Sunday, February 05, 2006

I should have known: The voiceless palatal-velar fricative, voiceless dorso-palatal velar fricative, voiceless postalveolar and velar fricative, voiceless coarticulated velar and palatoalveolar fricative are unique to the Swedish language.

In other words, no other recorded language uses this weird sound - spelled with an sk, sj or sometimes even skj - which to my best reckoning is like trying to say an English sh and w at the same time. It is, undoubtedly, the most difficult thing to approximate when you start learning to speak Swedish. And plenty of people never master it, I suppose, opting for a plain old sh, which is more or less how upper class ladies (at least they would describe themselves as ladies) from Stockholm's upper class neighborhood pronounce it.

I've long gotten over the voiceless palatal-velar fricative, though. Strangely, it's the vowels that still get me sometimes - being consistent with my long and short vowels (or is that vowels before long and short consonants?).

The Swedish phrase for the day is sjuttiosju sjösjuka sjömän sköttes av sju sköna sjuksköterskor, which means 77 seasick sailors were nursed by seven fair nurses.

- by Francis S.

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