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The four troublemakers in Danish Orthography Harvard October 2014 / Henrik Jørgensen, Aarhus Universitet 1.

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Presentation on theme: "The four troublemakers in Danish Orthography Harvard October 2014 / Henrik Jørgensen, Aarhus Universitet 1."— Presentation transcript:

1 The four troublemakers in Danish Orthography Harvard October 2014 / Henrik Jørgensen, Aarhus Universitet 1

2 The four Troublemakers The theme of my lecture is where the main problems are located if you try to use the orthography as a guide to the pronunciation of Danish. The four most important troublemakers are these: 1) The letters ptk – bgd normally associated with the occlusives 2) The vowel letters, esp. those covering short vowels 3) Vowel length 4) The glottal stop 2

3 The four troublemakers The configuration of the interface of sound and writing is utterly misleading to foreigners trying to learn pronunciation. This experience has been made in several contexts. Danish has the reputation of being difficult. Since its grammar in almost any respect works like Swedish and Norwegian, it must have to do with the relation between writing and sound. But compare with English! 3

4 Why does the trouble occur? All applications of the alphabet contain peculiar adaptions and compromises, and some of them may seem odd, like Hungarian ’s’ = [sj] and ’sz’ = [s]. Orthographies with a long tradition accumulate inconsequences and unsystematic correspondences due to sound developments independent of the writing. This phenomenon is sometimes called ”Orthographic depth” 4

5 Brief history of the Danish orthography The Danish orthography is established in the early Middle Age, around 1200 or perhaps even earlier. Earliest manuscripts are from around The orthography was not regulated, but seems to have been relatively stable from the beginning. The reformation and the introduction of printing techniques around brings about a stable but not codified tradition. The emphasis is on the dialects of Sealand in general, Copenhagen in particular

6 Brief history of the Danish orthography The most important regulations are undertaken after The tradition becomes quite stable after ”Danske Lov” (Lawbook of Denmark) introduction of Danish language in High Schools along with Latin and Greek. Spelling is regulated officially, but no dictionary is provided first official dictionary of Danish spelling and 1948: minor reforms

7 Occlusive letters One of the main problems in Danish is the distributional assymetry of many consonant letters. Quite many letters are associated different sounds, according to whether they are placed before or after the vocalic nucleus of the syllable. Part of the reason for this is economy. There is a different set of sound before and after the vocalic nucleus; thus recycling may be neccessary. Another reason: the sounds have developed in the different contexts after the writing tradition was established. My main sources for the following arguments: Basbøll (2004, 2007), Becker-Christensen 1988, Jervelund 2007, and above alls Katlev

8 Occlusives ’p’, ’t’ and ’k’ WritingAbsolute front position C- Front position after another consonant cC- Back position followed by another conconant -Cc Absolute back position -C P[p][b] [p] / [b] (also in non-standard [w]) T[t][d] [t]/[d] – [ đ ] K[k][g] [k]/[g] 8 -: bound variation; /: free variation; \ non-standard variation

9 Occlusives ’b’, ’d’ and ’g’ WritingAbsolute front position C- Front position after another consonant cC- Back position before another consonant -Cc Absolute back position -C B[b]-[b] \ [w][p]/[b] \ [w] D[d]- [ đ ] \ Ø \[ j ][t]/[d] – [ đ ] \ Ø \[ j ] G[g]- [w] - [ j ] - [g][k]/[g] - [w] - [ js ] 9

10 Occlusives The letters must always be interpreted in relation to the position in the syllable. This is also true of the letters ’R’, ’V’ and ’J’; hence it is not unusual in Danish The main problem is thta the distance between the realized sounds and the letter is so strong. When letters like ’D’, ’G’ and partily ’T’ change from front to back position, they also change in three phonetic registers: 1. From punctual to continuous 2. From unvoiced to voiced 3. From contoid to vocoid 10

11 Asymmetry of occlusives – ’B’ BC-cC-Vowel-Cc-C Occlusive Fricative Nasal/lateral Semivowel 11

12 Asymmetry of the occlusives – ’D’ 12 DC-cC-Vowel-Cc-C Occlusive Fricative Nasal/lateral Semivowel 12

13 Asymmetry of the occlusives – ’G’ GC-cC-Vowel-Cc-C Occlusive Fricative Nasal/lateral Semivowel 13

14 Short vowels As it has been noted quite often (Basbøll og Wagner 1985, Jervelund 2007), the long vowels are quite regular in most cases. The short vowel, on the other hand, are complex: 14 LetterSoundExamples i[i] - [e]Pisk, (mini-)risk, - disk, fisk; dild, mild, sild, vild – pil, vil: fik (i/e); midt - skidt e[æ]Fest, hest, bedst æ[æ]Læst, næst a [ ε ]/[ a ] – [ α ] Anders And;

