Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

YASvPT Swedish prosody (was Re: Questions (mostly about phonemics))

From:Benct Philip Jonsson <conlang@...>
Date:Sunday, January 21, 2007, 10:37
Roger Mills skrev:
 > Italian (I think) goes down on the stressed syllable.
 > So does American parody of Swedish...(sorry 'bout
 > that, guys).

The thing is that stress and pitch pattern are somewhat
distinct from each other in Swedish. Somewhat idealized, and
with a simplified ASCII transcription there are four basic

1. 'a/nde\n -- stress on first syllable with rising pitch,
    second syllable with falling pitch.

2. 'a\nde/n -- stress on first syllable with falling pitch,
    second syllable with rising pitch.

3. a\n'de/n -- stress on last syllable with falling pitch,
    second syllable with rising pitch.

4. 'a/nd -- monosyllabic words always have a rising pitch,
    if they are stressed at all.

It is pattern #2 which confuses foreigners no end. Some will
hear that some words have a falling pitch on the stressed
syllable and over-apply that pattern, others will hear the
rising pitch on the final syllable and misinterpret it as
stress, in effect merging types #2 and #3, and also likely
over-apply that pattern to all words.

The majority of foreigners simply disregard the pitches, and
may even be advised to do so by their Swedish teachers,
since that in the end sounds more natural to native speakers
than misplaced pitches and stresses, not least since native
Swedish dialects of Finland lack the pitch distinctions.

These patterns are traditionally called "accent 1" or "akut
accent" and "accent 2" or "grav accent" in Swedish -- my #3
counts as a special case of #1, almost all loanwords or
surnames built up with foreign suffixes, as does my #4, the
unifying factor being rising pitch on the stressed syllable.
The accents are not marked in standard orthography eccept
for _é_ for a final stressed /e/ in loanwords and surnames
of type #3. Thus my example words are spelled _anden, anden,
Andén, and_, the third being a surname, and the fourth
being the indefinite form of the first. The indefinite form
of the second is _ande_.

In reality word stress and intonation mixes with sentence
stress and intonation into a single contour, making it all
very different to analyse, not least since different
dialects/regional varieties have rather different sentence
intonation patterns, which strongly affect the realization
of word pitch patterns. Thus Andreas is likely to have some
nits to pick! :-)

The consonantal environment also affects the realization
of the pitches: the less sonorous surrounding consonants
are the more distorted the pitches get; ideal test
sentences contain only vowels and sonorant consonants! Of
course things also get more complicated if the word has
more than two syllables: syllables before the one with the
main stress don't count for purposes of pitch accent
placement, but one or two unstressed syllables may
intervene between the syllables bearing the pitch accents,
in an accent one word the falling pitch actually gets
spread out pretty evenly over all the syllables after the
stressed one, while the rising pitch in an accent 2 word
falls on the final syllable.

I should say that the number of minimal pairs that differs
only in their "accent" is preciously small. It is somewhat
larger in Norwegian, which has a very similar system, since
more unstressed syllables have merged as schwa there.

So now you know why the Swedish Chef doesn't sound Swedish
at all to Swedes, but utterly meaningless.

/BP 8^)
   B.Philip Jonsson (delete X)
"Truth, Sir, is a cow which will give [skeptics] no more milk,
and so they are gone to milk the bull."
                                     -- Sam. Johnson (no rel. ;)