Swedish: pronounciation: "jag" with French "j" sound

enion

New Member
Polish - Warsaw
Hi guys,

I need your help! I searched this forum and the web in general but can't find anything useful.

I am somewhat puzzled by an "alternative" pronunciation of "jag" in Swedish I encountered. I only ever heard it in songs by the Swedish band Kent (I'm only starting to learn Swedish) so it might be Jocke Berg-specific or maybe specific just to singing in Swedish... (Kent are from Eskilstuna so I imagine an accent similar to/the same as the Stockholm one?)

What he (Jocke) does is sing the "jag" in such a way that the "j" sounds to me like the French "j" in "je"!!! (you know, the IPA "tailed z" or "ezh" character, unicode character 0292 - aargh, I'm struggling here! :)) He does that in the word "objecten" too (I thought it was supposed to be pronounced with the "y" sound, like in the English "yes"?!?) What's going on here? Is it possible or am I hearing things?

I really hope someone will be able to help me with this - no Swedish language books or online courses mention any of that...

Thanks a lot for your help!

enion
 
  • Tjahzi

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Göteborg)
    Ouch, this sounds really weird.

    Which sounds exactly do are you talking about? The voiced postalveolar fricative, ʒ, or (your Polish) voiced retroflex (postalveolar) fricative, ʐ? As you seem to be aware of, neither of these exist in Swedish and Swedes tend to have troubles with voiced fricatives in general so I must say I find this to be quite dubious.

    Although I did some listening, all I heard was the standard Swedish voiced apical palatal fricative, ʝ, or just a muted /j/. In which songs do you hear ʒ/ʐ?

    I imagine this being an issue with singing so I will try to dig up some interviews with Jocke Berg in order to verify this. :)
     

    hanne

    Senior Member
    Could you give us the title of a specific song where this can be heard? Obviously you can't post a link to it, but if we have a title we can go look for it ourselves (and I'm curious now! ;))

    Another, albeit probably unrelated, interesting Swedish pronunciation of the letter j is of the sound English uses in joker, which often becomes "yoker" (similarly, "yeans", "yeorge", etc.), both when these words are used in Swedish, and quite often in English too. Also "Charles" in the same way becomes "Sharles" (my phonetic skills are lacking here - but in both cases the t/d part of the sound disappears; I don't mean to say anything about voiced/unvoiced or anything else!).
     

    enion

    New Member
    Polish - Warsaw
    Thanks a lot for the answers!

    Definitely the voiced postalveolar fricative, like in the French "jour". Here are some song examples where I hear it:

    album: The Hjärta & Smärta EP
    song: Dom Som Försvann
    what: jag
    where: the first line "Jag har bränt mina skivor" (0:33 into the song)

    album: B-Sidor 95-00
    song: Spökstad
    what: jag
    where: the first line "Jag är född i en spökstad" (0:30 into the song)


    album: Tillbaka Till Samtiden
    song: Vy Från Ett Luftslott
    what: objekten
    where: 3rd line "Objekten under radarn" (0:23 into the song)

    I also hear something similar with the word "ge" here:

    album: Vapen & Ammunition
    song: Pärlor
    what: ge
    where: 3rd line of the 2nd verse (after the first chorus) "Ge oss en chans, vi kan lära av varann" (1:26 into the song)

    It MIGHT be just an aspirated "j", I'm beginning to wonder, but it definitely sounds different from the usual "jag"...

    Thanks again for your help!
     

    Tjahzi

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Göteborg)
    Very interesting. I went through your examples and came to the following conclusions: the first two, in particular the first one, do indeed sounds like a [ʒ]. Also, the third is very voiced, possibly a [ʒ] as well. The fourth (which, on a side note, sounds next to identical to the same "ge" at 1:19 to me) however sounds like a very normal [j] to me (which is what happens to /g/ before front vowels (i,y,e,ä,ö)).

    That said, I have some additional comments.