15 Short vowels LetterSoundExamples Y[y] - [ø]Bytte, dytte, hytte, lytte, pyt, tytte(bær) – nytte, spytte; dysse, hysse, Sysse – kysse; Ø([ø]) – [ö]Bønne, stønne 15

16 Short vowels LetterSoundExamples U [u] – [ å ] Bul, - kul, hul, nul; bulle, skulle, tulle – [for)kulle, (gennem)hulle O [o] – [ å ] –[ ∧ ] Mor, foto – bombe, plombe – rhombe, hekatombe Å [ å ] – [ ∧ ] Tårn - bånd 16

17 Prosody I: vowel length Becker-Christensen 1988: 87 gives this main rule concerning vowel length: I: In syllables ending in a vowel and syllables with one postvocalic consonant: the vowel is LONG. II: In syllables with two post-vocalic consonants: the vowel is SHORT This rule applies to monosyllabic words and words ending in a stressed syllable The rule may first be applied when all inflections and derivatives have been removed This does make life more complicated, since you have to know the details of morphology in order to use the rule. 17

18 Prosody I: vowel length Becker-Christensen (1988: 91) gives a number of exceptions to rule II: 1. Vowel is long before - rd and –ds, and before gC : Bord, kreds, ligne, fugl, flegma, karl, vejr 2. Vowel is long before certain double consonants: næbbet, læggen, skægget, ægget, sjette, otte, ætten, bredde, vidde. 3. Vowel is long before certain combinations of letters: vable, æble, skæbne, væbne, erobre, sagte (adv), ens, besk, slesk, træsk, påske, bæst, faste, kiste, hoste, pruste, puste (the two last ones may be both long and short). 18

19 Prosody I: vowel length Exceptions to rule I, e.g. short vowel in VC-structures without glottal stop (Becker-Christensen 1988: 92): In front of occlusives: Hat, nok, kat, gok, tit, flok, klik, smuk, flot, glat, at, sat In front of nasals: han, hun, man, som In front of semi-vowels: og, jeg, dig, sig, er, var, rav, drev, rev, jer, vor In front of đ : glad, mad, had, mad, gud, bed, fred Pronouns and other function words are well represented in this group: og, jeg, dig, sig, er, var, at, som, det, sit (but not den, sin ), jer, vor. 19

20 Prosody I: Vowel length Inflectional forms cause exceptions to rule II (short vowel when followed by two consonants) : Mast (sb. short / vb. ’mase’ long) Læst (sb. short / vb. ’læse’ long) Lyst (sb. short / vb. ’lyse’ long) Kyst (sb. short /vb. ’kyse’ long) Øst (sb. short / vb. ’øse’ long) 20

21 Prosody I: Vowel length Short vowel in syllables ending in a vowel are quite frequent in central vocabulary (Becker-Christensen 1988: 93): Many personal pronouns: du, vi, I, de (De) Many interjections: ja, ha, hurra, fy, nå, oho, hallo Adverbs, conjunctions etc.: nu, da, så, thi, jo Several loan words: 1. The solmisation do, re, mi, fa, la 2. French loan words: cha-cha-cha, gaga, charpi, fait acccompli, hotel garni, kepi, maki ( including the French-inspired pronunciation HelsinKI ), art deco, yoyo, vue/vy, revy, (portemonnæ, adjø,) miljø – but pø om pø - ! 21

22 Prosody II: The glottal stop No constellation of letters signals the glottal stop in any consequent way (Basbøll 2007: 90). The glottal stop is distributed according to the weight of the syllable, cp. Basbøll (1988, 1998, 2007). Therefore the other prosodic features (vocalic lenght combined with the voicedness of the postvocalic consonants) determine where the glottal stop may occur. However the orthography gives no clues to all this. The fact that the glottal stop is concomitant wth other factors is probably the main reason why this phenomenon never attracted the interest of orthograhers (except Høysgaard in the 18th century). 22

23 Problems that the ortographers never cared about If Jutland had remained the core area of the kingdom (as it was in early medieval times), things would have taken a different way. Dialects in Jutland have apocope, i.e. Old Norse monosyllables and bisyllables form one monosyllabic group. Apocope is now spreading into Standard Danish, thus facing us with a problem. Most modern monosyllabic loan words are from English, where similar apocope forms are standard; such words cannot be accommodated to modern Danish orthography. 23

24 Syllabic types in Jutland dialects Viggo Sørensen (2007) identifies three monosyllabic types in Standard Danish: 1. Words with vocalic glottal stop ( bro, sne, gry, fad, nøl ) 2. Words with consonatic glottal stop ( land, rend, vom ) 3. Words without a glottal stop ( hat, sæt, blot, rat ) Basically the orthography leaves no clues as to which of these types you have to do with, except what I mentioned before. The orthographic constellation (-)VC is represented in all three word types, as you will see. 24

