Anonymous asked in Society & CultureLanguages · 1 decade ago

Difference between Icelandic þ and ð pronunciation?

Just wondering what's the difference in pronunciation between þ and ð in Icelandic. It seems they both have a "th" sound in English, like in 'the' or 'thick'.

7 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Best Answer

    Okay, this is a fun one, because in many causes, they are the same in Icelandic. On the basic form of the sounds, ð is supposed to be like the Thy, in the old English form. The other, þ from runic, is supposed to sound like Thigh as in the part of your body. Listen to the difference between THY and THIGH, and you will hear the difference.

    If you want the Phonetic difference, feel your throat and say a very long th in Thy, and then feel it again when you say Thigh(try this, seriously, you will notice a difference, I've seen the shock on many people's faces when they do this and realize what I'm saying). You will notice for the second one, when you make the th sound your throat will not vibrate, but the first one, they do. This is the physical difference between them.

    However, Icelandic has so many weird rules with how ð combines with other letters, most of the time it sounds like þ anyway. In Icelandic, when eth (the first one), is combined with another sound which doesn't vibrate the throat, eth becomes the second one, thorn.

    What happens is, we have something call voiced and voiceless sounds (can you guess which is which based on the above criteria?). Most sounds have a voiced and voiceless (also called devoiced) sound. We have pairs like, /b/ vs. /p/, /z/ vs. /s/, /v/ vs. /f/, /g/ vs. /k/, amongst a good many others. But in English, as well as most languages, you cannot have two sounds of different voicings mix, without devoicing or voicing the other. So for example, we have "walk." Then we have "walked" with a K+D sound, but it sounds like "walkt". Or "dog" Then when we make it plural, we have "dogs" but G+S don't go well together phonetically, so then we get "dogz" at least in how it sounds.

    A few sounds in English are always voiced and do mix, these include sounds like y, m, n, r, l, and w (which historically had a devoiced form "wh"). There are more, but they are just variations of those. The first part is, y and w, what we call approximates, and in these cases they are also semi-vowels, variations of /i/ and /u/ respectively. But we can combine them in words like "beTWeen" and an unwritten y in "fume" and "puny". Then we have r and l, which are what we call liquids, the first being rhotic, and the second being lateral. We lots of combinations with these, such as "try," "pride," "frighten," "cloud," "cradle," "three," and "sleep."

    And lastly we have the nasals, m, and n, (we can include a nasal sound which is kind of the ng in singing, but it's just a variation on n). Words ending in -ment, like "Government," "establishment" and other words like "comfort," "ramparts," "entrap" "snow" "sink," "chance,"

    and "length."

    Those are all examples of how a devoiced sound can mix with a voiced sound.

    However, in Icelandic, all the aboved mentioned "mixing" is thrown out the window, because all of those sounds become devoiced next to a devoiced sound. This is very hard for speakers of English since we don't have a devoiced "m" "n" "l" and "r".

    Source(s): Comparative linguist who studies phonetics.
  • 1 decade ago

    Great answer, Timothy!

    You identified the voiced/voiceless pair. Then you muddled things by talking about the real world.

    I visited the Icelandic Cultural Center in North Dakota where I tried to read an 18th-century bible, but failed miserably.

    Good on ya!!

  • 4 years ago

    Excellent answer, I'm currently learning old English and it really is fascinating at how different yet the same modern English us compared to that of the Anglo Saxon period.

  • 1 decade ago

    One is the voiced th the other one the voiceless

    sorry can't type them on my keyboard.

    the first one is the th in to think

    the other the th in father

    Source(s): Native German frequently travel to iceland
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  • 4 years ago

    One is th as in with, another is th as in this

  • 4 years ago

    The ð is like the thi in this and the þ like the th in that

  • Jeanne
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

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