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In evaluating the languages of the region, several trends become clear. First, unusual consonants persist in Iceland, England, and Denmark. Second, rounded front vowels are common in mainland Europe, but have fallen off in English and Yiddish.


The rhotic varies across the region, and h is sometimes voiced, but neither of these pose a problem to intelligibility. Icelandic-speakers would have to learn the traditional voiced-unvoiced distinction whatever language they wanted to learn!

Labial Alveolar Post. Velar Glottal
Nasal /m/ /n/
Voiced Stop /b/ /d/ /g/
Unvoiced Stop /p/ /t/ /k/
Voiced Fricative /v/ */z/ */θ~ð/
Unvoiced Fricative /f/ /s/ /ʃ/ /x/ /h/
Approximant /r/ /j/
Lateral /l/

There are set digraphs for non-Germanic sounds: Some non-Germanic sounds are used in transcription:

  • zj = [ž] or [zh] or /ʒ/
  • cj = [č] or [ch] or /tʃ/


There are twelve vowels, six short and six long. All vowels raise when they lengthen, excepta, which moves further back. A vowel is long when it is:

  1. stressed and
  2. followed by no more than a single consonant

All other vowels are pronounced short, or even reduced. Vowels written twice are said over two syllables.

Round Front Middle Back
High /ʏ/ /yː/ /ɪ/ /iː/ /ʊ/ /uː/
Mid. /œ/ /øː/ /ɛ/ /eː/ /ə/ * /ɔ/ /oː/
Low /a/ /äː/

Diphthongs are oi, ou, ai, ei. au is the same as ou. eu is just long u.


Phonotactics are widely permissive. sCCVVCCC and ʃCCVVCCC can happen. CVC is the most common.




Stress is on the first syllable, but does not move with the addition of prefixes. Conjunctions, prepositions, articles, and other particles are proclictic -- unaccented and acting like prefixes in terms of stress.