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So are "vi" and "de" pronounced like "vir" and "dom"?

March 25, 2015



I'm going to try to cover all of the discussions above in this reply.

First of all, <vi> is pronounced /viːʲ/. When i is long, there's a weak final /j/ sound (English y in 'yes') following it, that might be what you're hearing.

As for de/dem. They're both pronounced /dɔm/ in standard Sweden Swedish. In standard Finland Swedish they're pronounced /diː/ and /dɛm/ respectively. In older standard Swedish they were pronounced /diː/ and /dɔm/ (sometimes /dɛm/), and you can still find this pronunciation with older people. Pronouncing <de> as /de:/ has never been the casual pronunciation of that word (at least not in the last 500 years or so), and I've personally never once heard it used in natural speech - it's always been a markedly formal pronunciation. I've only ever heard it when (young) people read things aloud in classes, and to me it doesn't even sound formal, it just sounds like the person in question is trying to follow the spelling blindly. But I may be biased... The people who I know that pronounce <de> as anything but /dɔm/, all pronounce it /diː/ (and they're generally born in the 1920-30s).

Pronuncing <de> as /dɔm/ (or more technically, using <dem> as a subject form) has been common in Central and Northern Sweden for at least 300 years. In Standard Swedish it has been the norm for maybe 75 years? A hundred years ago virtually all of Southern Sweden still distinguished between di and dom. No traditional dialect pronounced <de> as /deː/.

The change /dɛm/ > /dɔm/ is indeed because of the /m/ (it's an instance of labialization). This shift is about 6-700 years old in Swedish (yes, really), and also happened in the word <som>, which in Icelandic, that lacks this change, is <sem>. The pronoun det might have played a part in helping shifting de to di, but more likely it was due to analogy with the other plural pronouns vi and (n)i. The traditional (as in historical) pronunciation of <det> is not /de:t/, but /dɛ:/ ().


Excellent reply! Thanks for that.


That's weird, I don't think I've ever heard anyone pronounce de /diː/, outside of what sounds like pretty odd dialects to me, but I've heard /deː/ occasionally.


When I took a couple years of public school Swedish in the Pacific Northwest back in the mid 1960s, both my teachers used /di/ and /dɛm/, a decade later when I took Swedish at UCSB and first heard the /dɔm/ business to me it sounded like saying 'them' or 'dem' for 'they' in English and it was hard for me to believe that it had emerged as the standard.

Should I try to switch to the new standard, or will my age let me get away with the old forms?



Maybe it is regional, the first pronunciation of "de" by itself sounds like "dom" to me too, but the rest of them with other words,don't. http://www.forvo.com/search-sv/de/


In your list, many of the de are not cases of the pronoun de. de facto is a latin expression, de Geer is a name and so on. In two cases, there are instances of 'reading pronunciation', the speakers who say I de blindas rike … and miljöpartiet de gröna are trying to speak clearly, and since they're reading, they're pronouncing the words as they are written, not as they (probably) normally would.

There are some regions where de is pronounced as if it were written di, but in most of Sweden (and increasingly, in Finland too), it is always pronounced dom. When reading aloud however, people can easily happen to say it as it is written.


Thank you ! That explains a lot! So, if I understand correctly "de" used to be pronounced differently and still may be when read as written, but the pronunciation has changed in spoken language in most of Sweden to "dom"?


Yes, but the dom pronunciation is a very old phenomenon, and the 'reading pronunciation' is rather a new phenomenon than something left behind from old times. (when de would be pronounced as di, not de).


Just curious, how old? Because I think I read somewhere that it's something that has become widespread in the last 30-40 years. Do you have a source?

Also, do you know if it was the shift of <det> from /deːt/ to /deː/ that caused the similar /diː/ (or possibly /deː/) to be overtaken by /dɔm/?

Has <de> been pronounced /de:/ in any dialect in recent times?

And I just though of this now, but is it possible that the shift /dem/ → /dɔm/ is because of assimilation of /e/ to /m/? I wonder if there are any other examples of this in Swedish...


We had a long discussion about this in our group, some of the other mods know more about it so I'll ask them to step in here, dialects aren't really my area.

Edit: see answers in Blehg:s post which is now at the top of the page.


I'm not certain of what you mean by vir, but de and dom are not pronounced the same. Dom is actually a colloquialism that can be used in place of either de or dem. It's actually so common that I've found that many people don't even know the difference between the the two of them (i.e. de dem).

Anyway, that was a bit of a tangent, but the answer, at least in regards to de/dom: no, they are not pronounced the same ^^

Edit: I just did a search and found that /dɔm/ is actually an acceptable pronunciation, and that /deː/ is considered at least somewhat formal. I would rather see that people differentiated properly between them in writing as well as speech, but there you go~~


de and dem are definitely pronounced the same in all but formal language, and very often not there, either. I don't think even one out of a thousand Swedes pronounce them differently in everyday speech. However, dom is another word which means judgment and isn't pronounced like de/dem.

I definitely agree that it would be nice if people were better at differentiating between them in writing though. :)


I'm sorry, you are thinking of /dum/, which is quite different from /dɔm/. I agree that it's not pronounced like de/dem, however, it was/is an alternative, informal pronunciation that has since then been given it's own spelling, dom.

