Swedish alphabet

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The Swedish alphabet is the writing system used for the Swedish language. The 29 letters of this alphabet are the modern 26-letter basic Latin alphabet ('A' through 'Z') plus 'Å', 'Ä', and 'Ö', in that order.

Before 2006, the rarely-used 'W' was officially not a distinct letter, but a variant form of 'V', pronounced identically. Swedish sorting traditionally and officially treated 'V' and 'W' as equivalent, so that users would not have to guess whether the word - or name - they were seeking was spelled with a 'V' or a 'W'. By 2006, 'W' had grown in usage because of new loanwords, so 'W' officially became a letter, and the 'V' = 'W' sorting rule was officially deprecated. Pre-2006 books and software generally use the rule (unless the authors did not know about or chose not to implement this unusual rule). After the rule was deprecated, some books and software continued to apply it. Visual Studio 2010 documentation shows the rule still in effect.

Alphabet[edit]

The 28- or 29-letter alphabet has been in use for many decades. It consists of the modern 26-letter basic Latin alphabet ('A' through 'Z') plus 'Å', 'Ä', and 'Ö', (in that order).

Letter Name
A a /ɑː/
B b /beː/
C c /seː/
D d /deː/
E e /eː/
F f /ɛf/
G g /ɡeː/
H h /hoː/
I i /iː/
J j /jiː/
K k /koː/
L l /ɛl/
M m /ɛm/
N n /ɛn/
O o /uː/
P p /peː/
Q q /kʉː/
R r /ær/
S s /ɛs/
T t /teː/
U u /ʉː/
V v /veː/
W w /ˈdɵbːəlˈveː/
X x /ɛkʰs/
Y y /yː/
Z z /ˈsɛːˈta/
Å å /oː/
Ä ä /ɛː/
Ö ö /øː/

Letters[edit]

The letter 'Q' is rare. 'Q' was common in ordinary words before 1889, when its replacement by 'K' was allowed. Since 1900, only the forms with 'K' are listed in dictionaries. Some proper names kept their 'Q' despite the change to common words: Qvist, Quist, Husqvarna, Quenby, Quinby, Quintus, Quirin and Quirinus. Other uses include some loanwords that retained 'Q', for example queer, quisling, squash, and quilting; student terms such as gasque; and foreign geographic names like Qatar. Swedish Words with Q

The letter 'W' is rare. Before the 19th century, 'W' was interchangeable with 'V' ('W' was used in Fraktur, 'V' in Antiqua). Official orthographic standards since 1801 use only 'V' for common words. Many family names kept their 'W' despite the change to common words. Foreign words and names bring in uses of 'W', particularly combinations with webb for (World Wide) Web.

'V' and 'W' were often combined in the collating sequence as if they were all 'V' (or all 'W'), until 2006 when the 13th edition of Svenska Akademiens ordlista (The Swedish Academy's Orthographic Dictionary) declared a change.[1][2][3][4][5]

The letter 'Z' is rare, used in names and a few loanwords such as zon ("zone").

Accented letters[edit]

In addition to the basic twenty-six letters, 'A'-'Z', the Swedish alphabet includes 'Å', 'Ä', and 'Ö' at the end. They are distinct letters in Swedish, and are sorted after 'Z' as shown above. Because they do not mark grammatical variation, as the umlaut can in German orthography, or separate syllables, as does the diaeresis, it is not strictly correct to call them umlauts, despite the lack of a better term in English. The umlauted 'ü' is recognised, but is only used in names of German origin, as well as the loanword müsli. It is otherwise treated as a variant of 'y' and is called a "German Y". In Swedish, 'y' is a vowel, and is pronounced as a consonant only in certain loanwords as a variant of 'j'.

Foreign letters[edit]

Though not in the official alphabet, á is a Swedish (old-fashioned) word. In native Swedish personal names, 'ü' and 'è' and others are also used.

The characters 'à' (which is used only in a few rare non-integrated loanwords such as à, from French) and 'é' (used in some integrated loanwords like idé and armé, and in some surnames such as Rosén or Löfvén) are regarded simply as variants of 'a' and 'e', respectively.

For foreign names, 'ç', 'ë', 'í', 'õ', 'ñ' and many others might be used, but are usually converted to 'e', 'i', 'o', etc.

Swedish newspapers and magazines have a tendency only to use letters available on the keyboard. 'à', 'ë', 'í', 'ñ', etc. are available on Swedish keyboards with a little effort, but usually not 'æ' and 'ø' (used in Danish and Norwegian), so they are usually substituted by 'ae' or 'ä', and 'ö'. The news agency TT follows this usage because some newspapers have no technical support for 'æ' and 'ø',[6] although there is a recommendation to use 'æ' and 'ø'.

The national population register has traditionally only used the letters 'a'~'z', 'å', 'ä', 'ö', 'ü', 'é', so immigrants with other Latin letters in their names have had their diacritic marks stripped (and æ/ø converted to ä/ö), although recently more diacritics have been allowed.[7]

The difference between the Danish/Norwegian and the Swedish alphabet is that Danish/Norwegian uses the variant Æ instead of Ä, and the variant Ø instead of Ö. Also, the collating order for these three letters is different: Æ, Ø, Å.

