Stød (Danish pronunciation: [ˈsd̥øð])[1] is a suprasegmental unit of Danish phonology (represented in IPA as ◌ˀ or as ◌̰), which in its most common form is a kind of creaky voice (laryngealization), but may also be realized as a glottal stop, above all in emphatic pronunciation.[2] Some dialects of Southern Danish realize stød in a way which is more similar to the tonal word accents of Norwegian and Swedish, and in much of Zealand it is regularly realized as something reminiscent of a glottal stop. A probably unrelated glottal stop with quite different distribution rules, occurring in Western Jutland, is known as the vestjysk stød ("West Jutland stød"). Because Dania, the phonetic alphabet based on the International Phonetic Alphabet designed specifically for Danish, uses the IPA character ʔ (intended as a glottal stop) broadly to transcribe stød, it may be mistaken for a consonant rather than as suprasegmental phonation.

The word "stød" itself does not have a stød.[1]


The stød has sometimes been described as a glottal stop, but acoustic analyses have shown that there is rarely a full stop of the airflow involved in its production. Rather it is a form of laryngealization or creaky voice, that affects the phonation of a syllable by dividing it into two phases. The first phase has a relatively high intensity and a high pitch (measured as F0), whereas the second phase sees a drop in intensity and pitch.[3]


Spoken sample
Pronunciation of hun ("she", no stød) and hund ("dog", with stød)

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Danish linguists such as Eli Fischer-Jørgensen, Nina Grønnum and Hans Basbøll have generally considered stød to be a suprasegmental phenomenon related to phonation and accent. Basbøll defines it as a "laryngeal syllable rhyme prosody".[4]

The phonology of the stød has been widely studied, and several different analyses have been elaborated to account for it. Most of the time the presence of stød in a word is predictable based on information about the syllable structure of the word. But there are minimal pairs where the presence or absence of stød determines meaning:[5]

No stød Stød
hun /hun/
hund /hunˀ/
ven /vɛn/
vend! /vɛnˀ/
"turn around (imperative)"
læser /ˈlɛːsʌ/
læser /ˈlɛˀsʌ/
maler /ˈmæːlʌ/
maler /ˈmæˀlʌ/
hænder /ˈhɛnʌ/
hænder /ˈhɛnˀʌ/
stød /sd̥øð/
"thrust" (noun)
stød /sd̥øðˀ/
"thrust" (imperative)

Stødbasis and alternations

Two-syllable words with accent on the first syllable do not take stød, nor do closed monosyllables ending in a non-sonorant.[6] In Standard Danish stød is mainly found in words that have certain phonological patterns, namely those that have a heavy stressed syllable, with a coda of a sonorant or vowel (i.e. words ending in vowel + /r, j, v/) or one of the consonant phonemes /m, n, ŋ, l, d/. This phonological structure is called "stødbasis" in the literature. In the stødbasis model, stød is possible only on syllables that have this basis, but secondary rules need to be formulated to account for which syllables with stødbasis, actually carry the stød.

Some words alternate morphologically with stød-carrying and stød-less forms, for example gul [guˀl] "yellow (singular)" and gule [ˈguːlə] "yellow (plural)".[7] Grønnum considers stød to be non-phonemic in monosyllables with long vowels (she analyzes the phonemic structure of the word lim "glue" pronounced [liːˀm] as /liːm/), whereas Basbøll considers it phonemic also in this environment (analyzing it instead as /liːˀm/ contrasting with the structure of /tiːm/, "team").[8]

Tonal analysis

Following an earlier suggestion by Ito and Mester, Riad (2003) analyzes stød as a surface manifestation of an underlying High-Low tone pattern across two syllables. Riad traces the history of stød to a tonal system similar to that found in the contemporary Swedish dialects of Mälardalen, particularly that of Eskilstuna.[9] The argument is based both on the phonetic similarity between the stød, characterized by a sharp drop in the F0 formant, and the same phenomenon found in some tonal systems, and also on the historical fact that tonal accents are considered to be historically prior to the stød system. A 2013 study by Grønnum, Vazquez-Larruscaín and Basbøll however found that the tonal hypothesis was unable to successfully account for the distribution of stød.[10] The analysis has also been critiqued by Gress-Wright (2008), who prefers a model similar to Basbøll's.

