Stress and melody

In a Danish phrase, stress and melody are two sides of the same phenomenon. The melody of a Danish phrase is bound in waves - called stress groups: a stressed syllable that may be preceded by a run-up of unstressed syllables and followed by a number of unstressed syllables. The pitch is flat through the run-up, it rises through the stressed syllable, reaches its top at the start of the following syllable and then falls until the next wave rolls in. (In Copenhagen and eastern DK). Click on the picture to hear.

Easterntrykgrupper Westerntrykgrupper

The up-tone stress is the same for all waves. But the shape of the backside of the wave is depending on the spacing between two stresses - the number of unstressed syllables:

Go up on stresses

The most importing thing to learn is to go up in pitch through the stressed syllables - the rising is quite steap, about four tones in very little time. The overall melody is formed by the spacing and distribution of the stresses. The highest pitch you'll find just after the first stress - the top of the first wave. The waves are running down a slope throughout the phrase - each stressed syllable starts at a pitch a little lower than the preceding, which means that the average pitch is falling from the first stress and out - also in a question. Danish phrases only go up in the end if the first stress is located there. Click on picture to hear.



Before the first stress comes a flat run-up: short syllables in a high tempo:


Run-up may also occur between stresses: after about 3 unstressed syllables the falling of the pitch flattens out in a run-up to the next stress.


When two syllables become one

A lot of Danish words ending on -e seem to have two syllables but are pronounced as one. In these words the pitch rises more and for a longer time. Click on picture to hear.

Kan du lige købe fire pærer? [ka du lii køøb fiia pææa]


Emphasis - contrasting and underlining

The base line of the stresses mark the starting pitch for the stressed syllables. But as in many other languages emphasizing or contrasting will lift a stressed syllable from the baseline - and the rest of the wave will follow. when the emphasis is over, the tone will fall back to the base line.:

trykgrupper trykgrupper