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How Many Vowel Sounds Are There in the Danish Language?

Young Danish students experience difficulties comprehending vowel-abundant phrases or sentences because Danes usually swallow their words, with only a quarter of the syllables enunciated. These factors contribute to an overall delay in the language learning of Danish children. Moreover, regardless of the language similarities, Danish adults rely more on context to understand ambiguous sentences when compared with Norwegian adults. 

In Denmark, children face difficulties learning the Danish language due to the 40 vowel sounds the tongue contains. Not only that, but many consonants sound like vowels when spoken verbally. 

A Brief Intro to the Origins of the Danish Tongue

The Danish language originates from a commonly spoken Germanic language in Scandanavia and Proto-Norse; it went through numerous changes in the 8th century and eventually led to the formation of the Old Norse. With that, the Old Norse birthed two more dialects. The Old West Norse in Norway and Iceland, and Old East Norse in Denmark and Sweden.

The Swedish and the Danish language contain many similarities in the roots of their tongue; this is primarily because both languages developed from the dialect group of the East Nordics. Prior to the 12th century, the Runic Swedish in Sweden and the Runic Danish in Denmark were generally the same, with both primary bodies of texts of the Old East Norse present in the runic alphabet. (Source: The Translation Company

The Struggles With the Vowel-Abundant Language

In a study entitled Danish as a Window Onto Language Processing and Learning written by researchers from the Puzzle of Danish and Aarhus University and Cornell, findings strongly indicate the difficulties Danish children face in learning their language. (Source: Language Learning

One is more prone to struggle in learning Danish due to three primary reasons. Firstly, the Danish language contains 40 vowel sounds; meanwhile, the English language only has 13 to 15. In addition to that, when spoken verbally, many consonants sound similar to vowels. With that said, Danish people also tend to exclude a quarter of all syllables as they swallow the end part of their words.

With that, the researchers noticed that Danish children aged 2-years-old take more time understanding vowel-filled sentences since the words aren’t distinct from each other when compared with consonant-laden sentences.

Due to the Danish language’s sound structure, toddlers and children struggle in learning the language. In contrast to Norwegians who annunciate their consonants despite the similarity in their language, Danes become more reliant on the context of a conversation and their general knowledge when presented with ambiguous sentences.

In terms of early education, Danish children continue to face struggles. As opposed to Norwegian children, Danish children know 30% lesser words in 15 months, needing an estimate of two years to learn their past tenses. (Source: The Conversation

Unlike closely related languages, Danish has an unusually reduced phonetic structure, which seemingly delays Danish-learning children in several aspects of their language acquisition. Adult language use appears to be affected as well, resulting, among other things, in an increased dependence on top-down information in comprehension.

Danish as a Window Onto Language Processing and Learning

(Source: Language Learning)

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