Norwegian/Swedish/Lithuanian/Latvian/Slovene/Serbo-Croatian: tonal mispronunciation

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2wrbk

Member
Polski
Hello. This is a question regarding all pseudo-tonal languages (i.e., those that feature phonemic pitch accent) of Europe (e.g. Norwegian, Swedish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Slovene and Serbo-Croatian). How often is it the case that you mispronounce a word using an incorrect toneme (or that you witness another native do that)? I'm talking about, for example, names of places that you've never heard of or a loanword that's not used very often but nevertheless has an established pronunciation in the standard variety of your language. I know that what I'm describing is just a specific instance of mispronunciation, but I'd still like to hear about your experiences.

I'm also fully aware about dialectal variation in all of these languages so let's just assume that we're talking about two or more speakers of the same dialect of any given language, not necessarily all of them.
 
  • Kurmis

    New Member
    Latvian
    I don't know for what it's still worth, but here's my experience as a native Latvian speaker.
    I don't have any recollection of someone or myself mispronouncing the pitch accent. Not to say that it doesn't happen. The vast majority of native speakers are not aware that this is a thing, this isn't discussed in school (at least not in my experience), so most speakers don't pay attention to it, they just know/feel what sounds right.

    Furthermore, it's not such a prevalent feature in Latvian as we don't have that many homonyms that we actually need this feature to distinguish meaning, and this applies only to long vowels. If you would completely eliminate this feature of our language, I have a hard time coming up with an example where it would be an actual problem in communication.

    I do remember wondering in primary school how was I able to the difference between zāle [zāːle] (hall) and zāle [zâːle] (grass) - level pitch and broken pitch, even when these words were isolated and out of context, but at that time I found no answer and deemed it was just magic. I'm not even sure that in fast regular speech I would actually notice if someone made a mistake as context would be enough to understand the meaning and my brain would probably faze out everything else.

    As for words never heard before, I would probably just naturally use the first (level pitch) accent. Nowadays, even though there's technically three pitch-accents, practically speaking you just distinguish between level pitch or not level pitch, as there are regional variations.
     

    AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Nowadays, even though there's technically three pitch-accents, practically speaking you just distinguish between level pitch or not level pitch, as there are regional variations.
    Does that mean that the falling tone and broken tone have now merged in standard Latvian?
    In your pronunciation, does the -ir- part sound the same in "pirksts" and "zirgs"?
     

    Kurmis

    New Member
    Latvian
    Does that mean that the falling tone and broken tone have now merged in standard Latvian?
    In your pronunciation, does the -ir- part sound the same in "pirksts" and "zirgs"?
    Yes, again there might be some regions where there is a clear difference (and some where there's no pitch accent at all too), but I say both of these the same, with the falling pitch. I'm from the capital Riga. To be honest without looking it up, I'm not even that sure, which one is supposed to be the broken one (most probably "zirgs" as "pirkst" sounds just a bit too weird with the broken one).

    Nowadays in standard spoken Latvian the falling and the broken tone have indeed merged for the most part. In literary language this distinction is still retained.

    Here's a list of word pairs, which are to be distinguished by tones. [Latviešu valodas minimālie pāri pēc intonācijas — Vikipēdija There's] some audio examples too, there may be some mistakes though as the one for "dzīt" seems to have the same audio associated with it.
    It is non-exhaustive as there are some verbs, which in certain conjugations need a tone to distinguish them from other words too. E.g. "māja" a house with level pitch, "māja" 3rd person past of "māt" to wave with falling pitch. (which itself is to be distinguished from "māt" level pitch, vocative of "māte" mother.)

    In regards to this list I do tend to make "proper" distinction between the falling and the broken pitch (but also not always); however, when it comes to words where pitch doesn't distinguish meaning between homonyms, it really is just level vs falling(ish) to me.

    EDIT I removed the link, but if you google what's between the brackets you should find what I'm referring to.
     
    Last edited:

    Kurmis

    New Member
    Latvian
    Furthermore, I just realised that regarding verbs there are cases where the present and the past forms are the same e.g. "runāju" I talk or I was talking/I talked, and I do make pitch distinction between the present and the past to indicate the difference. Present getting the level pitch. However, I don't find any information on this online, so perhaps it's just me. XD

    I don't know if this is still relevant to you, but I thought I'd mention it as you had gotten me down this train of thought. :)

    EDIT: I had posted an answer to your previous question, but I had put a link in it, so it's not showing and it's marked for moderator approval. This unfortunately doesn't go away when I remove the link it seems ;(
     

    AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Thank you for your detailed and insightful reply.

    I'm not even that sure, which one is supposed to be the broken one (most probably "zirgs" as "pirkst" sounds just a bit too weird with the broken one).
    Yes, that's right. :) (According to "A Book about the Latvian Language" by Daina Nītiņa, published in Hungary.)

    Latviešu valodas minimālie pāri pēc intonācijas — Vikipēdija
    Thanks, I've listened to the sound files as well. I think I'd be able to tell the difference between the intonations after some practice, even though there's no such thing in Hungarian. We do have long vowels, though.
     

    Zec

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    This is a common problem for words learned through reading and not through listening them. As both pitch accent and vowel length are unpredictable and neither of them are represented in writing, there is simply no way to figure out which accent a word has when you first encounter it in a text. I usually just copy the accent of a similar word.

    For example, there is an island called Susak. There is also a town called Sisak. The town is often heard spoken about so I learned that it's Sísak. However, I've only learned about the island by reading about it and just assumed it would be Súsak because of the similarity with Sisak. However, it turns out it's Sȕsak...

    Other than this special case of guessing which accent a word you've never heard before would have, there is no confusion: you learn a word's accent just as you learn its vowels and consonants. However, unlike vowels and consonants, accent is quite susceptible to being altered by sentence intonation, which is also something you quickly get used to.
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    From the first post, I assume it is also okay to talk about the Limburgish pitch accent.
    I don't know for what it's still worth, but here's my experience as a native Latvian speaker.
    I don't have any recollection of someone or myself mispronouncing the pitch accent. Not to say that it doesn't happen. The vast majority of native speakers are not aware that this is a thing, this isn't discussed in school (at least not in my experience), so most speakers don't pay attention to it, they just know/feel what sounds right.
    The same is true in Limburgish: when you say a new word, you just say what feels right. The Limburgish pitch accent isn't taught in schools, so most people don't think about it.

    Limburgish has a lot of homophones distinguished by accent, like schoen (singular shoe) and schoen (plural shoe). In Standard Dutch, it would be schoen and schoenen, respectively. Younger generations tend to speak Standard(-ish) Dutch, which means the list of minimal pairs is shrinking...
     

    winenous

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Strictly speaking, this is for languages that do not have more specific places. You might get a better response for the Nordic and Slavic languages if you ask in their respective forums. Just a suggestion.
     

    Olaszinhok

    Senior Member
    Standard Italian
    In my humble opinion, as it is a general question regarding different languages, also the Etymology and linguistics forum could be suitable. Some languages of the question in OP don't even belong to the language forums mentioned in the previous post. Just a suggestion. :)
     
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