9 Pronunciation

9 Pronunciation

Connected speech

The pronunciation of Norwegian is characterized by other features than just the speech sounds, long and short vowels, stress and tones. One issue that is important to master is how to produce connected speech.  What is typical of Norwegian is that one word is directly connected to the previous and the following word. This linking of words can be illustrated in the following way:

Han snakker engelsk Han-snakker-engelsk

This sentence should sound like one continuous chain of sounds (bold letters indicate stressed syllables):

Hun er ikke engelsk Hun-er-ikke-engelsk

This sentence should sound like one continuous chain of sounds:


Some languages, German for example, do not connect words in this way. If a word starts with a vowel, a glottal stop sound («Knacklaut», IPA symbol < ʔ >) will be inserted in front of the vowel:

Hun er ikke engelsk Hun ʔer ʔikke ʔengelsk

If this is introduced in Norwegian, it will lead to short frequent stops that will destroy the fluency which is expected.

Other languages, Spanish for example, do not accept words starting with /s/+another consonant (like /p, t, k/). In Spanish the /s/+consonant sequence must be preceded by a vowel, an /e/. If this is introduced in Norwegian, it will create new syllables that are not expected and which will destroy the expected fluency.

Norwegian English Spanish
Spania Spain España
student student estudiante
skole school escuela

Other languages, Farsi for example, combine the two phenomena mentioned above. Here the /s/+consonant sequence also must be preceded by a vowel, which in its turn will be preceded by the glottal stop.

Norwegian English Farsi pronunciation of Norwegian
spa spa ʔespa
student student ʔestudent
skole school ʔeskole

When speaking Norwegian, one should also pay attention to phenomena related to /r/ + /t, d, n, l, s/ which are mentioned earlier. If one word is ending in /r/ and the next is starting with /t, d, n, l, s/, the sounds will assimilate to / ʈ , ɖ , ɳ , ɭ , ʃ /.

Letter sequence Pronunciation of letter sequence
< rt > as in «er to»  is two /r/ + /t/ /ʈ/  /æ'ʈuː/
< rd > as in «er det» is it /r/ + /d/ /ɖ/ /æ'ɖeː/
< rn > as in «er ny» is new /r/ + /n/ /ɳ/ /æ'ɳyː/
< rl > as in «er litt»  is a little /r/ + /l/ /ɭ/ /æ'ɭit/
< rs > as in «er syk» is ill /r/ + /s/ /ʃ/ /æ'ʃyːk/

This phenomenon contributes highly to connecting words to each other.

No pauses at all?
Are there no pauses in spoken Norwegian? Of course there are. In connected speech the pauses will occur where you find commas and full stops in a written text. There will also be stops when the speaker stops to think, is hesitating or rephrasing the utterance. But in general one can say that when you are speaking Norwegian, words should be closely connected with no intervening sounds or pauses.

By using connected speech and pauses correctly, you can make different patterns of the following five names and thus express whether you are talking about five, four or three persons.

5 persons:  Britt, Anne, Kari, Marie, Louise
4 persons: Britt Anne, Kari, Marie, Louise
  Britt, Anne Kari, Marie, Louise
  Britt, Anne, Kari Marie, Louise
  Britt, Anne, Kari, Marie Louise
3 persons: Britt, Anne Kari, Marie Louise
  Britt Anne, Kari, Marie Louise
  Britt Anne, Kari Marie, Louise