The phonology of Faroese
has an inventory similar to the closely related Icelandic language
, but markedly different processes differentiate the two. Similarities include an aspiration contrast in stop consonants, the retention of front rounded vowels and vowel quality changes instead of vowel length distinctions.
* and appear only in loanwords.
* The long mid vowels tend to be diphthongized to .
* According to the mean formant values of the native vowels (so excluding and ) in , cited in :
** are more open than the corresponding tense vowels, with being the most open of the three () and having the same F1 value as the back . The F2 value of is closer to that of , which means that it is a front vowel.
** and especially are more open than the phonetically close-mid (, often diphthongized to ). Both and are more open than the corresponding short vowels; in addition, is more central than any of the mid front vowels, including , whereas is the most front of the mid vowels. This suggests that they are best transcribed and in narrow transcription, at least in the case of the monophthongal variants (Árnason reports opening diphthongs and as one common type of realization of and . Those diphthongs have considerably more close starting points).
** The F1 value of is just slightly higher than that of , suggesting that it is a near-open vowel. In addition, its F2 value is closer to than , which suggests that it is a near-open near-back vowel .
** is considerably more close than but not as close as . It is more front than , which suggests that it is a mid front vowel .
** has the same F1 value as , which suggests that it is also true-mid . The remaining short mid is more open than those two, suggesting as the best narrow transcription.
As with other Germanic languages, Faroese has a large number of vowel phonemes; by one analysis, long and short vowels may be considered separate phonemes, with 26 in total. Vowel distribution is similar to other North Germanic languages in that short vowels appear in closed syllables (those ending in consonant clusters or long consonants) and long vowels appearing in open syllables.
Faroese avoids having a hiatus
between two vowels by inserting a glide
There is considerable variation among dialects in the pronunciation of vowels.
upright=0.9|Map showing major Faroese isogloss
The only unstressed vowels in Faroese are short ; these appear in inflectional endings: ''áðrenn'' (e.g. 'before'). Very typical are endings like ''-ur'', ''-ir'', ''-ar''. The dative is often indicated by .
* – ''bátar'' ('boats'), ''kallar'' ('ou
* – ''gestir'' ('guests'), ''dugir'' ('ou
* – ''bátur'' ('boat'), ''gentur'' ('girls'), ''rennur'' ('ou
In some dialects, unstressed short is realized as or is reduced further to . goes under a similar reduction pattern as it varies between so unstressed and can rhyme. This can cause spelling mistakes related to these two vowels. The following table displays the different realizations in different dialects.
The so-called "skerping" ( 'sharpening')
[Þráinsson et al. use the term "Faroese Verschärfung"]
is a typical phenomenon of fronting back vowel
s before and monophthongizing
s before long . Skerping is not indicated orthographically.
*: ''Jógvan'' (a form of the name John), ''gjógv
*: ''kúgv'' ('cow'), ''trúgva'' ('believe'), but: ''trúleysur'' ('faithless')
*: ''heyggjur'' ('high'), but ''heygnum'' ('high at. sg.
*: ''nýggjur'' ('new .
), but ''nýtt'' ('New n.
*: ''beiggi'' ('brother')
*: ''oyggj'' ('island'), but ''oynna'' ('island cc. sg.
* are normally labiodental
, but may sometimes be bilabial
(). Intervocalic is normally an approximant , whereas word-initial varies between an approximant and a fricative .
* is dental , whereas vary between being dental and (less commonly) alveolar .
* Initial is dental or alveolar . Postvocalic may be more of a postalveolar
lateral , especially after back vowels.
* are palato-alveolar
, and vary between stops and affricates .
* are velar, whereas is glottal.
There are several phonological
processes involved in Faroese, including:
s are devoiced
before voiceless consonant
s generally assume the place of articulation
settings of following consonants.
*Velar stop consonant
s () palatalize
to postalveolar affricate
s before .
* becomes devoiced to before voiceless consonant
* before another consonant becomes after
* becomes before (but in morphological forms often word internally, i.e. ''elski'' 'I love')
es itself as well as following consonants in consonant cluster
s, yielding the allophones while itself becomes , example: ; preaspirated consonant
s devoice the rhotic
: example: ; is usually (only in some loanwords ). Voiceless is usually realised as .
of original to and to .
*Intervocalically the aspirated consonant
s become pre-aspirated
unless followed by a closed vowel
. In clusters, the preaspiration merges with a preceding nasal or apical approximant
, rendering them voiceless, example:
Omissions in consonant clusters
Faroese tends to omit the first or second consonant in clusters of different consonants:
*''fjals'' ('mountain's') instead of from (''nom.''). Other examples for genitives are: ''barns'' ('child's'), ''vatns'' ('water's').
*''hjálpti'' ('helped') ''past sg.'' instead of from ''hjálpa'' . Other examples for past forms are: ''sigldi'' ('sailed'), ''yrkti'' ('wrote poetry').
are ''fylgdi'' ('followed') and ''fygldi'' ('caught birds with a net'): .
*skt will be:
*# in words of more than one syllable: ''føroyskt'' ('Faroese' ''n. sg.'';) ''russiskt'' ('Russian' ''n. sg.''), ''íslendskt'' ('Icelandic' ''n. sg.'').
*# in monosyllables: ''enskt'' ('English' ''n. sg.''), ''danskt'' ('Danish' ''n. sg.''), ''franskt'' ('French' ''n. sg.''), ''spanskt'' ('Spanish' ''n. sg.''), ''svenskt'' ('Swedish' ''n. sg.''), ''týskt'' ('German' ''n. sg.'').
*#*However in: ''írskt'' ('Irish' ''n. sg.''), ''norskt'' ('Norwegian' ''n. sg.)