Introduction to Swedish/Alphabet

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The Swedish alphabet.

The Swedish alphabet contains 29 letters:

Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv Ww Xx Yy Zz Åå Ää Öö

The last three letters, Å, Ä, and Ö, are regarded as distinct letters, separate from A and O. Whereas in English you might use the term "A - Z", in Swedish it would be "A - Ö". Unlike in English, Y is always a vowel, except in the case of some loanwords. W has not been included in the Swedish alphabet for a long time, but since 2006 the Swedish Academy considers W as a separate letter. However, this is not fully accepted in dictionaries and other instances yet.

The Vowels[edit]

Vowels are divided into hard and soft vowels. When reading new Swedish words you should pay attention to whether the vowels are short or long. Each vowel has both a long and a short phonetic variant. The basic rule is that a vowel is short if it is followed by more than one consonant.

Long Vowels[edit]

Phoneme
(IPA)
Pronunciation sample, phonemic transcription and translation
About this sound listen  sil, /siːl/, "sieve"
About this sound listen  hel, /heːl/, "whole"
ɛː About this sound listen  häl, /hɛːl/, "heel"
ɑː About this sound listen  mat, /mɑːt/, "food"
About this sound listen  mål, /moːl/, "goal"
About this sound listen  bot, /buːt/, "penance"
ʉ̟ː About this sound listen  ful, /fʉ̟ːl/, "ugly"
About this sound listen  syl, /syːl/, "awl"
øː About this sound listen  nöt, /nøːt/, "nut"

Short Vowels[edit]

Phoneme
(IPA)
Pronunciation sample, phonemic transcription and translation
ɪ About this sound listen  sill, /sɪl/, "herring"
ɛ About this sound listen  häll, /hɛl/, "flat rock"
a About this sound listen  matt, /mat/, "listless; matte"
ɔ About this sound listen  moll, /mɔl/, "minor" (music)
ʊ About this sound listen  bott, /bʊt/, "lived" (perfect tense)
ɵ About this sound listen  full, /fɵl/, "full"
ʏ About this sound listen  syll, /sʏl/, "sleeper" (railroad)
œ About this sound listen  nött, /nœt/, "worn"

The Consonants[edit]

Most consonants can be doubled. The letter k can be doubled with c (like in rock n' roll.) The consonant c sounds like s when not combined with k (like the first c in bicycle). The letters z, q, and w are very uncommon but are used in family and company names. The letter m is not doubled at end of words with two exceptions, lamm and damm.

Examples of words with doubled consonants:

flabb, ledd, klaff, ragg, back, pall, damm, spinn, kupp, pirr, triss, titt

Initial g and k
If the first letter in a word is g and if the next letter is a soft vowel then the g is pronounced as a j .
If the first letter in a word is k and if the next letter is a soft vowel then the k is pronounced as an sh .

Plosives[edit]

Phoneme
(IPA)
Pronunciation sample, phonemic transcription and translation
p About this sound listen  pol, /puːl/, "pole" (of axis)
b About this sound listen  bok, /buːk/, "book"
t About this sound listen  tok, /tuːk/, "fool"
d About this sound listen  dop, /duːp/, "christening"
k About this sound listen  kon, /kuːn/, "cone"
ɡ About this sound listen  god, /ɡuːd/, "good"

Fricative[edit]

Phoneme
(IPA)
Pronunciation sample, phonemic transcription and translation
f About this sound listen  fot, /fuːt/, "foot"
v About this sound listen  våt, /voːt/, "wet"
s About this sound listen  sot, /suːt/, "soot"
ɧ About this sound listen  sjok, /ɧuːk/, "chunk"
ɕ About this sound listen  kjol, /ɕuːl/, "skirt"
j About this sound listen  jord, /juːrd/, "soil, earth"
h About this sound listen  hot, /huːt/, "threat"

/r/ and Retroflex Assimilations[edit]

Phoneme
(IPA)
Pronunciation sample, phonemic transcription and translation
r About this sound listen  rov, /ruːv/, "prey; loot"

Laterals[edit]

Phoneme
(IPA)
Pronunciation sample, phonemic transcription and translation
l About this sound listen  lov, /luːv/, "tack (sailing maneuver)"

Nasals[edit]

Phoneme
(IPA)
Pronunciation sample, phonemic transcription and translation
m About this sound listen  mod, /muːd/, "courage"
n About this sound listen  nod, /nuːd/, "node"
ŋ About this sound listen  lång, /lɔŋ/, "long"

Stress[edit]

Normally the stress is put on the first vowel. The tonality is more important in Swedish.

Tonality[edit]

Both nita and niten have the stress on the vowel i. However, the tonality differs. This is often a situational difference that varies from one word to the next. For more information on tone you can try the Wikipedia article on tone.

Typing Special Characters[edit]

The light house "Långe Jan" at the south end of Öland island.

On a PC:

Alt+0229 = å
Alt+0197 = Å
Alt+0228 = ä
Alt+0196 = Ä
Alt+0246 = ö
Alt+0214 = Ö

On a Mac:

Option+a = å
Option+A = Å
Option+u to get ¨ then type a = ä
Option+u to get ¨ then type A = Ä
Option+u to get ¨ then type o = ö
Option+u to get ¨ then type O = Ö

If you don't manage to get these characters, the standard way is to substitute å with aa, ä with ae, and ö with oe.

More Information on Pronunciation[edit]

For more detailed information on Swedish pronunciations read the Wikipedia article on Swedish phonology.

Exercise[edit]

Pronounce the following Swedish words.

1. skal, sno, tur, kår, ven, mil, syl, när, bör

2. stall, stopp, lupp, sådd, ett, stins, skyll, ärr, börs

3. vara, bliva, heta, kallas, äta, dricka, festa, leka

4. bilen, vägen, äpplet, trädet, smaken, tiken

5. kal, kotte, kul, kål, gam, gott, gurka, gås

6. ge, gick, gylf, Gävle, gök, kedja, kil, kyl, käk, kök