TV news is a good suggestion. I do sometimes listen to radio on dr.dk so I will check out their video news. Tak!
  10. frugihoyi Senior Member

    English - USA, Portuguese - Brazil
    Actually I don't have to touch my teeth at all when I pronounce "L," I think I tend to touch the roof of the mouth. But to my ears it's a very small difference and I wouldn't be surprised if even native Danes vary in their approach.
    About making the soft D or T, I learned in Danish school to touch my tongue to the bottom teeth, as opposed to the top. So maybe that's another thing that varies.
    By the way is there a big difference between T endings and DE endings? For example: noget and snakkede. I think that the T at the end of words is pronounced faster than DE would be. Is that right?
  11. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    @I tend to touch the roof of the mouth.

    OR the roof of your mouth - which at the same time opens the gap between your tongue and your upper - are they called grinding teeth? At least the ones along the side.
    However, this is exactly what will make your "L" sound English/American and less Danish. The sound changes gradually with the gap between the upper teeth and tongue + the tip of the tongue getting closer to the front teeth. No use to explain this in more detail - just try the different positions out and listen to what happens.

    The thing aobut the bottom teeth - I read about that in a different thread. I found it hard to believe that anyone would do that or that it would be at all possible to pronounce a soft D that way. OK it IS possible. Sounds very odd, though. But I have heard people speak that way. Now I know how they do it, although I never intended to imitate them. I am not quite sure which region of Denmark they come from.
    The real story about the bottom teeth is probably this: The vocal - I think especially an "E" right before the soft "D" actually makes me touch my lower teeth, but that is only a moment before the tongue touches the upper teeth, when the D sound is generated.

    That is probably why some teacher might have told you to touch the lover teeth. Still it is very misleading. And like I already wrote: Try out the different positions that have been mentioned so far, and listen to what happens. Then you'll know more than anyone could explain to you.
  12. bicontinental Senior Member

    English (US), Danish, bilingual
    That's also how I make these sounds during normal speech at a normal rate. The tongue moves to the interdental position only if I want to emphasize or stress the soft d in a word or syllable, e.g. "it is pronounced cho-ko-la-de." Here's a link to a Danish pronunciation guide...the discussion of the [l] and the [soft d] and other consonants/approximants begins on page 101. http://uvm.dk/Uddannelser/Uddannels...k voksne udlaendinge/111221 dansk_udtale.ashx,
    The way the various Danish consonants are pronounced is described and shown in drawings.

  13. Havfruen Senior Member

    English - American
    Is it ever normal for the tongue to stick out between the teeth? I've seen this when someone was exaggerating a soft D, I believe.
  14. bicontinental Senior Member

    English (US), Danish, bilingual
    Personally, I wouldn't consider it part of 'normal' speech as defined by the standard pronunciation guidelines. You might see it with an interdental lisp depending on how severe it is ..and of course with the exaggerated soft d, as you mentioned above.

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