Basbøll's analysis

Basbøll (2005) gives an analysis of stød based on prosody and syllable weight measured in terms of morae. He analyzes Danish as having two kinds of syllables, monomoraic and bimoraic syllables. Unstressed syllables, syllables with short vowels, and non-sonorant codas are considered monomoraic, whereas stressed syllables with long vowels, or with short vowels followed by a coda sonorants are considered bimoraic. In Basbøll's analysis, stød marks the beginning of the second mora in ultimate and antepenultimate syllables, although he recognizes that phonetically the situation is more complex as phonetic experiments have shown that the effects of stød occur across the entire syllable.[11] Stød thus can only be found in "heavy" bimoraic rhyme syllables, but never in "light" (monomoraic) syllables. In this analysis, the notion of stødbasis is unnecessary, and the only thing that needs to be accounted for are those cases where syllables that ought to carry stød according to the model, in fact do not, e.g. words like øl, "beer", and ven, "friend". Basbøll accounts for these by positing that the final sonorants in these cases are extraprosodic, meaning that they are simply not counting towards the moraic weight of the syllable to which they belong. This accounts for the resurfacing of stød when such words are followed by a syllabic consonant such as the definite suffix (e.g. vennen "the friend" [ˈʋɛnˀn̩]), but not when they are followed by a syllable with a vowel (e.g. venner "friends" [ˈʋɛnɐ]). Another set of exceptions are assumed to be lexically coded as lacking stød.


Der till medh: sa wferdas de icke heller att talla som annat folck, uthan tryckia ordhen fram lika som the willia hosta, och synas endeles medh flitt forwendhe ordhen i strupan, for sen de komma fram...
Also this: nor do they stoop ('worthy themselves') to speak like other people, but press the words forward as if they will cough, and appear partly to deliberately turn the words around in the throat, before they come forward...

Hemming Gadh quoted by Johannes Magnus, 1554, Historia de omnibus Gothorum Sueonumque regibus[12]

Danish must have had stød already in the 16th century as a speech against the Danes by a Swedish bishop, Hemming Gadh, quoted by Johannes Magnus, mentions a particular guttural cough associated with Danish.[13] Generally it has been considered that it must have arisen sometime in the early Middle Ages, perhaps around 1300. But some scholars have suggested that it goes back to the original population groups and that the line between stød and non-stød dialects represent an ancient invasion from the south.[14]

Stød was first mentioned in the 1743 second treatise on orthography of Jens Pedersen Høysgaard, where he described it as stop of the breath caused by the closing of the pharynx. He was also the one to propose the term "stødetone", "thrust-tone", later abbreviated to "stød".[15][16]

The historical origin of stød is a matter of debate, but it is systematically related to the word accents of Swedish and Norwegian:[17] It has been proposed that original Old Norse monosyllables (not counting the definite article) received the stød, while words of two or more syllables did not. This would explain why hund [ˈhunˀ] ("dog"), hunden [ˈhunˀn̩] ("the dog") and finger [ˈfeŋˀɐ] ("finger"; Old Norse fingr in one syllable) have the stød in modern Danish, while hunde [ˈhunə] ("dogs"), hundene [ˈhunn̩ə] ("the dogs") and fingre [ˈfeŋʁɐ] ("fingers") do not.

It has also been proposed that it originated as a phonetic consequences of the original devoicing of Old Norse syllable-final voiced consonants in some dialect areas. This phonetic laryngealization was then phonemicized as the Scandinavian languages restructured nominal morphology introducing the definite suffixes.[18]

Dialect variation

A map showing the distribution of stød in Danish dialects. Dialects in the pink areas have stød, as in standard Danish, while those in the green ones have tones, as in Swedish and Norwegian. Dialects in the blue areas have (like Icelandic, German and English) neither stød nor tones.

Standard Danish follows the rule for stød laid out above, but in dialects there is variation. There are four main regional variants for the realization of stød: In Southeastern Jutlandic, Southernmost Funen, Southern Langeland and Ærø, there is no stød but instead a pitch accent. South of a line (Danish: Stødgrænsen "The Stød border") going through central South Jutland, crossing Southern Funen and central Langeland and north of Lolland-Falster, Møn, Southern Zealand and Bornholm there is neither stød nor pitch accent.[19] In most of Jutland and on Zealand there is stød, and in Zealandic traditional dialects and regional language there are often more stød ourrences than in the standard language.[20] In Zealand the stød line divides Southern Zealand (without stød), an area which used to be directly under the Crown, from the rest of the Island that used to be the property of various noble estates.[19]

In the dialects that have pitch accent, such as the Southern Jutlandic of Als (Synnejysk), stød corresponds to a low level tone whereas the non-stød syllable in Standard Danish corresponds to a high rising tone.[21] For example, in the following pairs:

Word Standard Danish Southern Jutlandic
[daˀ] [dàw][21]
[daːə] [dǎw][21]

On Zealand some traditional dialects have a phenomenon called short vowel stød (kortvokalstød), in which some monosyllabic words with a short vowel and a coda consonant cluster takes a stød when followed by the definite suffix. For example, præst [pʁæst] "priest", but præsten [ˈpʁæˀstn̩] "the priest".[22]

