Pronunciation of Copenhagen

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by Tabac, Nov 5, 2007.

  1. Tabac Senior Member

    Pacific Northwest (USA)
    U. S. - English
    A group I lead is learning "Wonderful Copenhagen", and we have questions about pronunciation. I know we won't get it to sound exactly as the Danish, but could we have these two points addressed, please.

    Copenhagen: is it as in English day or as in English boss?
    Copenhagen: is it as in English go or as in English yes?

    Approximations are enough.

    Many thanks!
  2. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    In Danish it's "København"... :)
  3. Grefsen

    Grefsen Senior Member

    Southern California
    English - United States
    Great question Tabac. :) The correct pronunciation of Copenhagen is something I have wondered about myself.

    I'm sorry to admit that it has now been over 11 years since my last trip to "Wonderful Copenhagen," but I seem to recall most of my Danish friends pronouncing the "a" more like the "o" in boss as opposed to the "a" in day. However, I think it is more common for North Americans to pronounce the "a" more like the "a" in
    day. :confused:

    I believe that the Danish typically pronounce the "g" like the "g" in go, but I'd be really interested to see what some of our Scandinavian friends who post here have to say about this. :)
  4. Grefsen

    Grefsen Senior Member

    Southern California
    English - United States
    Great point Outsider. :D

    When I met someone from Denmark for the first time I recall asking where in Denmark she lived and she replied København. My reply to her was something like "Is that anywhere near Copenhagen?" :eek:
  5. cirrus

    cirrus Senior Member

    Crug Hywel
    UK English
    This is a bit like asking Poles how they say Lodz or Brazilians how they say Rio de Janeiro. If English speakers said the names as the natives do, they wouldn't be understood by other English speakers.
  6. Myha Member

    Norway and Norwegian
    As for your question.. How to pronounce it in English... I'm not Danish, but I think I can respond to that one... The -a in Copenhagen sounds like in day and the -g like in go.
  7. Tabac Senior Member

    Pacific Northwest (USA)
    U. S. - English
    Finally got the answer I wanted. Thanks.
  8. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    I tend to believe that the name Copenhagen entered English via Low German. That would also explain the possibility of pronouncing "...hagen" with an open "a".

    I don't think Low German was ever the prevailant language there, but they came from everywhere to buy hering.
  9. María Madrid

    María Madrid Banned

    Madrid, Spain
    Spanish Spain
    Why not moving this thread to the English Only forum? After all this is a question on English pronunciation, not about Danish (Copenhaguen is not a Danish word, but the English name for København), so native English speakers are the ones who should answer this, in case one pronounciation is preferred in some places and the other one in others. If someone asks me how Seville is pronounced in Russian I'd just go uuhhhh:confused:
  10. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    I hoped they would start wondering what the name really means. Then we would be back on topic explaining the origin of "Koebenhavn".
  11. Tabac Senior Member

    Pacific Northwest (USA)
    U. S. - English
    O.K. I'm wondering....what does it mean?

    I posted originally because I had heard once that Danes do not like to hear the city's name pronounced in a way similar to the way the Germans pronounced it (makes sense). I was just trying to get the vowel sounds approximate for a bit of verisimilitude.
  12. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    In the song, the "a" is "ah" and the "g" is as in "go". It's from Hans Christian Andersen with Danny Kaye.

    Where I come from, folks usually use "ay" (as in "day") for the "a".

    I have always wanted to hear the Danish pronunciation. I have heard there is something between the "av" (as "ou" in "house") and the "n" that is particularly Danish (called stöd?).
  13. Lingvisten Senior Member

    The first word after the first little pause in this clip is "København". Nevermind the content of the clip. The speaker says: "kampen er igang. Københavns kommune..."
    hope this help you with the prenounciation.

  14. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish

    OK, here it is.

    The place was originally not a township, not even a real port, just a haven and a beach that turned into a marketplace for hering, where suppliers and buyers showed up from various places in the Baltic.

    That is how it became the „merchants haven“, in DK „koebmandshavn“. Through the sloppy Danish pronounciation - regularly commented on by the Swedes in this forum - it is said that „„koebmandshavn“ gradually mutated to „Koebenhavn“. True or not, the first syllable has to do with „buy“ just like the syllable „kopen“ means "to buy" in several other Germanic languages.


    But to ask in a DK forum if Copenhagen should be pronounced with an open or a closed a is nonsense - that is a BE/AE dispute.
  15. Tabac Senior Member

    Pacific Northwest (USA)
    U. S. - English
    I certainly don't like to be nonsensical. I was just wondering which way the last vowel sounded when Danes are pronouncing the name of the city.
  16. Tabac Senior Member

    Pacific Northwest (USA)
    U. S. - English
    I'm sorry to have bothered people with nonsense. I was simply wondering about the pronunciation of the last vowel in the name of the city, when spoken in Danish.
  17. María Madrid

    María Madrid Banned

    Madrid, Spain
    Spanish Spain
    Nothing to apologise for, it's only that we thought you asked how to pronounce Copenhaguen and that's English, not Danish. When you speak in Danish you say København, as it has been explained. :)
  18. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    Yeah, I see that - but I mean "Copenhagen" is not Danish - somethint that has already been mentioned a couple of times by others in this thread. You would not find it relevant if I asked you how you pronounce De Forenede Stater af Amerika or Det Forenede Kongerige in English, would you? You'd say: "I don't. I say USA and UK."
  19. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Try as I might, I don't here the word "er" or the "n" in Københavns, much less anything between the "av" and the "n". :(

