Estonian: consonant [d]

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Portuguese - Portugal
Hi everybody!

I have a doubt about Estonian phonology. I know there is letter d in Estonian, but I presume, maybe wrongly, that it is always pronounced as [t] and there is no [d] sound in Estonian If it's true, do estonian speakers have problems pronouncing d or distinguishing between [d] and [t] when speaking/learning other languages?

Thank you
  • It is true that Estonian generally doesn't have the sounds , [d] and [g], and that the letters b, d and g stand for the sounds [p], [t] and [k] respectively (actually they're often realized somehow half-voiced and marked with [ʙ], [ᴅ] and [ɢ], but that's beside the point).

    In my experience, some Estonians do tend to pronounce English voiced plosives, that is b, d and g as (almost) voiceless. I have wondered whether it is their orthography that at least to some extent causes this. But then again, Finns do it too, although maybe a little less, since (common) Finnish has the [d] sound. I would suppose that educational and language background play a big role, too.


    I think those letters are pronounced very shortly and in a half-assed way and this is due to a certain reason. D,g and b are more or less pronounced the same way as in english, but since we dont pronounce our t, p and k with significant stress on it like in English (if you get what i mean, as in Ta-da!), this is done with the d g and b in order to differentiate them from the t p and k.


    New Member
    Estonian - Estonia
    This may come a bit late (but better late than never, right), but to the OP:
    - yes, 'd' in Estonian is always pronounced [t], that is, it is not sonoric like in English, French, Russian or Finnish for example. However, it is still pronounced in a softer (or shorter) manner than 't' or 'tt'. Hence, 'd', 't' and 'tt' kind of build a continuum of the sound [t] growing in strength. In word beginning it doesn't really make any difference - 'd'/'t' is always pronounced as simply [t];
    - exactly the same goes for 'g' and 'b';
    - fun fact: a lot of Estonians do not admit this phenomenon themselves and claim that they do pronounce the initial letter of the word-pairs like 'dollar' and 'taaler', 'gaas' and 'kaas' or 'bool' and 'pool' differently;
    - the OP might also be right about the difficulties Estonians encounter when speaking/learning other languages, but I guess it really depends as DrWatson pointed out. I myself have to pay attention to voiced plosives when speaking English or French (especially in French, where it very often alters the meaning of frequent words, e.g 'des' and 'tes'), and this requires an extra effort.
    Finally, I think it actually makes learning Estonian harder to people who speak a language where 'b', 'd' and 'g' are sonoric, since they find it hard to understand where they should write 'b', 'd' or 'g' and where 'p', 't' or 'k' (my experience teaching Estonian to a francophone and to a Russian).


    Senior Member
    I guess above comments are correct.

    I add one nuance.

    Sometimes one talks slowly for some reason. For example one wants to clearly pronounce the word to distinguish it with other similar sounding word. Or one just talks slowly spontanously constructing its thougt in a flow. Or one wants to emphasize one word in the sentence. Or one teaches language. Or other reason where talking tempo is usually slow.

    In described situations the pronounciacion can be different. For example there is a famoues Estonian comedy where word "doctor"/"doktor" is pronounced with unusual [d] beacuse the comedian there tries to express very "accourate" pronounciaton:

    In Swedish language people pronounce word "Jag" as [ja:] if talking tempo is normal. But when tempo is slow, then swedes pronounce it as [jaag].

    So the pronounciacion changes sometimes in languages when tempo changes. As an estonian it was quite challenging for me to learn Swedish language because there [d] is really [d] and not [t] as in estonian.

    I would say that in Estonian {g,b,d} are pronounced little bit softer than in english {k,p,t}.
    For example Estonian word "abi"/"help" is not pronouced as [api], also not like [abi], but something like between those.

    [CODE]Estonian [b] = English ( [p] + [b]) / 2[/CODE]
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    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    I can't speak Estonian, but I like listening to it, and I do hear lots of G sounds.
    For example in the word kangelast. I hear a ng-sound (like in sing) followed by a G.
    I can't find any word with the letter G pronounced as a K.

    Maybe I hear this because there is no G sound in Belgian Dutch.

    The letters B and D are mostly pronounced P and T to my ears, but not always.
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