Swedish: dictionary with IPA transcriptions

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qiaozhehui

Member
English - American
After learning Swedish for a year now I've noticed that I'm still pronouncing many of the vowel sounds inaccurately (well, actually, it's my Swedish wife who points out my mistakes... I actually think I'm pronouncing a word pretty well until she goes and points out that I'm pronouncing some vowel sound completely inaccurately).

I think that part of the problem is that I've learned Swedish pretty much on my own and have learned the pronunciation mostly by listening and using the transcriptions given in Swedish dictionaries. The problem is that all the dictionaries I have found so far use broad phonemic transcriptions instead of narrow phonetic transcriptions, the latter being much more useful for non-native speakers like myself (or at least for me since I've learned other languages and am familiar with IPA).

For example, Lexin transcribes the words 'gång' and 'åt' as /gång/ and /å:t/, respectively, which is great for native Swedish speakers who already have internally correct pronunciations of 'short' and 'long' å, but pretty much useless for me because I'm not sure if I'm even pronouncing 'å' correctly in the first place.

So basically I'm now wondering if there is any Swedish dictionary, word list or even computer program that shows the pronunciations of Swedish words in IPA transcription? I know that there are IPA charts of the Swedish phonemes on Wikipedia, but I don't really have time to go through and transcribe every Swedish word into IPA phoneme for phoneme (not to mention irregular pronunciations and pronunciation changes in compound words).

Any help would be appreciated... in the worst case a chart for converting between IPA and the phonemic system used in Lexin would be great, too. I've tried to work out such a chart myself based on the Wikipedia article, but I'm not really sure if I've got it right or if it really accurately portrays the way the phonemes are realized in everyday speech (i.e. are the phonemes short 'ä' and short 'e' actually realized as the exact same sound in central Swedish dialects?).
 
  • Tjahzi

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Göteborg)
    Hm, that's an interesting problem you got there, I fully understand you. I don't know about Swedish only dictionary, but my Swedish-Russian/Russian-Swedish dictionary got all Swedish words with (fairly) narrow IPA transcriptions.
     

    sweetlovechild

    New Member
    Spanish (Spain)
    I'm a newcomer so I can't post links yet :-(

    Qiaozhehui, I've sent you a PM with some useful links (at least for me!)

    Hope the info helps!
     

    Dan2

    Senior Member
    US
    English (US)
    The problem is that all the dictionaries I have found so far use broad phonemic transcriptions instead of narrow phonetic transcriptions, the latter being much more useful for non-native speakers like myself
    I don't think you should expect dictionaries to give narrow phonetic transcriptions for every word. Taking an example from English, a narrow transcription for the vowel of "say" (as pronounced by many Americans and Brits) would indicate that the vowel starts in a position lower (more open) than cardinal [e] and glides to [j]. (To avoid problems with special characters I'll use "_" to indicate a lowered variant of a vowel.) So "say" would be [se_j]. And yes, if you want to sound like a native, you must learn how to produce [se_j]. BUT... every word with this vowel phoneme has this same narrow transcription. Why repeat this complex formulation for bay, day, gay, hay, jay, may, pay, ray, way, ... melee ..., radiological, ...? A dictionary should state once how the phoneme /e/ is pronounced and then simply transcribe, for ex., "melee" as [mele], not as [me_j le_j]. And if the dictionary doesn't explain the phonetics of each phoneme, well, as you yourself point out, there are Wiki and other articles on this sort of thing.

    Now it occurs to me that what you really want is not, as you say, "narrow phonetic transcriptions", but just typical not-too-narrow, not-too-wide IPA transcriptions. So instead of transcribing "åt" as [å:t], you'd prefer perhaps [ɔ:t] (assuming ɔ is the best IPA symbol for å). But all the dictionary need do is state once, "we use å for IPA ɔ"; and if they don't, well again, there are charts.