    Is there a stød (is that a valid term) in København?
  20. Lingvisten Senior Member

    there is stød/glottal stop (a perfectly valid term) in København.
    a little help with prenounciation:
    the "ø" is pronounced almost like "ea" in eng: earth, but with a more round mouth.
    the "ben" is pronounced like eng. name: "Ben"
    the "hav" is pronounced like "hou" in eng: "house"
    and the "n" and "k" is like in english.

    there you go: Kø-ben-havn

    hope this helps a little :).
  21. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Is there, by any chance, a song like "Vidonerlig København" (Danish version of "Wonderful Copenhagen") honoring the City (as it was in shoemaker/story teller Andersen's time)? I imagine lots of Americans ask this question when visiting København. ;) (I have heard that the Netherlands eventually erected a statue to "Pieter", a fictional character in an English-language story. In the story, "Pieter" saved the town by holding his finger in a hole in the dike all through the night to assure the trickle of water would not enlarge the hole.)
  22. Tabac Senior Member

    Pacific Northwest (USA)
    U. S. - English
    It helps a great deal. Thanks!
  23. Lingvisten Senior Member

  24. pcongre

    pcongre Senior Member

    European Spanish, Catalan

    English IPA: /ˌkəʊpənˈheɪgən, ˌkəʊpənˈhɑːgən/
    Danish IPA: [kʰøb̥m̩ˈhɑʊ̯ˀn, kʰømːˈhɑʊ̯ˀn]

    My guess is that you're more or less as likely to hear the US English or the British English pronunciation when talking in English with someone from Copenhagen.
    But IRL, since I believe you are from America the odds for them to mimic your accent and use the US variant slightly increase I guess.
  25. Andreas_Jensen Senior Member

    Okay, I'm gonna chime in... First of all, Americans (or anyone else for that matter) thinking that Copenhagen is also Copenhagen in Danish, would slightly annoy any Dane ;-) But we've had the Danish word sorted out, so I wont get into that...

    Second of all... Here in København we tend to speak a lot of English and when Danish people speak English we ALWAYS say Copenh(AY)gen, with the "a" as in day. So that is the answer to how Copenhagen is pronounced in Danish ;-) From what I know the two different pronounciations of the "a" is not an AE/BE dispute since the vast majority of anglophones I know and have met (americans/brits/australians etc) say the "a" as in day. I could be wrong though. In my opinion, people that say Copenhagen with an open "a" do it to sound more "authentic" and I guess, slightly more intellectual... But IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH DANISH!!!... If it is anything, it's a German pronounciation, and we are not Germans ;-)

    But as a matter of fact, I know the song in question, and the recording I've heard is with the open a... But it makes my toes curl up when I hear it!

    A completely different issue is where to put the pressure, since I've heard Englishspeakers put it on both the first and the third syllable. When we speak English we put it on the third, and in København it's also on the third syllable (havn). So that's definitely the most authentic...
  26. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish

    Xactli. I don't know either, what this question is doing in the Danish forum.

    Maybe I should be more explicit with my question and urge the native Anglophones here, to tell us how they pronounce

    Amerikas Forenede Stater


    Det Forenede Kongerige.

    I mean, the should know; most of them come from one of these countries.
  27. Tabac Senior Member

    Pacific Northwest (USA)
    U. S. - English
    Thanks to you all for your patience, especially to Andreas, Lingvisten and Myha.

    I realize now that I should have asked my original question in a different way in order to get the information the three people above gave me.
  28. Andreas_Jensen Senior Member

    No probs!

    It has been a real pleasure to clear this one out since (as you might derive from my post) I really despise when people say CopenhAAAAAgen ;)
  29. BoTrojan Senior Member

    New Wilmington, PA
    USA, English
    Andreas Jensen has it 100% correct, as always. I'm actually surprised at the flurry of responses to this question. Normally that only occurs when the subject is at least mildly controversial. This one isn't. By the way, the ONLY English speakers I've ever heard say "Copehhaaagen," are very misguidedly and mistakenly attempting to sound authentic. Authentic what? German? Obviously, they have failed miserably.
  30. eujin New Member

    Korea, English
    Take it from me, as a Dane who is a native speaker of English, it should be pronounced in English as Andreas says in post #25, with an `ay' sound.

    And don't worry about asking this question on this forum. If you ask on the AE/BE forum you're just as likely to get people telling you to pronounce it Co-pen-hah-gen as Co-pen-hay-gen.
  31. eujin New Member

    Korea, English
    As a side remark to this topic, there are English names for all sorts of odd things that English speakers have never heard of. For example, in Denmark there is a place called "The Skaw" in English. I've never met an English speaker who knew what or where "The Skaw" was. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find a Dane who knew where "The Skaw" was.
  32. Mumintroll New Member

    Yes, I agree. Sometimes overtranslation is actually misleading and can lead to confusion. For instance, I notice in the recorded information annoucements on the Öresundståg, Helsingör is announced as "Elisnore" in English. That would all be very well if we were living in Shakespearean times!
  33. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    Not minding repeating myself - the pronounciation with the open "a" like in lager beer is close to the pronounciation of lots and lots of other geographical names with "hagen" in them. They are not pronounced this way to sound German. They are pronounced this way because they are "Plattdütsch" - Low German - probably one of the most important international languages in this area at the time when Copenhagen/Kopenhagen/Koebenhavn got its name. So I don't see what is misguided about that.
  34. Andreas_Jensen Senior Member

    Probably correct, but the main point of the whole argument was that although the English most likely got the name Copenhagen from German, neither we (the Danes) nor them ARE Germans so there is no point in pronouncing the name in a German way.

    And personally, I'm completely convinced that people that say Copenhaaaagen are only doing it in a misguided attempt to sound more authentic, not because they are paying their respect to the original Low German origin of the word that the English language adopted for a Danish city ;-)

Share This Page