Norwegian Tones

Norwegian words of more than one syllable are pronounced with one of two possible pitch contours which are known as the Single Tone or Tone 1 and the Double Tone or Tone 2.

It is the same situation in Swedish, although it should be noted that Tones 1 and 2 have different pitch contours in Swedish.

In fact, within Norway, especially in the west, as with other aspects of Norwegian pronunciation, you will hear tones pronounced in different ways. The system described here is typical in the east, including Oslo and it is hoped it will help you to train your ear.

Tone 1

  • Used for all words of one syllable and most of those ending in -el and -en.
  • The plurals of nouns with root vowel change e.g. bok -> bøker and the present tense of strong verbs e.g. kommer take Tone 1.
  • Di- or polysyllabic words of foreign origin with stress on syllables other than the first most often have Tone 1.

It starts rather low and rises towards the end of the word, e.g. ånden 'the spirit'.

Tone 2

  • Used for many words of two or more syllables.
  • Noun and adjective plurals as well as most verb forms tend to have Tone 2.
  • Nouns ending in -er (indicating someone who does something) have Tone 2.

It starts higher than Tone 1, dips and then rises to a higher pitch than where it began, e.g.:
ånden 'the breath'.