    Said another way, if your wife says that you're not pronouncing "åt" quite right, you don't need a dictionary that gives IPA for each of the thousands of words with "å" - you just need to learn how to pronounce the phoneme /å:/ correctly. The correct pronunciation of other å-words will follow from that.
    Isn't Swedish phonetics fairly predictable if you know how a given word is spelled?
    I'd break this into two parts:
    1. If you know the spelling, isn't the sequence of phonemes predictable? Most of the time yes, so knowing the basic rules goes a long way. But I don't think that's the main issue for the OP (see below). (And Swedish does have a lot of exceptions. For ex., "hem" has a short vowel and so "should" be spelled "hemm"; it's often not clear whether spelled "o" is /o/ or /å/.) (Tjahzi has given a lot of thought to spelling reform for Swedish, justified by all the exceptions.)
    2. If you know the sequence of phonemes, do you know the exact native-like pronunciation? That's a definite no, and I think that's the issue the OP is getting at. His example with "gång" and "åt" suggests that he knows the basic rules, and he's probably aware of the common exceptions - what he really wants to know is, "How exactly is the long å of "åt" pronounced?" Or, "Yes the dictionary tells me that "hem" has a short e and "sten" a long e... but how exactly are those vowels pronounced?"
     
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    myšlenka

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    I'd break this into two parts:
    1. If you know the spelling, isn't the sequence of phonemes predictable? Most of the time yes, so knowing the basic rules goes a long way. But I don't think that's the main issue for the OP (see below). (And Swedish does have a lot of exceptions. For ex., "hem" has a short vowel and so "should" be spelled "hemm"; it's often not clear whether spelled "o" is /o/ or /å/.) (Tjahzi has given a lot of thought to spelling reform for Swedish, justified by all the exceptions.)
    2. If you know the sequence of phonemes, do you know the exact native-like pronunciation? That's a definite no, and I think that's the issue the OP is getting at. His example with "gång" and "åt" suggests that he knows the basic rules, and he's probably aware of the common exceptions - what he really wants to know is, "How exactly is the long å of "åt" pronounced?" Or, "Yes the dictionary tells me that "hem" has a short e and "sten" a long e... but how exactly are those vowels pronounced?"
    Mapping from spelling to phonemes and from phonemes to phonetics are both governed by rules. Thus, the answer to your point 2) could be the same as for your point 1): knowing the basic rules goes a long way. I don't see why the answer should be a definite no by default. However, that's not the issue here.

    I was merely hinting at what you say here:
    you don't need a dictionary that gives IPA for each of the thousands of words with "å" - you just need to learn how to pronounce the phoneme /å:/ correctly. The correct pronunciation of other å-words will follow from that.
    short /å/ = [ɔ]
    long /å:/ = [o:]

    If you know this rule, there is generally no need for narrow IPA transcriptions. I applies across the board.
     

    Dan2

    Senior Member
    US
    English (US)
    Mapping from spelling to phonemes and from phonemes to phonetics are both governed by rules.
    Right. But the types of rules are very different, in a way that's important for the learner.
    long /å:/ = [o:]

    If you know this rule, there is generally no need for narrow IPA transcriptions. It applies across the board.
    But Swedish "long å" sounds very different from the "long o" of German "wo" or Scottish-English "go", which are ALSO transcribed as [o:]. If the OP uses the [o:] that he learned in German, his wife will complain that he's not pronouncing /å:/ correctly.

    I think we are in agreement that whatever it is that distinguishes that Swedish /å:/ from the German /o:/ doesn't need to be shown explicitly in every entry in Swedish and German dictionaries. But for people interested in phonetic accuracy, the exact phonetic character of these vowels needs to be specified somewhere once for each language. It does NOT suffice to say, "If you know IPA, all you need to know about Swedish /å:/ is that it's [o:]."
     

    merryweather

    Member
    English - England
    After learning Swedish for a year now I've noticed that I'm still pronouncing many of the vowel sounds inaccurately (well, actually, it's my Swedish wife who points out my mistakes... I actually think I'm pronouncing a word pretty well until she goes and points out that I'm pronouncing some vowel sound completely inaccurately).
    Hi there,

    This is just a suggestion based on what I know about teaching the pronunciation of English:

    Why don't you get your wife to say certain sounds and then do the following?

    1) take a photo of how she holds her mouth when she makes the sound
    2) get a mirror and try to make your own face and mouth look the same
    3) ask her to describe where and exactly she is holding the various parts of her speech apparatus (lips, tongue etc)
    4) get you to mimic that sound and get her to tell you when you get it right
    5) use your smartphones to record the two of you making the sounds, so you can compare the "his" and "her" versions?