    Firstly, perhaps more often (than not), /j/ is realized as a palatal approximant rather than a fricative. This could be explained by the disability among Swedes to produce truly voiced fricatives. If we decide to consider /j/ an approximant, the only voiced fricative remaining is /v/, whose point of articulation is not identical to that of /f/ and does not trigger voice assimilation (if progressive). Hence, we can assume that if /j/ is to be considered a fricative, it's very possible that it also has a lot of allophones, among them [ʒ].
    In fact, what has led up to this distinction could be said to be the very fact that /j/ can be realized both as [j], [ʝ] and then why not also [ʒ].

    Additionally, I believe it could be the case that the "extra" voicing that we both (it seems) hear could be the result of the speaker in question singing. I'm under the impression that the singing "adds" extra voicing to, say, the approximantal [j] rendering it a [ʒ]. Sadly, I don't have any speakers so I can't make a recording to verify this.

    I'm definitely sure that those are not aspirated, but rather voiced, or "over voiced", compared to Swedish standards (or the standard approximantal realization).
     

    enion

    New Member
    Polish - Warsaw
    Brilliant, thanks soooo much for having a look (a "hear?") at this for me! Yes, your explanation makes perfect sense.

    It's also nice to know it's not just me "hearing things" ;)

    Tack så mycket!
     

    Tjahzi

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Göteborg)
    In regards to hanne's post: you are very much correct. Those issues (along with diphthongs and dental fricatives) are the biggest phonologic obstacles for Swedes learning English. A simple explanation to this would be that Swedish lacks affricatives, but personally, I believe that the spelling is part of the misunderstanding as well. The letter "J" being, if we assume that my above theory of allophones is correct, if not an allophone, at least very similar to Swedish /j/. (It usually takes quite some time for Swedes to realize that our native /j/ does indeed exist as a separate phoneme, but spelled differently (namely "Y")).

    The same goes for the voiceless examples. Both digraphs "SH" and "CH" are unfamiliar and hence, given the fact that Swedes are also unfamiliar with affricatives, more or less allophones. The very few minimal pairs makes it further difficult (right now I can only think of ship - chip and jew - you for the voiced ones).

    However, considering all of the above goes for Danish as well, I'm curious to hear whether you just hear these errors from Swedes or from Danes as well? :D
     

    Tjahzi

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Göteborg)
    You are most welcome.

    In case it wasn't fully clear, my conclusion was that your observations were indeed more or less correct and that this could partly be due to the phones occurring in singing. Also, I should have been more clear about /j/ being a possible approximant in my first post. The realization of /j/ is an issue that I've been contemplating for a while, I still find it hard to tell the approximant [j] and the fricative [ʝ] apart.
     

    hanne

    Senior Member
    However, considering all of the above goes for Danish as well, I'm curious to hear whether you just hear these errors from Swedes or from Danes as well? :D
    I'd say it's a very distinctly Swedish thing, so you should probably reconsider your theory about the spelling ;).
    Jeans, in Danish, always have the initial d sound (same goes for all of the others), anything else would get you some very confused looks. If you look up the pronunciation in a dictionary, you'll get something like "djiins". Same goes for Charlie.

    Trying to think of examples of where we would "know" these sounds from - can't think of any native "dj" sounds in Danish right now. We do have a few words with "tj" (tjavs, tjære) which is pronounced as a t and a j, and not the Swedish way where there's no trace of the t.
    Which brings me back to the beginning of this post, because considering the usual Swedish pronunciation of tj, that might actually explain why you could get confused by the spelling...
     

    Tjahzi

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Göteborg)
    The spelling reference was part of the explanation to why Swedes have troubles with these sounds. I never indicated that the spelling would cause problems to others. :p

    That said, we essentially agree. Swedes assimilate these foreign sounds to similar native ones when dealing with loan words (and, until realizing the error, when speaking foreign languages such as English), no denying. However, this (the process of assimilating foreign sounds into native ones) is a very common process and hence I found it very surprising that Danes don't even do it with loan words. If you distinguish phonemes that are not native even when it's not necessary, it must be very easy to do the same when it actually does matter. Maybe Danish once came to loan these words with their original pronunciation and then, as these phonemes were "known" among for speakers, it was easy to spot and uphold the distinction when speaking English as well. Just a theory.

