Norwegian consonant clusters

You have learnt the consonants of the Norwegian alphabet in the very first week of this course, and by now, you probably have noticed that consonants can cluster.

When that happens, consonant clusters can be pronounced quite differently from their single counterpart.

But how do you know how to pronounce them?

Well, if you have tried our pronunciation tutor program CALST, you might have already found out.

If you haven’t, below you will find some examples of consonant clusters in Norwegian and instructions on how you should pronounce them.

We have tried to describe Norwegian sounds using written English as reference. But you might find similar sounds in your mother tongue or other foreign languages you speak.

It is however not always possible to find the very same sounds in another language.

In that case, be patient and practise a lot! You can always go back and listen to the alphabet again if you are in doubt.


The sounds /∫/ and /ç/

1) The phonetic symbol /∫/ corresponds roughly to the sound written in English as “sh”.

The Norwegian sound /∫/ is represented in several ways:

/ʃ/ may be written < sj >

stasjon /stɑ’ʃuːn/ station

/ʃ/ may be written < skj >

skjema /’ʃeːmɑ/ form

/ʃ/ may be written < sk > in front of < i, y, ei, øy >

skinke /’ʃiŋke/ ham
sky /’ʃyː/ cloud
skøyte /’ʃøyte/ skate

/ʃ/ may be written < rs >

kurs /kʉ:ʃ/ course

2) The phonetic symbol /ç/ does not have any referent in English, but you can find a similar sound in the written German “-ch” like in “ich”.

If you can’t speak German, this sound could roughly be described as the letter “h” pronounced by a hissing cat.

The sound /ç/ is represented in several ways:

/ç/ may be written < kj >

kjøpe /’çøːpe/ buy

/ç/ may be written < k > in front of < i, y, ei, øy >

kino /’çiːnu/ cinema
kylling /’çyliŋ/ chicken

/ç/ may be written < tj >

tjue /’çʉːe/ twenty

The /ʈ/, /ɖ/ /ɳ/ /ɭ/ sounds and other velar sounds

3) The sounds /ʈ/, /ɖ/ /ɳ/ /ɭ/

In Norwegian there are a set of consonant cluster sounds that we well might call retroflex because they are pronounced with the tip of the tongue curled upwards and a little bit backwards. The bottom part of the tip of the tongue is touching the ridge behind the upper front teeth.

Retroflex sounds

The pronunciation of these sounds could roughly be compared to that of some consonants in Indian English.

The sounds /ʈ/, /ɖ/ /ɳ/ /ɭ/ are represented by the following letter combinations:

/ʈ/ may be written < rt >

fortelle /fo’ʈele/ tell

/ɖ/ may be written < rd >

hvordan /’vuɖɑn/ how

/ɳ/ may be written < rn >

gjerne /’jæːɳe/ gladly

/ɭ/ may be written < rl >

ærlig /’æːɭi/ honest

4) The /ŋ/ sound corresponds in pronounciation to the written “ng” in English words like “singing, playing” etc.

The sound /ŋ/ is written < ng > also in Norwegian:

lang /’lɑŋ/ long
mange /’mɑŋe/ many

< n > in front of < k > is in general also pronounced /ŋ/:

bank /’bɑŋk/ bank

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This article is from the free online course:

Norwegian for Beginners 1

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)