Scandinavian prosody – same, but different!

NJL CoverBlog post written by Sara Juul Clausen and Line Burholt Kristensen based on an article published in Nordic Journal of Linguistics 

Can you hear the difference between the two Danish words mor and mord?

 (Click on the blue links to listen to the sound files)

mor (‘mother’) [moɐ̯]

mord (‘murder’) [moɐ̯ˀ]

Mord contains a stød /ˀ/, whereas mor doesn’t. Stød is a unique prosodic feature of Standard Danish: a creaky voice that is lexically distinctive. Though uniquely Danish in some sense, the stød/non-stød distinction can also be seen as a parallel to Swedish and Norwegian word tones (Accent 1 vs. Accent 2).

In terms of distribution, stød resembles Accent 1: If a particular Danish word is pronounced with stød, the Swedish and Norwegian equivalents of this word form will usually be pronounced with Accent 1. This also goes for suffixes. For instance, the singular definite suffix -en is associated with stød and with Accent 1, while the plural suffix -e/-ar is associated with non-stød and Accent 2.


’game’ + singular definite suffix is realized as… ’game’ + plural suffix is realized as…
Standard Danish legen [stød] lege [non-stød]
Central Swedish leken [Accent 1, i.e. low tone] lekar [Accent 2, i.e. high tone]


Despite these distributional (and diachronic) correspondences, Danish stød and Swedish/Norwegian Accent 1 are not entirely equivalent. In a recent psycholinguistic response time study, we show that the way speakers of Danish react to words with stød is similar to the way speakers of Swedish react to words with Accent 2. We therefore conclude that while stød is distributionally similar to Accent 1, the status of stød corresponds to that of Accent 2 when it comes to cognitive markedness.

 You can read the article ‘The cognitive status of stød’ from Nordic Journal of Linguistics here


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