There was a researcher who said that in 2004 he expected Danish speech understanding and synthesization would be useable in 7 years or so. However, now, 7 years later, he has recognized that the goal is far beyond that. In 20 years he hopes we will know more about how to “understand” speech, but he does not expect a useful, perfect technique to be available at that time.
Because Danish has so many vowels – and many consonants are not pronounced as vowels.
One example he gave was
seemingly having 6 consonants, but apart from the first none of them are pronounced in Danish everyday speech. Even the first ‘R’ may sometimes become kind of vowel – or it may be absent in slurry speech!
He mentioned that Hungary has 45 vowels or so. We are not counting semantic phonemes here, just the sounds which people make and which are recognizable as being of this or that sociolect.
I do not remember how many vowels he said that Danish has, (I have downloaded the radio-programme and will return with info) but I think it was around 25 vowels. I myself have several times tried to count variations of ‘a’ in Danish words and once reached a count of 13 variations, however, that was including some strange words.
Here is a list of Danish words with different shades of ‘a’:
the above are a horrendous example of homonymes in young speakers, however older and/or academic speakers can actually differentiate between them
havde (flade, made, vade, skade)
fladt (mat, kat, sat, vat)
Well about 9 variations, not so bad if one wants to set a multitude-variation record!
Excuse me for having this picture two times – it is a test of WordPress themes – how do they handle image size? Above picture is size 500×375. Below is assumed to be 1024×768.