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I came across this Google Translate pronunciation of 1991 (which it appears to be interpreting as the year rather than the cardinal or ordinal); click the thumbnail for the video on YouTube:

YouTube video

I don’t know if this pronunciation is accurate for an L1 Danish speaker, but it’s very hard for me to even get my head around, even slowing down the audio and listening over and over. Danish number construction is a bit complex, so I’m not sure

  • what words it’s saying (I’m pretty sure it’s nitten hundrede og enoghalvfems, though I really think I hear an extra syllable in there somewhere between hundrede and enoghalvfems), [See below the line at the bottom of this question for the answer to this; it appears to be nitten hundrede og en-og-halvfems or something close to that.]
  • how you’d transcribe those words into IPA, and
  • whether those words are even correct for the year 1991.

As I said, by giving 1991 context I was able to hear different pronunciations for counting 1,991 things vs. the 1,991st thing vs. the year 1991, and the last is the only one I find completely puzzling.

(I know that speakers of other mutually-intelligible languages with Danish like Swedish frequently make fun of Danish numbers, so I imagine something strange is going on here; I just don’t know what.)


p.s. I have added another video using the input “nitten hundrede og en-og-halvfems, 1991”. Except for intonation, these two seem to be the same? So I think that mystery’s been solved. But how to transcribe it?

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I’ll refer to the two versions you’ve recorded as recording A (“1991” written in numbers) and recording B (“nitten hundrede og en-og-halvfems”) for simplicity.

Of these two, A is the more accurate of the two.

This is not surprising, since the correct spelling of 91 in letters in Danish is enoghalvfems with no hyphens; the hyphens appear to be throwing Google Translate for a loop in recording B, so that it somehow ends up with a stressed og (which would never occur in real life).

Recording A is actually quite good – apart from being a bit slow and with slightly unusual intonation, it sounds quite natural. It is definitely saying nitten hundrede og enoghalvfems, which is correct and how you would say it in natural speech (though the first og would more commonly be left out in speech).

Danish can be tricky to transcribe accurately in IPA due to the large inventory of mid-to-high front vowels and the phoneme /ð/, which phonetically tends to be realised as a velarised, lowered, centralised voiced alveolar approximant [ð̱̞ˠ] and also appears in a syllabic form. I’ll ignore the finer details here for legibility, but if you think the IPA doesn’t match the sounds ‘spoken’, these details may be why.

With that in mind, I’d transcribe recdoring A thus:

[ˈne̝dn̩ ˌhunɐːð (ˀʌ) ˈˀe̝ːˀnɐ͡ælˈfe̞mˀs]

That describes regular, colloquial speech quite accurately too (the parenthesised bit would normally be left out).

The only thing that really stands out as sounding unnatural is the presence of a glottal stop before the vowel-initial words og and en. As in English, those would tend to be limited to slow, careful speech when spoken by actual humans. Well, I say ‘glottal stop’. It’s actually – and quite authentically – realised rather as more of a stød in the recording.

 

Note: At the beginning of your question, you write:

1991 (which it appears to be interpreting as the year rather than the cardinal or ordinal)

While it’s true that it’s definitely not the ordinal (that would be nitten hundrede [og] enoghalvfemsindstyvende or – informally, especially by younger people – nitten hundrede enoghalvfemsende), the recording can be either the cardinal number or the year, just like ‘nineteen hundred (and) ninety-one’ could be in English.

As in English, years (and sometimes cardinals, especially when counting) are frequently read without the ‘hundred’ bit, so 1991 as a year could also be nitten enoghalvfems [ˈne̝dn̩ ˈe̝ːˀnɐ͡ælˈfe̞mˀs].

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I am not Danish, but it seems that it says ”nitten hundrede halvfems”, which is wrong. It means 1990 not 1991.

Generally, you get a better response from Google Translate if you write numerals with words. Then you can read the Danish words as well.

Update. Actually, your record says ”nitten hundrede og en og halvfems” which is a correct but probably old-fashioned wording for 1991. However, there is something strange going on with Google Translate, it is translating the phrase "nineteen hundred ninenty one" as 1990 both in Danish and in Swedish.

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  • If you go to Google Translate and try 1990 vs. 1991, it’s both clear that for 1990 it is saying “nitten hundrede og halvfems,” and that it’s saying something else for 1991. To my ears there’s at least one and possibly two extra syllables in there between nitten hundrede og and enoghalvfems. – Trey Aug 24 '19 at 18:48
  • I’ve edited my original question to add the nitten hundrede og enoghalvfems, since if you ask Google Translate to say “nitten hundrede og enoghalvfems, 1991” in Danish, it clearly says the same utterance twice. In any case, I can’t accept your answer because it doesn’t help in transcribing the phonology. – Trey Aug 24 '19 at 18:50
  • are you actually trying these on Google translate? Entering Danish “nitten hundrede en-og-halvfems, 1991” and tapping the “speak” icon clearly says two different things. – Trey Aug 24 '19 at 19:36
  • @Trey Try to add another “og” after “ hundrede”, then it would be the same, at least for my ear – J-mster Aug 24 '19 at 19:54
  • You mean “nitten hundrede og en-og-halvfems?” I’ve made a video of that at youtu.be/TA8BRDg44YM along with the waveform (the spot the playhead rests on in the final playback is between the two utterances). Except for intonation, these sound the same to me. – Trey Aug 24 '19 at 20:35

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