Icelandic: how to pronounce kemur and allt

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by Si-Naron, Jan 10, 2018.

  1. Si-Naron New Member

    Hey, everybody.

    As in tittle, how to pronounce them?

    When I hear "kemur" I hear something more like "kémur". What is a correct form of that word's pronounciation?

    And I'm confused about "allt". Is it pronounce "alt" or "ahlt" or "atlt"?

  2. Kemur should be pronounced the same as you would pronounce kémur (i.e. kjemur).
    This is because historical front vowels such as e, i, y, and æ, as well as the semivowel j, make g and k be pronounced as the palatal stop [c]. That is the sound you hear as gj or kj.
    Since j is only used front of historical back vowels to show this pronunciation (e.g. gjá vs gá) and é is basically je, there is no ké or gé in Icelandic, just like there are no gji/kji, gjy/kjy or gjæ/kjæ.

    So kemur would be pronounced as [cʰɛmʏr].

    Allt is pronounced like alt, i.e. not with a dl sound. However, because of the normal devoicing by k, t and p, the l sound would be voiceless (that is [l̥]). Unless when speaking with the Akureyri accent, which doesn't habe this devoicing.

    So it would be pronounced as [al̥t], [al̥tʰ] or [altʰ], depending on dialect.

    Hope this helps. I'm not really the best at explaining. Wish you a good day. =D
  3. Segorian Senior Member

    Icelandic & Swedish
    Yes, this is the usual transcription. However, students of Icelandic may find it useful to know that when long, the Icelandic /e/ is actually a diphthongal [eɛ] (in most cases, at least). Because of the relatively small difference between [e] and [ɛ], native speakers usually do not perceive the sound as a diphthong (and some might claim that the sound is simply [e]), but for those trying to learn Icelandic pronunciation, it makes sense to make the IPA transcription more complete and write [cʰeɛ:mʏr].

    So far as I can tell, Akureyri does not have a homogeneous accent anymore because of the large influx of people from other regions over many decades. But even in other places in the North of Iceland the /lt/ combination is an exception from the rule that /l,m,n/ are voiced before /p,t,k/ in that type of accent. One of my teachers, who had a distinctive northern accent and who therefore always pronounced words like fólk, menntun or hampur with a voiced /l,m,n/, nevertheless pronounced bolti and allt with an unvoiced /l/. He told me that this was typical for people with his pronunciation and that since at least the 19th century the pronunciation of /lt/ as [ltʰ] had been restricted to isolated groups in central Northern Iceland (specifically the inhabitants of Svarfaðardalur).
  4. Si-Naron New Member

    Thank you all a lot. Really.

    But now I'm suprised there are dialects in Icelandic. Well, I assumed there were some very little little little little wee teensy-weensy (I don't know anymore synonyms for "little" xD) diffrences between speakers from north and south or west and east of Iceland.

    Anyway, Thank y'all one more time.
  5. Yeah, I just kinda messed up there. Was gonna write [ɛ:] but with all the copy pasting I had to do it just slipped my mind :p. I don't know how well one can see it from the spelling, but I kinda wrote all of that on my phone while lying in my bed, and didn't really read over it afterwards.
    And yeah, it is technically a diphthong sound when the normal Icelander speaks, but when learning to speak it is more important to get the [ɛ] part then the [e] sound before it, as it is generally the [ɛ] at the end of the diphthong that makes us recognise it as an /e/ (i.e. when I hear [ɛ:] I feel like I'm hearing a long /e/, but when I hear [e:] I feel like I'm hearing something between an /e/ and an /i/). Thanks for correcting it though.

    Yeah, that is kinda true. But the voiced pronunciation is still called after Akureyri in everyday speech. The more accurate name would be the Eyjafjarðar accent, being more broad with its area.
    And of course the accents aren't completely different, with a lot of bleedthrough and middle grounds here and there. An example being the Vestfirski accent of pronouncing /a/, /ö/ and /e/ as themselves before ng/nk (rather than as /á/, /au/ and /ei/) being in fact mainly identified amongst today with it not changing the /ö/, the /a/ becoming /á/ being more common amongst speakers now then it used to, and /e/ becoming /ei/ having already spread almost everywhere (the /e/ not becoming /ei/ when describing the accent is basically just a leftover of an older stereotype of the accent when that was still common)

    Also, if anybody is curious about Icelandic accents (the very few Icelandic has that is, which are all just certain small pronunciation differences) and can read Icelandic decently, then I would recommend checking this site out Mállý I don't think it has really been updated though, so the statistics on percentage of speakers are probably a bit out of date.
  6. Segorian Senior Member

    Icelandic & Swedish
    Depending on the definition of the term “dialect” chosen, it is possible to claim either that Icelandic has no dialects, or that minor dialectal variation exists. Using a ‘hard’ definition, requiring perhaps a certain degree of unintelligibility between dialects, we would have to say that Icelandic is dialect-free. Using a ‘soft’ definition, requiring only that there exists a way to distinguish objectively between different varieties of a language, we would have a reasonable basis for delineating a handful of dialects—or “accents”. People from certain regions in the North and East have a distinctive way of speaking the language, characterized by the pronunciation of certain sounds, intonation, and minor differences of vocabulary. Similarly, tiny differences of pronunciation make it possible—sometimes—to pick someone out as coming from the West Fjords, or the South East, but those differences are really slight.
  7. Segorian Senior Member

    Icelandic & Swedish
    Not really my impression, but I guess you're right. It's very misleading I feel, since Akureyri could very well be, nowadays, the place in North East Iceland that has the lowest percentage of speakers with this particular pronunciation.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2018
  8. Si-Naron New Member


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