Level A1

Stress on words

Words are always pronounced with the stress (the emphasis) on the first part (the first syllable) of the word:
  • “maður” is pronounced MAÐur
  • “tölvurnar” is pronounced TÖLVurnar
  • “syngjandi” is pronounced SYNGjandi
Be aware that this also applies to words of a foreign origin:
  • “Ameríka” is pronounced AMeríka
  • “japanska” is pronounced JAPanska
In compound words, the sub-words can have stress, but the main emphasis is on the beginning of the word:
  • “forsætisráðherra” is pronounced FORsætisRÁÐherra
  • “vetrarskór” is pronounced VETrarSKÓR
  • “vegavinnufyrirtæki” is pronounced VEGavinnuFYRirtæki
  • “heimsótt” is pronounced HEIM SÓTT

Stress in sentences

There’s no requirement that you have to place a stress on the start of every word (although that is the only place you can place a stress). In sentences, it is sufficient to keep the stress only on important words and on words you want to highlight. (See the article on intonation for examples.)

Unstressed words don’t have long sounds

Have a look at this sentence:
  • MAMma og PABbi ætla að koma á EFtir”.
If we wanted to, we could have placed stress on the word “koma”, but we don’t have to. The O in “koma” is normally a long sound, but long sounds can only exist where there is stress. Therefore we pronounce a short O sound in that sentence.
All long sounds become short when a word is unstressed.

Unstressed words don’t have the small breaths

The word “ekki” is pronounced [e(h)ki], with a small breath of air being blown out right before the kk. If the word is stressed, the small breath of air is absolutely necessary – without it people cannot understand you. However, if the word is unstressed there’s no need for the breath. You can (and should) just pronounce it as [eki].
  • ÞAÐ er ekki RÉTT”, meaning “that’s not true” is pronounced [það er iggi rétt]
  • það er EKKi RÉTT”, meaning “that’s not true” is pronounced [það er e(h)ki rétt]