Western Jutlandic stød

In Western Jutland, a second stød, more like a preconsonantal glottal stop, is employed in addition to the standard Danish stød.[17][23]

This Western Jutlandic stød is called Vestjysk stød or "V-stød" in the literature. It occurs in different environments, particularly after stressed vowels before final consonant clusters that arise through the elision of final unstressed vowels. For example, the word "to pull" which is /ˈtrække/ in Standard Danish in Western Jutlandic is [tʁæʔk], whereas the present tense form in Standard Danish /ˈtrækker/ in Western Jutlandic is [ˈtʁæʔkə].[23][24][25] Some scholars have proposed that the Vestjysk stød is ancient,[25] whereas others consider it to be a more recent innovation.[24]

Similar phenomena in other languages

Latvian, Latgalian and the Samogitian dialect of Lithuanian exhibit a similar phenomenon, known as "broken tone" (Latvian: lauztā intonācija, Latgalian: lauztuo intonaceja, as does Livonian, the extinct Finnic language once spoken in Latvia.[26]


Works cited

  • Basbøll, Hans (2005). The Phonology of Danish. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-824268-9. 
  • Grønnum, Nina (2001) Fonetik og Fonologi - Almen og Dansk, 2. udg.. (in Danish).
  • Kiparsky, Paul (2006). "Livonian stød" (PDF). Ms. 
  • Grønnum, N.; Basbøll, H. (2007). "Danish stød: phonological and cognitive issues". In Maria-Josep Sole, Patrice Speeter Beddor, and Manjari Ohala. Experimental approaches to phonology. Oxford University Press. pp. 192–206. 
  • Riad, T. (2003). "The origin of Danish stod". In Aditi Lahiri. Analogy, Levelling, Markedness: Principles of Change in Phonology and Morphology. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 261–. 
  • Gooskens, C., & Kürschner, S. (2010). Hvilken indflydelse har danske stød og svenske ordaccenter på den dansk-svenske ordforståelse?. Svenskans beskrivning, 30, 82-91.
  • Ejskjær, I. (1990). "Stød and pitch accents in the Danish dialects". Acta linguistica hafniensia. 22 (1): 49–75. 
  • Panieri, L. (2010). "En mulig fonetisk foklaring på stødets opståen". Danske studier. 105: 5–30. 
  • Gress-Wright, J. (2008). "A simpler view of Danish stød". University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics. 14 (1): 15. 
  • Perridon, H. (2006). "On the origin of the vestjysk stød". Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik. 62: 41–50. 
  • Grønnum, N.; Vazquez-Larruscaín, M.; Basbøll, H. (2013). "Danish Stød: Laryngealization or Tone". Phonetica. 70 (1-2): 66–92. 
  • Kortlandt, F. (2010). "Vestjysk stød again". Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik. 66(1): 29–32. 
  • Basbøll, H. (2014). "Danish stød as evidence for grammaticalisation of suffixal positions in word structure". Acta Linguistica Hafniensia: 1–22. 
  • Perridon, H. (2009). "How old is the vestjysk stød?". Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik. 65: 5–10. 
  • Sweet, H. (1874). "ON DANISH PRONUNCIATION". Transactions of the Philological Society. 15 (1): 94–112. 
  • Jespersen, O. (1906). Modersmålets fonetik. Schuboth. 
  • Sørensen, V. (2011). Lyd og prosodi i de klassiske danske dialekter. Peter Skautrup Centret. 
  • Kroman, E (1980). "Debat: Stød-og accentområder og deres oprindelse". Fortid og Nutid, 1. 
  • Hansen, Aa. (1943). Stødet i dansk. De Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab Historisk-Filologiske Meddelelser. XXIX. Copenhagen: Munksgaard. 
  • Fischer-Jørgensen, Eli (1987). "A phonetic study of the stød in Standard Danish". ARIPUC. 21: 55–265. 
  • Fischer-Jørgensen, Eli (1989). "Phonetic analysis of the stød in standard Danish". Phonetica. 46: 1–59. 
  • Riad, T. (2009). "Eskilstuna as the tonal key to Danish". Proceedings Fonetik 2009. 
  • Høysgaard, J. P. (1743). Concordia res parvæ crescunt, eller Anden Prøve af Dansk Orthographie. ([Reprinted in "Danske Grammatikere", H. Bertelsen (ed), vol. IV, 217–247. Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1920, and Copenhagen: Det Danske Sprog-og Litteraturselskab, CA Reitzel 1979]. ed.). Copenhagen:: Groth. 

See also

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