phonology: · pronounciation · Werner · umlaut and breaking ·
OLD NORSE PRONOUNCIATION
The old norse pronounciation of the different phonemes/letters differs quite a lot from the english pronounciation, but it is more regular. The set of phonemes is also quite different, the main difference being the pronounciation of the vowels, especially y and ø.
This is the pronounciation of the letters in normalized texts. In the manuscripts the spelling sometimes differ greatly from the normalized one: the distinction between long and short vowels is not made, the letters d and ð can be confused, and so can u and v, etc.
- a is pronounced like an a in german, french, spanish etc., not like an english a! The long á is probably a little "darker" like in the english word car, and within the old norse period it was rounded and coalesced with the open /i/ written with a "hooked o" (see below) [long a] [later long a] [bátr 'boat' (early)] [bátr 'boat' (later)]
- e - a short e as in engl. bed. The long é is pronounced almost like the ee in engl. beer. [long e] [tré 'tree']
- i and í - like the i in engl. hit and ea in engl. beat, respectively. The letter i can also be used in stead of j, like in the manuscripts. [long i] [knífr 'knife']
- o - almost like o in engl. lock - ó - like in engl. for. Not like in engl. poke! [long o] [spjót 'spear']
- u - like the oo in engl. look - ú - like the o in engl. who. [long u] [úlfr 'wolf']
- y and ý - a short and a long version of a german ü like in führer (or a scandinavian y). [long y] [dýr 'animal']
- æ - like ea in engl. bear. It's always long, since the short counterpart is pronounced like e and also written so. [long æ] [mær 'maiden']
- ø and oe - like a short and long german/scandinavian ö. [long œ/ø] [sœkja 'seek']
- "hooked o" - an open o, i.e. somewhere between an a and an o. It's spelled with an o with a little hook attached below, but here (and elsewhere) it's spelled with the letter ö (the letter ö in old norse texts is not to be pronounced like in modern scandinavian languages and german!). The long vowel is written with either an accent on top or with the letter á, since á was pronounced the same way. [long open o] [dáð 'deed']
All vowels once had a nasal counterpart, that had evolved from ordinary oral ones next to a nasal consonant, and was kept nasal even if that consonant disappeared. Eventually the nasal vowels lost their nasality, and they are usually not reckoned with.
- b - an ordinary b
- d - an ordinary d
- ð pronounced like th in engl. there.
- f - is pronounced f when word initial, and in front of an s, k and t; elsewhere v.
- g - like an ordinary g initially and after an n; fricative in most other positions. ng is pronounced with the g heard.
- h - an ordinary h, except before v, where it's pronounced like the ch in german Bach, the ch in scottish loch 'lake' or the j in spanish Juan. [herja 'ravage'] [hvass 'sharp']
- j - like an english y. Not like an english j! [björn 'bear']
- k - an ordinary k
- l - an ordinary l
- m - an ordinary m
- n - an ordinary n
- p - an ordinary p
- r - a rolling r like in swedish and spanish. Not like in english or in french or german. The r is never syllabic, no matter how many consonants that preceed it! [rauðr 'red'] [Þórr 'Thor'] [baztr 'best']
- s - a voiceless s. Never voiced!
- t - an ordinary t
- þ - like the th in thing. Sometimes this letter is used in stead of ð (see above). [Þórr 'Thor']
- v - either like a w or like a v. [víkingr 'viking' alt. 1] [víkingr 'viking' alt. 2]
- x = ks.
- z = ts. [baztr 'best']
© Peter Pettersson