Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

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Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby Woods » 2018-02-19, 22:17

The idea that learning a Scandinavian language is like three for one does not seem to hold true, and speaking Danish to the (Swedish-speaking) Finns definitely does not work! Well, in writing it kind of works, but other than that…

As I’m trying to blend with the locals, of course I’m trying to speak Swedish when I can (not because I prefer it to Danish, but because if I speak Danish they don’t get a word from what I’m saying), and it kind of works as well, but if I try to write it, it’s an entirely different story.

Indeed, I’m having an extremely hard time understanding the countless overcomplications of Swedish grammar in comparison to Danish:

- there are not two, but ten different plural endings
- the past participle (the form used to make the perfect) has not one, but three different forms
- the present verb ending can be either -er or -ar (and how in this world am I supposed to know which one to use?)

And then there’s the writing…

- there’s ä all over the place (including in places where it’s not needed – i.e. before a double consonant which makes it 100 % certain it’s the same sound, even if you write an e like everybody else
- the doubling of consonants at the end of the words makes it harder to recognise words we otherwise know very well from other languages;

and the worst of all:

- it has invented its own spelling for words that are written the same way in almost every other language (byrå, essä, restaurang and god knows what else…)

Of all features of Swedish this is the one I hate the most, because it cuts the language from its roots and gives me the feeling that I’m reading and writing something misspelt and fake. I know you can’t do anything about it, but I won’t stop complaining :D

So yeah, I think it’ll be more than a shame to communicate in English with speakers of Swedish. But how do I write this damn thing, and can I not make my own list of words which spelling I don’t accept and write them as I please (bureau, essai, restaurant) and have my text accepted?

I asked the University of Helsinki if I could sit an exam in Swedish and write my answers in Danish. They said no, because “I need to show an outstanding Swedish.” Excuse me, but there’s nothing outstanding in using three different endings for the same purpose instead of one and misspelling French words, claiming you’ve made an entirely different language! Maybe I’ll learn these extremely small, but highly annoying differences and write the exam in Swedish, but then as soon as I get in, I’ll write Danish all the way until the end – and avenge myself a thousandfold :D

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby linguoboy » 2018-02-19, 23:03

Woods wrote:it has invented its own spelling for words that are written the same way in almost every other language (byrå, essä, restaurang and god knows what else…)

I love this about Swedish! It was a beautiful epiphany when it finally dawned on me that poäng is just a nativised spelling of point.
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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby Aurinĭa » 2018-02-19, 23:08

I agree. It's part of the charm of Swedish.

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby Johanna » 2018-02-20, 0:45

linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:it has invented its own spelling for words that are written the same way in almost every other language (byrå, essä, restaurang and god knows what else…)

I love this about Swedish! It was a beautiful epiphany when it finally dawned on me that poäng is just a nativised spelling of point.

I want to add that as a student of French for three years, Swedish "poäng" sounds nothing like French "point"! When you adapt the pronunciation, it's only natural that the spelling follows suit.

Also, I find it very ironic that a native speaker of Bulgarian gives the entire Swedish language lessons on spelling. I mean, what is the Bulgarian spelling of "Bernadotte", the current royal house? Transcribed back into the Latin script, it's "Bernadot".

Swedish is Swedish, not French or English or German. You should never have to know five other languages in order to know how to spell one!
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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby JackFrost » 2018-02-20, 1:40

Woods wrote:I speak Danish they don’t get a word from what I’m saying.

Not surprising, really. :lol:

Swedes do have a lot of trouble understanding Danish. It gets worse as you go up north and prolly to the east (read: Finland).
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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby linguoboy » 2018-02-20, 1:47

I have to say, as someone who finds Danish completely incomprehensible in any form, it gives me no end of amusement to hear that held up as the model that other Scandinavian languages should aspire to.
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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby Car » 2018-02-20, 11:59

linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:it has invented its own spelling for words that are written the same way in almost every other language (byrå, essä, restaurang and god knows what else…)

I love this about Swedish! It was a beautiful epiphany when it finally dawned on me that poäng is just a nativised spelling of point.

Norwegian does the same and I felt the same way when it finally dawned on me that poeng is just a nativised spelling of point (with adapted pronunciation, as Johanna pointed out for Swedish). Yes, I'm copying your wording here on purpose because it was the same word and I felt exactly the same.

Oh yeah, German actually spells it Büro, but unlike in Norwegian or Swedish, adapting spellings isn't really done any more (they tried it during the last spelling reform, but those spellings didn't find many users).

