Shwa for Swedish
Schva för svenska

Swedish is interesting for several odd features:

On top of its unusual phonology, Swedish also has odd orthography, the result of phonological processes, historical sound changes and the insufficiencies of the Roman alphabet. This makes it a good candidate for Shwa.


pojke tand katta
sparrisknopp start bort skick
barn dag bord gata
fader kjol dusch sjuk
sand land Karl
vagn jord hand
man natt barn våning
rang port r (Skåna)

The aspirated letters in the top row are used at the beginning of stressed syllables, as in English. The retroflex letters in the third column are used to show that the -r sound combines with a following consonant.

The unusual sj-ljud, IPA ɧ, is written in Shwa in two different ways: as a velar sound with labiodental frication (and a protruded upper lip) at the beginning of stressed syllables, and as a retroflex sibilant otherwise. Meanwhile, the tj-ljud, IPA ɕ, is written as an alveolo-palatal sibilant.

The initial r also has two different letters. At the beginning of stressed syllables, it's a normal alveolar trill, although in Skåna (the southern part of Sweden, which used to be Danish), it's pronounced as a guttural r like in Danish. Otherwise, it's pronounced as a retroflex approximant and colors the adjacent vowels.

Most of these consonants can be geminated, in which case they're simply written twice.


sill sil syll syl full ful bott bot
hetta hel nött nöt begå moll mål
häll häl matt mat

There are two contrasting front rounded vowels, differing mostly in whether the rounding is protruded or compressed (compressed is the norm for front rounded vowels). The back rounded bott/bot vowel also has unusual rounding, compressed instead of the usual protruded. But in Shwa, we ignore the lip rounding and focus on position, treating the full/ful vowel as further back.

The low vowels are lowered when followed by an r or a retroflex consonant, but Shwa doesn't write that.

The begå vowel replaces the hetta and hel vowels in unstressed syllables. Other vowels may also be reduced when unstressed.


Like English or German, Swedish distinguishes stressed and unstressed syllables : stressed syllables are pronounced longer, louder and with a pitch fall. Unlike English and German, Swedish can have two stressed syllables in a single word. When this happens, one of the two has a pitch rise instead of a fall ... but which one depends on the dialect.

Shwa doesn't write these tonal word accents. However, Shwa does write the two stressed vowels high :

the duck
the spirit


Now that you've learned the letters, why don't you try reading a sentence?

Envar sin egen lyckas smed

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