    At the point where you get it right - or at least pretty close, or closer than you have been before - you should "hold that sound" and try to remember the "feel" of the sound in your mouth, how tense - or relaxed - the lips are and so on. And maybe record and/or film it on your phone?

    I mention the lips in particular because - when teaching English - I often tell my German students that we hold our lips in a pretty relaxed, "wobbly" way when we produce our sounds, whereas to produce sounds in, say, German, French, Spanish (some languages I pronounce fairly well), you tend to need to tense up your lip muscles a lot more than we are used to doing when we native speakers of English speak our native tongue (I am British, not American, but I would say that the "floppy lips" thing is common to both varieties of English.

    The ideas here are stolen from a guy called Adrian Underhill who has a really good video on YouTube (Macmillan publishers) where he goes through all the sounds in English. Even though you are dealing with Swedish, you might find it interesting to see how he goes about helping his students master the sounds of English. I have started using some of the tips he gives in my private lessons with great success, if I may be so bold as to say that! I teach secondary schoolkids English one-to-one, quite a few who are aged from 10-13 and just getting to grips with English. I have found that it has really paid off to get them to work on individual sounds as early as possible. I insist that they watch how I produce a sound and that they imitate me. I look at their mouth position etc as exactly as possible and try to get them to get as close as possible to the sound I want them to learn.

    If your wife finds your vowel sounds are inaccurate, maybe she would be willing to experiment with you?

    The Swedes do tend to pronounce English pretty well, I find, but the one sound they uniformly don't seem to get is the "voiced s" at the end of words. I was so happy when I discovered that there is one thing they DON'T get right!!! Can your wife do a "Z" sound at the end of English words, or does she hiss? Just curious.

    Anyway, I hope I haven't been patronizing and that my ideas might give you some food for thought.

    I have been learning Swedish for a year, too, by the way! Do you use memrise at all?
     

    mexerica feliz

    Senior Member
    português nordestino
    You cannot expect that any dictionary will list exact phonetic values [''narrow transcription'']
    most dictionaries show phonologic-IPA [''broad transcription''] at best (for example, these two, if we speak of English:
    http://www.learnersdictionary.com/
    http://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com )


    Skåne
    will be /sko:ne/ phonologically (at least according to Tomas Riad)
    and the exact phonetic values will depend on regional and individual factors,
    it is [skeʊ̯nə] in Scania, and [sku̯one̞ ] in Stockholm. (In Riad's analysis, standard East Central Swedish has no phoneme schwa).
    The exact tonal realization is also different, phonetically, although, phonologically it is the same toneme.

    For the exact description of phonetic realizations of Swedish phonemes, one will have to take a look at specialized guides, like ''Phonology of Swedish'' written by Tomas Riad and published by Oxford University Press.

    This dictionary has IPA symbols (and it indicates tonemes as well):
    http://de.pons.com/übersetzung/schwedisch-deutsch

     
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    Brannoc

    Member
    British English
    I don't know if this helps at all but I guess as we're all different there's another viewpoint.

    I think there must be a lot of people who rightly or wrongly like myself simply have never had sufficient patience or interest to learn grammar often going back to schooldays, though whether that was the fault of the teacher I don't know. In my case much preferring to learn all my Swedish not only from living there, but watching endless interesting Swedish films for years with and without sub titles, reading whatever looks interesting, picking up intonations and expressions etc. and so on. On the basic principle I think that because everyone automatically and instinctively learns their mother tongue from birth anyway, the same should equally apply to anyone wanting to learn a new language as well.

    One thing's for sure though I'm still just as hopeless at grammar as ever ! :)
     

    Nagilod

    New Member
    Spanish
    Hey there! I'm a singer, and lately, I've been interested in Scandinavian ArtSong, and, as a singer, diction is very important, so, I can recommend you a book

    Scandinavian Song, A guide to Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish Repertoire and Diction by Anna Hersey

    I know its specially for singers but I think it could be really useful to you, it has an explanation of every sound of these languages (one by one) and at the end, it has some poems translated to English and their transcription to IPA.

    Hope this helps you!
     
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