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Norwegian vowels

Last week, we introduced the Norwegian Alphabet.

We hope you took your time to rehearse on the Alphabet’s pronunciation, because this week we’ll take a closer look to Norwegian vowels.

As you know by now, the Norwegian alphabet contains nine vowels:

A, E, I, O, U, Y, Æ, Ø, Å

The vowel letters may indicate short or long vowel sounds.

All nine vowels may occur as long or short.

In the examples below, the colon, / ː /, indicates a long vowel.

Absence of colon after the vowel indicates a short vowel.

To visualize the difference between short and long vowels, imagine that you are holding a rubber band in your hands. When the vowel is short, you give a little stretch to the band and it pops quickly back. When the vowel is long, you stretch the band as long as you can, at least one second.

Rubber bands

Take your time when pronouncing long vowels:

There is a big difference between < takk >, which means “Thank you”, and < tak > which means “ceiling” and/or “roof”!

How do you know whether you should pronounce a short or a long vowel?

Here are some rules of thumb to identify short and long vowels:

The vowel is usually short before two or more consonant letters:

< takk > /’tɑk/ thank you
< legge > /’lege/ put

In other cases, the vowel is normally long:

< ta > /’tɑː/ take
< tak > /’tɑːk/ roof
< lege > /’leːge/ doctor

In addition to the distinction between short and long vowel, some vowel letters in Norwegian may also represent other vowel sounds:

1) In many words, a short < o > followed by two consonants is pronounced like < å >:

< komme > /’kome/ come
< jobbe > /’jobe/ work

2) A short < u > may be pronounced as < o >:

< nummer > /’numer/ number

3) In many words with < e > + < r >, both short and long < e > are pronounced like < æ >:

< er > /’æːr/ am, are, is
< her > /’hæːr/ here
< terminal > /tærmi’nɑːl/ terminal

4) In one important word < e > is pronounced < i >:

< de > /’diː/ they

The Norwegian and English vowel letters compared

Norwegian letter English
a Like in «hard»
e Like in «bed»
i Like in «see»
o No equivalent, but approximately as < oo > in «noon»
u Approximately as the final vowel in «new»
y No equivalent
æ Like in «bad»
ø No equivalent, but approximately as < i > in «girl» or «swirl»
å Like in «saw»

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This article is from the free online course:

Norwegian for Beginners 1

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)