    However, finally, if you were to make a survey of speakers of various languages, I'm sure that a majority of the speakers of languages that lack the phoneme [dʒ] will pronounce jeans with their native equivalent, may it be [j], [dʝ], [ʝ], [ʐ] or whatever.

    On a side note, considering the Danish tendency to use foreign phonemes, how do you pronounce other words with foreign sounds (not necessarily loan words) like geographic names such as Zagreb, Washington, Reykjavík and what about Běijīng? Or common immigrant names such as Zlatan, Mehmet and Ghurki? Maybe you just stick with native English pronunciation, or is the ideal upheld even with the above examples?

    Just curious. ;)
     

    Grötsmetvete

    New Member
    Swedish (Sveamål)
    I know this was posted years ago but I couldn't help but reply be cause the Swedish j is not like the English y, ever. in most cases the Swedish J is a voiced palatal fricative sound that buzzes when you pronounce the J. Only in certain words like ja or hej does the J sort of fade away almost like the English Y.

    Here's the Swedish J. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voiced_palatal_fricative

    And here's the English Y. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palatal_approximant

    I just wanted to mention because as a Swedish native, people who pronounce the Swedish J as an English Y sound ridiculous and not at all similar. Words like "Jord" with a yord sounds very off.
     

    DerFrosch

    Senior Member
    I just wanted to mention because as a Swedish native, people who pronounce the Swedish J as an English Y sound ridiculous and not at all similar.
    Ridiculous? Really?
    I know this was posted years ago but I couldn't help but reply be cause the Swedish j is not like the English y, ever.
    Well, according to that Wikipedia link for the palatal approximant, that sound appears in Swedish too (jag is given as an example).

    I must say that for me (who admittedly don't possess much knowledge about phonetics) it's quite difficult to discern any difference at all between jord, jag and "you".
     

    Göte

    Member
    Swedish
    The voiced postalveolar fricative, ʒ, or (your Polish) voiced retroflex (postalveolar) fricative, ʐ? As you seem to be aware of, neither of these exist in Swedish
    The latter [ʐ] exists as a allophone of /r/ which is commonly used in Central Sweden.
     

    DerFrosch

    Senior Member
    Really? To my ears that doesn't sound even remotely close to [ʐ]. I still hear a clear r sound, and there's no r sound in [ʐ]. If someone were to pronounce raggare with [ʐ], I would interpret as a different, non-existent word: sjaggare.
     

    Göte

    Member
    Swedish
    Really? To my ears that doesn't sound even remotely close to [ʐ]. I still hear a clear r sound, and there's no r sound in [ʐ]. If someone were to pronounce raggare with [ʐ], I would interpret as a different, non-existent word: sjaggare.
    But a Swede would probably not interprete a voiced sound as "sj". I use both a back and frontal sj-sound and if I add voicing to them then they sound more like a "r" then "sj". For example "dusch" (frontal sj) becomes "durr" when voiced, and "sjö" (back sj) becomes "rö" (short for röd).

    I'll post a better example of the buzzing /r/ in Stockholmska if I found one.
     

    DerFrosch

    Senior Member
    But a Swede would probably not interprete a voiced sound as "sj".
    Well, I would use either "sj" or the "sch" in schejk to render the [ʐ] sound heard in these sound recordings in Polish and Russian.
    For example "dusch" (frontal sj) becomes "durr" when voiced, and "sjö" (back sj) becomes "rö" (short for röd).
    How you can turn "dusch" into "durr" is a mystery to me. In your other example there is a suggestion of an r sound, but to describe the sound with Swedish ortography I would still rather resort to "sj" than "r".
    I'll post a better example of the buzzing /r/ in Stockholmska if I found one.
    Are you really sure that this buzzing /r/ actually is the same as [ʐ]?
     

    Silverc

    New Member
    Italian - Italy
    In Italian we have ge-, gi-, pronounced as dʒe-, dʒi- ("g" like "gem" in English). To my hear, in these groups, and in others, like the combinations gy-, gö-, gä-, or gj+ anything, the Swedish "g" sounds intermediate between my Italian dʒ and the international phonetic alpabet letter j (like English "yoke"). I have noticed it varies slightly with different speakers. I do not find it a problem.
     
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