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  5. Norwegian rs, kj and sk


Norwegian rs, kj and sk

Are rs, kj and sk pronounced "sh"? Are there differences in pronunciation? Three sample words and their pronunciation (as I heard them) :

norsk - noshk kjøtt - she-ut teskje - teshe

July 26, 2015



No. There are big differences between the three.

'rs' differs depending on the dialect. Eastern and northern dialects tend to pronounce it like 'sh', but southern and western dialects sound both letters individually, like 'r-s' e.g. "Mars" as 'mar-s'. Eastern and northern 'mash'.

'kj' (and 'tj') is pronounced as the 'h' in "huge" but a little bit harder. Have a sound sample: ç

'sk' is usually pronounced 'sh' before 'i' (e.g. ski - 'shi'). Otherwise just 's-k' and in 'skalle'.

I like to think of 'skj' as the bridge between the 'sj' and 'kj' sounds. It's fine to pronounce it as 'sh'.


Eastern Norwegian


Just some side notes here. I used to not say the KJ. I replaced it with SKJ, like most kids do. Especially in the urban areas. Most Norwegians view that as a speech impediment, while the linguists say that it's exciting to witness the language evolving. The KJ sound is said to die out, because it's a difficult sound. It has already died out in a lot of languages. Another language that has this sound (apart from Danish and Swedish) is Slovak. I know that because I have a colleague from Slovakia and he has the KJ sound in his name.

When my parents gave me a hard time about replacing the KJ with SKJ, I used to say that the KJ sound made my throat dry. I am perfectly able to say it, it just doesn't feel natural.

And I want to add to the RS discussion that in Eastern, Central and Northern dialects they not only merge the R and the S when they're in a word together, but also if a word that ends with R is followed by a word starting with S. "Vær så god" (" you're welcome") has the retroflex sound of RS.

And that R usually merge with D, L, N and T too in Eastern / Central / Northern dialects (like the DuoLingo voice uses). "Verden" (the world), "perle" (pearl), "jern" (iron), "flørte" (flirt). I do not have the retroflex sound in my dialect, so none of them merge in my dialect. But I have use guttural R, not the rolled R that they use in Easter, Central and Northern dialects.


All you need in order to get the sound of KJ right is to practice.

I remember back in school as a kid, we practiced this sound pretty much every day in the early years. And pronouncing it like so many young people do today was simply unacceptable.

The sound is there for a reason, to distinguish words from each other so that you do not confuse similar sounding words.


Yes. There is a big difference between 'skjede' and 'kjede', which many young people do not (can not) distinguish.


Yeah, there's a whole lot of SKJedekollisjoner happening if you talk with these people. Instead of KJedekollisjoner..

You have to laugh though, even if it is facepalm worthy.


related: i was told by a native norwegian that sjuende and tjuende sound the same. is that true? that must get confusing.

my norwegian book describes kj as a sharp version of the sound an english speaker makes when saying the beginning of “huge.” that made sense to me. it’s like the noise of the laugh ernie from sesame street makes — or he did in the 1980s!


The kj sound (tjuende) is dying and is starting to be pronounced like skj (sjuende). Mostly young people do that. Old people will tell you it's a speech impediment. Linguists will tell you that it's exciting to observe a language changing. I was born in 1984 in the South and I didn't say kj, just like most the kids around me. My family kept telling me it was a speech impediment and forced me to practice the sound. 30 years later I still mix them up sometimes... I am forcing them to start practicing saying numbers correctly though.


As far as I know, the rs, even between two different words, is pronounced like rsh. The Norwegian kj seems to be like a sh sound, but it's softer and comes mroe from the middle of the tongue, like when you say the regular k sound. I don't know about the skj, but if it's not pronounced like [ɧ], it would be a sh (Native speakers please correct me if I'm wrong with anything) :)


Yes, KJ is like a sh sound, but without the s. KJ is like the German ch, like for example "ich".


Is it the same sound or a similar one? I've really been overthinking how to pronounce the ich lately, I think.


My understanding is that 'kj' is [ç], which is like sh but a bit further back in the mouth, and that 'skj' is like "sh" but the tongue is bent backwards in the mouth, and thus touches further back. But I feel like a read somewhere that this distinction is dying out, and both are pronounced like [ç] in a lot of regions.


Tusen takk everyone, for all the details. I think what is needed is a pronunciation guide which not only has audio samples but also descriptions about the tongue shape, position and other anatomical details. I'll search the Net for one. If anyone already knows of one such guide, please share the link. Takk again.


If you can't find it all in one place, find a Norwegian pronunciation guide with the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) transcriptions, and then find a pronunciation chart for IPA, which are manifold online.


norskrød :-), Thanks for the tips.

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