Danish Language Blog

The Gs that Be Posted by on May 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

Dannebrog på flagstang

If the Danish R’s confused you, you’d better stop reading right now! The letter G is basically pronounced in three different ways:

As the hard G of English girl. This is the ordinary sound of G when it comes in front of a syllable, a T or another G. (If you’re not quite sure what a syllable is, you can try to clap the rhythm of a word, like Ho-no-lu-lu. That’s four syllables!)
In all these words, then, the G is hard: grøn ’green’, igen [i-GEN] ’again’, digt ’poem’, hygge.
(Note that in a few words, there is an ”invisible” double G that can be seen only when the word gets some ending: tryg ’safe’ – trygge ’safe (plural)’; myg ’mosquito’ – myggen ’the mosquito’; æg ’egg’ – ægget ’the egg’. Even without an ending, though, this G should be kept hard!)

As the W part of the English word now! This happens when the G follows an O, U, Å, R or dark A (as in far ’father’): tog [to-w] ’train’, uge [U-weh, most often becoming U-eh] ’week’, tåge [TO-weh] ’fog’, Norge [NOᵒʳweh] ’Norway’, brag [brah-w] ’clash’.

As the Y part of the English word hey! This happens when the G follows an E, I, Y, Æ, Ø, L or light A (as in kat): at lege [at LAH-yeh] ’to play’, rig [ree-y or just reeh] ’rich’, syg [see-y with rounded lips] ’ill’, læge [LEH-yeh] ’doctor’, høg [hoo-y with rounded lips] ’hawk’, elge [ELyeh] ’elks’, tag [ta-y] ’roof’.

Notice the difference between dark A+G and light A+G: brag rhymes with English now, while tag rhymes more or less with English play.

A strange thing about ”light AG’s” is that they turn ”dark” when they’re lumped in front of another word to form a compound: flag (flag) is pronounced ”fla-y”, but a flagstaff is flagstang – pronounced ”FLA-W-stang”. A layer is a lag [la-y], but a ”layered cake” is lagkage [LA-W-ka-yeh]. Now that’s weird, isn’t it?

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About the Author: Bjørn A. Bojesen

I was born in Denmark, but spent large parts of my childhood and study years in Norway. I later returned to Denmark, where I finished my MA in Scandinavian Studies. Having relatives in Sweden as well, I feel very Scandinavian! I enjoy reading and travelling, and sharing stories with you! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me and the other readers.