Sound–spelling correspondences[edit]

Vowels
Letter Pronunciation (IPA) Notes
Long Short
a /ɑː/ /a/
e /eː/ /ɛ/ Some words exceptionally have ⟨e⟩ for /ɛ/, among them words with ⟨ej⟩, numerals, proper names and their derivations, and loanwords. Before 1889, ⟨e⟩ for /ɛ/ and /ɛː/ was also used for many other words, in particular words with ⟨je⟩ now spelled ⟨jä⟩. Many Swedes merge /ɛ/ and /e/.

The sound /eː/ at the end of loanwords and in the last syllable of Swedish surnames is represented by ⟨é⟩.

i /iː/ /ɪ/
o /uː/ /ɔ/, /ʊ/ The phoneme /ʊ/ is relatively infrequent; short ⟨o⟩ more often represents /ɔ/. In a few words, long ⟨o⟩ represents /oː/.
u /ʉː/ /ɵ/
y /yː/ /ʏ/
å /oː/ /ɔ/ Most words with /ɔ/ and some words with /oː/ are spelled with ⟨o⟩.
ä /ɛː/ /ɛ/ Some words with /ɛ/ are spelled with ⟨e⟩.
ö /øː/ /œ/ The short ö is, in some dialects, pronounced as /ɵ/.

Short vowels are followed by two or more consonants; long vowels are followed by a single consonant, by a vowel or are word-final.

Consonants
Grapheme Sound (IPA) Notes
b /b/
c /k/, /s/ /s/ before front vowels ⟨e i y ä ö⟩, otherwise /k/. The letter ⟨c⟩ alone is used only in loanwords (usually in the /s/ value) and proper names, but ⟨ck⟩ is a normal representation for /k/ after a short vowel (as in English and German).
ch /ɧ/, /ɕ/ In loanwords. The conjunction 'och' (and) is pronounced /ɔk/ or /ɔ/.
d /d/
dj /j/
f /f/
g /ɡ/, /j/ /j/ before front vowels ⟨e i y ä ö⟩, otherwise /ɡ/
gj /j/
gn /ɡn/, /ŋn/ /ɡn/ word-initially; /ŋn/ elsewhere
h /h/
hj /j/
j /j/
k /kʰ/, /ɕ/ /ɕ/ before front vowels ⟨e i y ä ö⟩, otherwise /k/
kj /ɕ/
l /l/
lj /j/
m /m/
n /n/
ng /ŋ/, /ŋɡ/
p /pʰ/
r /r/ Is pronounced as /ɾ/ in some words.
s /s/
sj /ɧ/
sk /sk/, /ɧ/ /ɧ/ before front vowels ⟨e i y ä ö⟩, otherwise /sk/
skj /ɧ/
stj /ɧ/
t /tʰ/
tj /ɕ/
v /v/ Before 1906, ⟨fv, hv⟩ and final ⟨f⟩ were also used for /v/. Now these spellings are used in some proper names.
w /v/ Rarely used (loanwords, proper names). In loanwords from English may be pronounced /w/.
x /ks/
z /s/ Used in loanwords and proper names.

The combinations ⟨rd rl rn rs rt⟩ are pronounced [ɖ ɭ ɳ ʂ ʈ] respectively.

Spellings for the sje-phoneme /ɧ/[edit]

Due to several phonetic combinations coalescing over recent centuries, the spelling of the Swedish sje-sound is very eclectic. Some estimates claim that there are over 50 possible different spellings of the sound, though this figure is disputed. Garlén (1988) gives a list of 22 spellings ('ch', 'che', 'g', 'ge', 'gi', 'ige', 'j', 'je', 'sc', 'sch', 'sh', 'shi', 'si', 'sj', 'sk', 'skj', 'ssi', 'ssj', 'stg', 'sti', 'stj', 'ti'), but many of them are confined to only a few words, often loanwords, and all of them can correspond to other sounds or sound sequences as well. Some spellings of the sje-sound are as follows:

