Phonology

The variety of Danish described here is Advanced Standard Copenhagen.

Table 10.1

Comparison of three phonetic transcription systems for Danish

IPA

Basb0ll-Wagner

Dania

[miila] [me:la] [meita] [me:ld]

[miib] [me:ld] [me:ld] [maeib]

mi'ld me'ld mx'ld mà'la

mile mele maele male

There are other standard varieties, especially of Jutlandic origin, which sometimes are preferred in linguistic descriptions since they are allegedly easier for foreigners to master. The language described here (although originally defined as the speech of middle-aged middle-class Copenhageners) can be heard on the radio and on television, and in many types of relaxed or semi-formal speech occasions.

When transcribing Danish words, one is immediately faced with a dilemma. Ordinary IPA, not supplemented by diacritics, is simply too broad a transcription for the notation of Danish vowel qualities. In Danish, there are contrasts like lidt [lid] 'suffered' vs lidt [led] 'little' vs let [led] 'easy'. There is furthermore a vowel quality [e] as in ret [Kcd] 'right', which does not contrast with [e]. Correspondingly there are four phonemically distinct long vowels: mile [mills] 'charcoal stack' vs mele [meilo] 'to flour' vs mxle [me:b] 'to utter' vs male [meilo] 'to grind'. It is common practice (not only in Danish) to avoid the use of diacritics for the notation of phonemic contrasts and to use simple symbols as much as possible. Examples for this practice are the system used by Basb0ll and Wagner (1985), and the traditional Dania system as shown in Table 10.1.

Still, this practice - although endorsed by the very principles of the IPA -has its disadvantages. Apart from the possible proliferation of symbols, it makes it difficult to compare phonetic systems across languages and even between different analyses of the same language. Thus, while following the analysis by Basb0ll-Wagner, I do not introduce any new symbols, but use narrow IPA diacritics where they are necessary to distinguish phonological contrast rather than phonetic detail. But I write [o] and [a] rather than [0+°] and [a+3], although [o] and [a] are not distinguished by their degree* of rounding alone; there is also a significant difference of height. I also write [a] rather than [a], although the quality of Danish [a] is quite audibly raised as compared with German or French [a]-sounds.

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