I wouldn't say that de and dem are pronounced the same, since these days dom has actually become its own word. However, what I have noticed is that, when many people try to be what one might call "proper", they mix de and dem freely, so that you can get such gems as Dem hälsade på mig igår (They visited me yesterday [lit. trans. Them visited me yesterday) or Jag gav det till de (I gave it to them [lit. trans. I gave it to they]).

It's somewhat similar to the whole their/they're situation, actually ^^

Oh, and I should admit, I'm one of those few who use de/dem when speaking, but I do it properly, at least ^^


Yes, thank you. I am well aware of the difference between the senses of dom and dom - that's what I was trying to point out, but I phrased it badly.

It's true that dom has become a word of its own. That isn't an argument for de and dem being pronounced the same or not the same, though. I stand by my opinion. :)

The problem with written Swedish is that people simply don't know the difference between the two, so they just choose either (usually dem) and hope for the best. Frankly, I blame schooling rather than negligence - better education would nip that problem in the bud.

What do you mean that you "do it properly, at least"?


Hm, I see... I'm a bit confused about what you mean now. Do you mean that de/dem are both pronounced dom? In that case I would agree, but I would say that it's not the whole story. Also, dom is acceptable in informal writing in place of de/dem, if your point is that dom as a written word doesn't exist. I also don't agree about the statement that de/dem are exclusively part of the formal register, but that's less important. Or do you know of another pronunciation between them?

I would say that it's not exclusively a problem in written language, I'm totally serious when I say that people, in an attempt to sound refined, do attempt to use de and dem but they don't know when to use which.

I simply meant that I use de and dem as their function dictates (well, I've probably slipped sometime, but I try to be aware of which one I use). It feels a bit arrogant to restate it like this, but most other ways I can come up with sounds even more so ><

As something of a side note, I don't actually mind the use of dom in neither speech nor writing, I actually prefer it to people misusing de/dem ^^


I'll list what I'm saying to minimise the risk of further confusion. :)

  • de and dem are almost always both pronounced dom (but not as in the judgment sense, which is pronounced differently).
  • dom clearly exists as a word of its own. But you're saying that "that de and dem are pronounced the same" because dom exists, and this is not true. They could be pronounced dom or de, or flygplan - the pronounciation of dom is not necessarily causal relation despite its origin.
  • I should not say that de/dem are exclusively formal. In fact, I've made the counterargument quite recently. What I should say is that to pronounce them as anything but dom is very, very rare. Remember that this is a thread for people learning the basics of Swedish - beginners should definitely be taught the dom pronounciation.

I have not once in my life heard anybody confuse de and dem in spoken language, but it's possible, of course. Hardly common, though.

To be honest, I can't think of any way to make that statement without it sounding very pretentious either. :) But you only wrote it because I asked you to, so I don't find it arrogant.


Still a bit confused about one point, though I do suspect that it is because I was unclear or made a mistake while writing. Anyway, I'll also try this in point form as to be as clear as possible:

  • This is true, and I fully agree. That's why I used the IPA in the first comment. It may have been unclear that it applied to all of de/dem/dom however, as I did it in an edit where I didn't really mention dom.
  • I actually meant the opposite, that dom exists because de/dem has come to be pronounced /dɔm/, it was something akin to slang in the beginning, unless I'm mistaken (or at least it was considered as such for a long time). However, it has become more accepted, although only in informal speech/writing, and consequently now exists as its own word.
  • I don't know if I would call it very rare, although rarer than I would like. I actually would find de/dem a better place to start, and then (or simultaneously) introduce dom as an alternative.

I have probably heard it more often than I've seen it in writing. I don't know why. We have very different perspectives on this issue, it seems XD


2) Yes, then we agree on that.

Where do you live? I'm just curious. I've resided in Småland, Skåne, Östergötland, Uppland, Södermanland, Västerbotten, Dalarna, and Västergötland, so I'm honestly confused about where on earth people regularly not only try to use de and dem but also fail to do so. :)


I thought so, reading what you said ^^

I'm from the northern Stockholm area. I must add though, I've mostly heard Swedes studying in Japan having these problems. To some extent in Swedish universities as well, but not to the same extent.

I must say, having read discussions regarding the dom, I have been a bit surprised. It just feels so wrong to pronounce de/dem dom, at least to me, but it seems that it's more widespread than I thought XD


First, I would like to say that the mere fact everyone here shares such a bond in their zeal for language learning just sets my nerdy polyglot heart to giddy delight. Thank you for this forum; for, as a novice learner of Swedish, I was quite curious about the pronunciation of the pronoun "de." Your responses were most helpful and quite entertaining.


I can't really hear any difference in de/dem,i hear both pronounced as dɔm.Would i be mistaken if i pronounced it like /diː/ and /dɛm/ ? In the spoken exercise i had trouble differentiating those,as they both sounded the same to me.So could i pronounce it like that,or do i just have to learn in which context is each used ? Actually pronouncing it like that wouldn't help with the fact that the Swedish pronounce it both the same,but i'm still curious.


They are exactly the same in spoken Swedish. Both are /dɔm/.

You shouldn't pronounce it /diː/ and /dɛm/, it'll just sound weird and overly literal.

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