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
listen source sil, /siːl/, "sieve"
listen source hel, /heːl/, "whole"
ɛː listen source häl, /hɛːl/, "heel"
ɑː listen source mat, /mɑːt/, "food"
listen source mål, /moːl/, "goal"
listen source bot, /buːt/, "penance"
ʉ̟ː listen source ful, /fʉ̟ːl/, "ugly"
listen source syl, /syːl/, "awl"
øː listen source nöt, /nøːt/, "nut"

Short Vowels[edit]

Phoneme
(IPA)
Pronunciation sample, phonemic transcription and translation
ɪ listen source sill, /sɪl/, "herring"
ɛ listen source häll, /hɛl/, "flat rock"
a listen source matt, /mat/, "listless; matte"
ɔ listen source moll, /mɔl/, "minor" (music)
ʊ listen source bott, /bʊt/, "lived" (perfect tense)
ɵ listen source full, /fɵl/, "full"
ʏ listen source syll, /sʏl/, "sleeper" (railroad)
œ listen source 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 listen source pol, /puːl/, "pole" (of axis)
b listen source bok, /buːk/, "book"
t listen source tok, /tuːk/, "fool"
d listen source dop, /duːp/, "christening"
k listen source kon, /kuːn/, "cone"
ɡ listen source god, /ɡuːd/, "good"

Fricative[edit]

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

/r/ and Retroflex Assimilations[edit]

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

Laterals[edit]

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

Nasals[edit]

Phoneme
(IPA)
Pronunciation sample, phonemic transcription and translation
m listen source mod, /muːd/, "courage"
n listen source nod, /nuːd/, "node"
ŋ listen source 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