Me Talk Pretty One Day: A Few Basics of Pronunciation Posted by Meg on Oct 18, 2017 in Icelandic grammar
Today, lets talk a little about Icelandic phonology and pronunciation. In order to do that, we have to start with one basic assumption: the letter does not equal the sound. Not always.
Sometimes, for example, we write two letters, but those two letters comprise one sound. Hj, kj, gj, hn, hr, hl are all one sound. Hjarta (pronunciation), kjóll (pronunciation), gjöf (pronunciation), hnerra (pronunciation), hringja (pronunciation ), hlaupa (pronunciation ). Likewise, we sometimes write one letter to represent two sounds: the x , for example, makes a ks, as in buxur (pronunciation ). É = e + j, (where j is pronounced ‘y’ – like yes), as in éta (pronunciation ). Hér (pronunciation ) is pronounced hjer.
Sometimes the letter and the sound are completely different, as is the case with question words. Hvað? Hver? Hvernig? as hvalur, hver, hvass. (pronunciation: hvass).
But that’s an easy one.
One letter can symbolize multiple sounds, as with g.
Gaman: [k] = g or k (pronunciation)
Gefa: [kj] = g-ye-v-a (pronunciation)
Saga: [ɤ] = (pronunciation) (What on earth is that strange letter?)
Sagt: [x] = k (sakt) [ same goes for ‘k’: rakt]
Segi: [j] = sort of like a ‘y’ (pronunciation)
An f before n or l :
fl is pronounced [pl]
fn is pronounced [pn]
Let’s wrap up with ll and nn.
ll is pronounced [tl] or [l:]
[tl] = hilla (pronunciation), allir, ellefu, fjall
-nn- is sometimes pronounced [tn] and sometimes [n:]
[n:] henni (pronunciation), tennur, vinna
Next time: Vowel sounds are long before a single consonant, and short before 2 or more.
That’s all, folks!