25 Syllabic types in Jutland dialects In the Jutland dialects you will find 7 syllabic types: 1. Words with a tonal accent (only relevant in Southern Jutland) 2. Words with vocalic glottal stop 3. Words with consonantic glottal stop 4. Words without a glottal stop 5. Words with a long vowel without glottal stop 6. Words with long consonant 7. Words with West Jutland glottalization This is a general matrix. Few dialects have type 1, and the use of 7 is also restricted. The central areas do with types

26 Prosody II: The Glottal Stop In Jutland presence/absence of Glottal Stop or similar prosodic oppositions are the only distinctions of singular vs. plural with many monosyllabic words: Hus[ hu’s ] – [ hu;s ] Ben[ bie’n ] – [ bi;en ] Gren[ græ’n ] – [ græ;n ] Bro[ bro’w ] – [ bro;w ] Most Jutland dialects have a syllabic type unknown to Standard Danish until the monosyllabic English loan words arrived: monosyllables with a long vowel without glottal stop. 26

27 A special orthography for Jutland In general there has been little interest in a special Jutland orthography, even though the language taught in the schools must have seemed extremely strange to little kids in Jutland 200 years ago. However, Steen Steensen Blicher ( ) deviced an orthography for his short stories in Jutland dialects.

28 Syllabic types in Jutland dialects Blicher’s treatment of the prosody (after Viggo Sørensen 2007): 1. V +/- C : no special marking 2. V: + GS +/- C : Ve (bar = baer; dør = døer) 3. V + C + GS: VCh (vild = vilh; nem = nemh) 4. V: +/- C : Vh(C) (plade = plahd; tørre = tahr) 5. V + C: : VCC (nar = narr, levne = löwnn) 6. V + C + West Jutland glottal stop: like 5 28

29 Syllabic types in Jutland Orthography Certain aspects of Blicher’s orthography are inconsistent. It seems irregular to signal the glottal stop in vowels with ’e’, but with ’h’ with consonants, particularly when ’h’ with vowels signify lenght. On the other hand many of his orthographic devices ring an echo of orthography in early modern times ( , partly also older). (Please do not assume that his use of these devices also siginifes anything about pronunciation before Blicher!). For Jutland dialect speakers, his orthography was, and may still be, intuitively useful. However, for any attempt at a modern spelling reform designed to eliminate the troublemakers, Blicher’s praxis may only be a curiousity. 29

30 Conclusion The four problem areas that I have tried to identify in this talk, the occlusive letters, the sort vowels, the vowel lenght, and the glottal stop, are the main reasons why orthography is a very bad guide to Danish pronunciation. The problem areas are sometimes internal matters; little inherently unstressed words normally have a well-established orthographic form, and it is quite likely that it does not converge with the main tendencies in the sound/writing interface. Yet another problem area are the numerous loan words. German and French loan words are normally quite well integrated in the orthography. The English loan words, on the other side, present unsurmountable problems to the orthographic system and no attempt is made in integrate them at all. 30

31 What should the Danish orthographers do? Obviously a regulation, especially of the prosodic form, is tempting – in theory. In reality things look differently: 1. A thorough reform will change the orthography to a degree where contact with other Scandinavians and older written matter will become almost impossible. 2. My experience with Danish students is that they find prosody extremely difficult to hear, although paradoxically they must perceive the effects of it. 3. There are variational phenomena and developments underway; thus there is no really consistent norm to codify. 31

32 And therefore nothing will happen, in spite of the miserable state of affairs. In the 18th century, the phantastic grammarian Jens Petersen Høysgaard declared that it does not fit a language well to have a lot of complicated rules, whose main effect is to irritate children, elderly people and foreigners trying to learn the language. But it seems difficult to follow Høysgaard’s lovely piece of advice in these matters. 32

33 References Hans Basbøll 1988: ”Mellem moræ og fonologi: nyt om stødet i moderne rigsdansk”. MUDS 2, Århus universitet p Hans Basbøll 1998: ”Nyt om stødet i moderne rigsdansk – om samspillet mellem lydstruktur og ordgrammatik.” Danske Studier s Hans Basbøll 2004: ”Et klassifikationssystem for stavemåder”. Jørgensen & Jørgensen (red.): På godt dansk. Festskrift til Henrik Galberg Jacobsen. Århus: Wessel og Huitfeldt s Hans Basbøll 2007: The Phonology of Danish. Oxford. Oxford University Press Hans Basbøll & Johannes Wagner 1985: Konrastive Phonologie des Deutschen und Dänischen. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag Christian Becker-Christensen 1988: Bogstav og lyd, bd. 1. Kø’benhavn: Gyldendal 33

34 References Anita Aagerup Jervelund 2007: Sådan staver vi. København: Dansklærerforeningens Forlag og Dansk Sprognævn Jan Katlev 1980: ”Diverse lingvistiske parametre i retskrivningsspørgsmålet”. SAML 6, s Viggo Sørensen 2007: ”Når forfatterne skriver jysk – og hvad det fortæller om skriftsprog og lydskrift” Ord og sag 27, s


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