6 Pronunciation

6 Pronunciation

Norwegian prosody

In Norway you find several dialects that are quite different. When it comes to pronunciation the differences are related to consonant inventory and intonation.

There is no standard spoken Norwegian. It is common in teaching Norwegian as a second language to approach the Bokmål writing system, but the teacher often retains the intonation of her/his everyday speech, that is; dialect.

The description below is a general overview over Norwegian prosody.

Long or short vowels

Norwegian vowels may be long or short:

< vin > /'viːn/ wine
< vinn > /'vin/ win
< vind > /'vin/ wind
< vink > /'viŋk/ hand signal, hint

In general, the duration is indicated through the orthography. If a vowel is followed by one consonant, it is long, if it is followed by double consonants or a consonant cluster, it is short. Above the long vowel is indicated in phonemic writing by using colon < ː >.


In general the first syllable of Norwegian words is stressed. In phonemic writing stress is indicated by an apostrophe < ' >:

< Norge > /'norge/ Norway
< spise > /'spiːse/ eat

However, in loanwords the stress pattern can be different, and you will find words stressed on the first, second, penultimate and ultimate syllable.

< telle > /'tele/ count 
< fortelle > /fo'ʈele/ tell
< studere > /stʉ'deːre/ study
< student > /stʉ'dent/ student

There are some rules for stress placement in loanwords:

Verbs ending in «-ere» are stressed on the penultimate syllable

<studere> /stʉ'deːre/ study
<spandere> /spɑn'deːre/ treat, stand treat
<repetere> /repe'teːre/ repeat

Nouns ending in «-ent» are stressed on the ultimate syllable

<student> /stʉ'dent/ student
<produsent> /prudʉ'sent/ producer
<prosent>  /pru'sent/ percent

In compounds, each of the constituting parts carries its original stress. The two stresses in the word are labeled primary and secondary stress respectively. The primary stress is found in the first part of the compound, the secondary stress is found in the second part.

< engelsk > /'eŋelsk/ English
< lærer > /'læːrer/ teacher
< engelsk lærer > /'eŋelsk 'læːrer/ English teacher (teacher from England)
< engelsklærer > /'eŋelskˌlæːrer/ teacher of English

Word tones

Norwegian has two word tones called tone 1 and tone 2. By means of the tonal pattern it is possible to distinguish between two words with identical sound structure:

Tone 1: loven /1loːven/ the law
Tone 2: låven /2loːven/ the barn

Tones are not discussed further in this introductory course, but they are indicated for each word in the vocabulary tables.