Beverly Hills Lingual Institute
Beverly Hills Lingual Institute
Beverly Hills Lingual Institute
Beverly Hills Lingual Institute

Blog   |   Language, Learning and Culture

Classes in More than 25 Languages return to blog index

Uh-Oh The Glottal Stop

What is a glottal stop? It is the sound "euh." You can hear it by making the sound, "uh-oh." Technically, it's where the vocal chords come together, stop the breath and therefore the sound, and then release. It is produced by a sudden contraction of the expiration muscles.

The glottal sound is present in all dialects of English, although it's probably most prevalent in the "cockney" accent (where "buh-uh" refers to "butter," "twi-er" might be "twitter," or even where the glottal stop replaces the "h" sound in "ow d'you do?")

We've found that our Danish students can have trouble imitating the glottal stop used in that language.

The rules are fairly simple. If the vowel of the syllable in question is long, the glottal stop occurs at the end of the vowel; if the vowel is short, the glottal stop is pronounced before the following consonant. In a syllable with a short vowel and a voiceless consonant, there is no glottal stop.

Although the glottal stop is not used in all regions of Denmark, it is important to pronounce it because, otherwise, words may be misunderstood. For example, le'ver (with a glottal stop) means liver, whereas lever (without a glottal stop) means to live.

Danish is of course closely related to Swedish and Norwegian. We've seen steadily growing interest in all three. They are closely related and belong to the Northern Germanic linguistic group. Although they are three distinct languages, native speakers of these tongues can generally understand one another, particularly when communicating in writing. Linguistically, Swedish and Danish have common origins, although, as Denmark and Norway were unified for the four hundred years prior to 1814, Norwegian and Danish developed similarities.

In fact, bokmål, one of the two official dialects spoken in Norway, is sometimes referred to as "Dano-Norwegian." The two languages also share the same alphabet, which comprises all the letters of the English alphabet, with the additional vowels: æ, ø and å.

These three Scandinavian languages, together with German, Dutch, and English, all stem from the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family. Thus Danish has linguistic ties with English and the two languages share hundreds of words that differ only slightly in spelling and pronunciation.

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