Y U always mix up Norwegian vowels Posted by Bjørn A. Bojesen on Jun 20, 2016 in Pronunciation
Unless you’re a Norwegian (or a Swede), you’ll probably find the language a bit difficult to pronouce. I think Norwegian (and Swedish) dialects are a sonical challenge mainly because
– they’ve got 2 different word melodies – think Chinese
– the vowels are not what you’d expect
– many dialects have tricky consonant combos (often involving the letter R)
Let’s look at the tricksters U and Y (as in pute og dyne
, pillow and duvet).
The U of many languages has a slightly ”darker” sound than the middle vowel of let’s DO it! or cool! (Check out Spanish, Swahili, Esperanto…) German even has the letter Ü (as in München = Munich), which is made by letting out the ”cool U” with rounded lips (like when you’re going to kiss somebody). Why am I talking about German? Well, when the Vikings spoke, their U was just like the German one, and their Y was like the German Ü…
The catch is… In 2016 Norwegian, the Y has become much ”brighter”. It’s so upfront that’s it’s almost leaving your mouth! You really have to pout your lips to make it: skygge, nydelig (shadow, gorgeous).
When the Y ”brightened” (in the Middle Ages or so), the U decided to follow it on the tongue’s jorney towards the teeth… If you listen, there’s no wonder why many foreigners keep confusing the two sounds: furu, husker du? (fir tree, do you remember?)
Okay, there’s one thing more: The Norwegian O got brighter, too, taking that ”dark” place where the U used to be – phew: sol (sun). Compare that to the much ”darker” O of Spanish sol or English robot. To a Norwegian, those sound like … Å! 🙂
Recap: In Norwegian, the sounds U/Y (and O) are ”brighter” – pronounced with the tip of the tongue more in front of the mouth – than in many other languages.
Now try to pronounce the following line of poetry (I think it was written by Jan-Erik Vold):
Hun har myk hud, hun. (She’s got soft skin, she does.)
Note: I’ve saved the stuff about vowel LENGTH for another time. 🙂