How to Pronounce the "stød" or Glottal Stop in Danish

avatarMille Larsen
5 mins read

The "stød" is a feature in Danish pronunciation that many learners of Danish struggle to get right.

It's often characterized as what's more generally called a "glottal stop" in linguistics. Some argue, however, that the stød is not exactly the same thing and that especially some dialects of Danish use the feature in a much more subtle way than you'd see in a language like Arabic. (Also known for using the Glottal stop)

What Is "Stød" In The Danish Language?

"Stød" in Danish means "Thrust" or "push" and that word more or less describes how the glottal stop is pronounced. A word that uses stød is pronounced by "pushing" air rapidly through your throat, then cutting it short. (By stopping your glottis, or vocal cords).

Curiously, the word "stød" isn't pronounced with the "stød" feature. You can pronounce that one normally!

Stød Is (Rarely) Used In English Too

In English, the glottal stop is used when you say "Uh-oh!" - here the first "Uh" sound is cut short at the end. The glottal stop is also used in some British dialects of English, namely Cockney, which is known for turning double t's into a glottal stop in words like "butter" (bu'er).

A few examples of Danish words that use stød versus words without the glottal stop

I could spend all day explaining what the stød sounds like in Danish, but if I were a learner of the Danish language, I'd prefer to listen to some examples where I could compare words that use stød and words that don't.

So that's exactly what I've made in the following! I've recorded the words individually and in example sentences. And just to make things clearer, I've put the words that use stød in bold and those that don't in cursive.

Mother / Murder

Han siger godmorgen til sin mor

He says good morning to his mother

Han begår et mord

He commits a murder

She / Dog

Hun spiser et æble

She eats an apple

Han går en tur med sin hund

He walks his dog

Hi / Shark

Hun siger hej til sin nabo

She says hello to her neighbor

Hun ser en haj i havet

Se sees a shark in the sea

Friend / Turn

Hun hilser på en ven

She greets a friend

Vend bilen

Turn the car around

One / Man

Kan man købe brød på tanken?

Can one buy bread at the gas station?

Hun så en mand købe en is

She saw a man buy an ice cream

Run / Fire

Il ned på posthuset*

Run down to the post office

Der er ild i skoven

There's a fire in the woods

*Note that the word "il" is almost never used like this. This is meant as an example

Other / The Duck

Jeg tog en anden bus

I took another bus

Hun fodrede anden med brød

She fed the duck with bread

Beans / Farmers

Spis dine bønner!

Eat your beans!

Jeg spørger en flok bønder om vej

I ask directions form a group of farmers

Happens / Hands

Det hænder at det sner i april

It happens that it snows in April

Jeg vasker mine hænder

I wash my hands

Stød Can Also Be Characterized As A Form Of "Vocal Fry"

According to linguists, the Danish "Stød" can actually be considered a form of "Vocal Fry", which is something that appears in different forms in different languages.

In American English, vocal fry sometimes exists as a form of "creaky voice". In the US, this "creaky voice" phenomenon mainly manifests itself in a certain social group, and it's more current among young women than with any other group. By many, the American "creaky voice" is associated with some stigma and prejudice - something you can learn more about in this video.

You might think that the Danish "Stød" and the American "creaky voice" sound nothing alike. That's true, but that's because they're used differently. While the Danish "stød" is mainly a way of "cutting short" a word, the "creaky voice" is applied throughout the whole word, but what happens in your vocal cords is very similar.

What really happens when you speak with the creaky voice (or pronounce stød) is that you're drawing the arytenoid cartilages in your larynx together, which compresses your vocal cords. (Which is why the creaky voice is also called "laryngelisation".)

This actually lowers the frequency of the sound you're pronouncing, which makes a continuous word sound "raspy" or "creaky", but in turn, makes it easier to stop short in pronouncing a word with a glottal stop or "stød".

Did that help?

To some people, the "stød" is quite difficult. I hope that the above examples helped you make out the difference between words with and without stød.

I've you still find it difficult to hear the difference, don't worry too much about it. Native Danes will be able to work out what you're saying, and it's not the end of the world!

If you'd like to learn more about the Danish language, go read my article on how to learn Danish from home. Or use the search form on the top of this page to look for other articles on Danish.

If you found the above article helpful, or if you have any comments, questions or tips, don't hesitate to write a comment below!