  • 'ch' in most French loanwords, but in final position often respelled 'sch'. English loanwords with this spelling usually use the tje-sound
  • 'g' in words mainly from French, for example generös ("generous") and gentil ("posh", "stylish")
  • 'ge' mostly in the end of the word in many French loanwords, like garage, prestige
  • 'gi' in for example religiös ("religious")
  • 'j' in French loanwords, for example jalusi ("jalousie", "window blind")
  • 'sc' in fascinera ("fascinate")
  • 'sch' in all positions in many German loanwords, like schack ("chess")
  • 'sh' in all positions in many English loanwords
  • 'sj' in native Swedish words, before both front ('e', 'i', 'y', 'ä', 'ö') and back vowels ('a', 'o', 'u', 'å')
  • 'sk' in native Swedish words before the front vowels 'e', 'i', 'y', 'ä', 'ö'
  • 'skj' in five words only, four of which are enumerated in the phrase I bara skjortan skjuter han skjutsen in i skjulet. ("In just his shirt he pushes the vehicle into the shed.") The fifth word is skjuva ("shear"). It is also used in an old word skjura ("Eurasian magpie") and dialectic derivations of the same
  • 'stg' in three words only: västgöte, östgöte, gästgiveri. These are not common and are often pronounced as /stj/. All of them are compound words: väst+göte (person from Västergötland) öst+göte (person from Östergötland) and gäst+giveri ("inn")
  • 'sti' occurs only in the place-name Kristianstad and in the pronunciation of the name Christian when used about Danish kings
  • 'stj' in five words only, all enumerated in the phrase Det är lättare att stjäla en stjälk än att stjälpa en stjärna med stjärten. ("It is easier to steal a stalk than to overturn a star with your behind.")
  • -tion, -sion, -ssion (pronounced /ɧon/) in many words of Latin origin; in a few of these words, the sje-sound is preceded by a /t/ (e.g. nation, rationell), also in some adjective derivations (pretentiös, infektiös)
  • 'xj' for the sequence /kɧ/ occurs only in the place-name Växjö

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Svenska Akademiens ordbok – Trettonde upplagan av SAOL" (in Swedish). Swedish Academy. Retrieved 2011-06-21. Trettonde upplagan inför slutligen något så ovanligt som ytterligare en självständig bokstav, nämligen w (”dubbel-v”) som inte längre sorteras in under enkelt v utan – som i många andra språk, även nordiska – blir en bokstav med egen placering efter bokstaven v. 
  2. ^ Svenska Akademien (2006-04-10). Sven-Goran Malmgren, eds. Svenska Akademiens ordlista över svenska språket (PDF) (in Swedish). Stockholm: Norstedts Akademiska Förlag. pp. IX. ISBN 978-91-7227-419-8. Retrieved 2011-06-21. Trettonde upplagan inför slutligen något så ovanligt som ytterligare en självständig bokstav, nämligen w (”dubbel-v”) som inte längre sorteras in under enkelt v utan – som i många andra språk, även nordiska – blir en bokstav med egen placering efter bokstaven v. 
  3. ^ Boldemann, Marcus (2006-04-21). "Alfabetet blir längre – växer med W". Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish). Retrieved 2011-06-21. Alfabetet består inte längre av 28 bokstäver, utan 29. Det betyder att ett stort antal läroböcker måste skrivas om. Att det blivit så här beror på att Svenska Akademiens ordlista (SAOL) i sin nya upplaga särskiljer W från enkelt V. Äntligen – för det är internationell praxis. 
  4. ^ "Veckans språkråd". Veckans språkråd 2006 v. 28 (in Swedish). Språkrådet Swedish Language Council. 2006-07-10. Retrieved 2011-06-21. Om särsortering av v och w slår igenom i fler sammanhang, t.ex. i ordböcker, innebär det att det svenska alfabetet kan sägas ha 29 bokstäver, inte som tidigare bara 28. Behöver man ange denna uppgift, bör man tills vidare ge en förklaring i stil med: "det svenska alfabetet har 29 bokstäver (om man räknar w som en bokstav med egen plats i alfabetet)". Har man inte plats för sådana nyanserade tillägg, är det säkrast att uppge antalet till 29. 
  5. ^ Aniansson, Eva (2010-01-11). "3 mars 2011 — bokstaven 'W' 6 år: HURRA!". E-mail: Subject: Bokstaven W (in Swedish). linkli.st. Retrieved 2011-06-21. Den rimligaste ’födelsedagen’ är nog 3 mars 2005. Då fattade nämligen Svenska Akademiens sitt beslut att föra in W som bokstav i alfabetet. Den direkta anledningen var, som du själv påpekar, att den kommande upplagan av SAOL skulle sära på V och W. Själva bokstaven har ju funnits i långliga tider, men det var alltså i SAOL13, som kom ut våren 2006, närmare bestämt den 10 april 2006, som Akademiens ordlista för första gången hade W som ’en bokstav med egen placering efter bokstaven V’. 
  6. ^ http://www.tt.se/ttsprak/skrivregler/previewPage.aspx?chapter=12&page=0&xml=ttspraket.xml&template=ttspraket.inc
  7. ^ http://www.ratsit.se has a copy of the national population and tax register and there all diacritics including æ,ç,ñ,ø are stripped except that å,ä,ö,ü,é are kept, except for a few people. There are for example 580 people named Francois and 20 named François.

References[edit]

  • Garlén, Claes (1988), Svenskans fonologi i kontrastiv och typologisk belysning, Lund: Studentlitteratur, ISBN 91-44-28151-X 
  • Granberry, Julian (1991), Essential Swedish Grammar, New York: Dover Publications, ISBN 0-486-26953-1, OCLC 23692877 
  • Viberg, Åke; Ballardini, Kerstin; Stjärnlöf, Sune (1991), Swedish Essentials of Grammar, Chicago: Passport Books, ISBN 0-8442-8539-0 
  • Holmes, Philip; Hinchliffe, Ian (2000), Essential Swedish Grammar, London, New York: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-16048-0 

External links[edit]