Ironically enough, when I had a Readly subscription, I sometimes needed some time to realise that a magazine was e.g. in Swedish and not in German because the spelling would make perfect sense in German, too, but isn't used at all. You'd think my brain would register that earlier, but apparently not.
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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby Naava » 2018-02-20, 12:32

Woods wrote:speaking Danish to the (Swedish-speaking) Finns definitely does not work!

:rotfl: What made you think it would work? (I'm not laughing at you btw! I'm just trying to picture a situation where the Swedish speakers are trying to understand what you say - they must've been so surprised. I don't think many speak Danish here.)

I mean, I studied Swedish for 8 years. I've seen a few Norwegian documents on TV and even managed to recognize some simple phrases like "I am" or "my name is", but every time I hear Danish I feel like those jokes about potatoes in mouth might be true after all... Its phonology and pronunciation are so different that it's very hard to understand a word of it without actually studying it first.

Woods wrote:I asked the University of Helsinki if I could sit an exam in Swedish and write my answers in Danish.

Do you mean the entrance exam? Are you planning to study in Swedish?

Woods wrote:there’s ä all over the place (including in places where it’s not needed – i.e. before a double consonant which makes it 100 % certain it’s the same sound, even if you write an e like everybody else

I've been wondering about the same thing. Is it because of some historical reasons? Were <e> and <ä> pronounced differently earlier?

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby Woods » 2018-02-20, 12:56

Johanna wrote:I find it very ironic that a native speaker of Bulgarian gives the entire Swedish language lessons on spelling.

Well, if I'm learning a language, I should be allowed to have an opinion about its features, shouldn't I?

I don't think it's a matter of what your native language is – languages are for the use of everyone and I think everybody who wishes to learn them and use them should be allowed to have a say.

Of course, I will always come here and ask you how something is and take your word for it, because you've always known and used this language much better than me – but when we talk about some abstract language policy that isn't only relevant to Swedish but to any other language – then I don't think your opinion should weight more than mine!

Bulgarian is a case apart, because it uses a different script. The argument that the spelling must be adapted, because we cannot just stick Latin letters in the middle of a sentence when a proper or even a common name of a foreign origin is used, is stronger than the one that French words must be re-spelt in order to match Swedish pronunciation. But even with that in mind, I've always been advocating the use of the original word rather than a transcription into Cyrillics – of course receiving the same critiques back that I'm getting from you here! Indeed, I think there's only one thing more annoying than a Swedish spelling of a French word – and it's the Bulgarian spelling of the same one! When I read a Bulgarian news article about France, usually I'm unable to reconstruct the proper names back into French, which I speak fluently, and I think this is unacceptable. (Because Bulgarian phonology has nothing to do with the French one and no matter how you twist the noun, you just can't fit it into Cyrillics!) So I've always said and I keep on saying than in such instances, at least proper nouns must be written in French, and then maybe we can put some Cyrillic transcription in brackets for those that don't speak the language, so that they can read it). Even though the English don’t do that, and I bet the Swedes don’t do it either (Serbs do, I mean, they transcribe even the proper noun into their own Latin script and the original is lost – am I allowed to say I think that it’s no good?)


Johanna wrote:You should never have to know five other languages in order to know how to spell one!

It's strange to hear that from a language enthusiast on UniLang, speaking, or having learnt or tried to learn eight languages!

Well, it's not about knowing five other languages. You should only know what the word you're using means and where it comes from. If you keep the French spelling, it looks fancy and you know it's French. If you change it – you no longer know where the word comes from and something is lost. And you still have to learn the other spelling – so either way you have to learn how to write the word, you just learn to write it one way or another – what's the difference?


linguoboy wrote:I have to say, as someone who finds Danish completely incomprehensible in any form, it gives me no end of amusement to hear that held up as the model that other Scandinavian languages should aspire to.

I'm talking solely about the writing.

Danish has an awfully weird phonology that makes it almost impossible to hear in so many places, but the main reason I chose it over Swedish and Norwegian is because it's the only one that is written correctly. It just looked most authentic for me – so I decided I would start there, and the phonology never looked difficult to me, until I started realising that I’m not able to hear words and expressions I otherwise would recognise from the very first time, so this is where I started to realise there’s also something wrong with this language :D But I still prefer it only because of the writing – because I think writing is more important than speaking and it’s what carries language through time – if you change it too much, something is lost and you’re left with less of a language!


Car wrote: Oh yeah, German actually spells it Büro, but unlike in Norwegian or Swedish, adapting spellings isn't really done any more (they tried it during the last spelling reform, but those spellings didn't find many users).

“Büro” is some relic – I wouldn’t be surprised (very positively) if Germans start writing “Bureau” again.

Of course this kind of reforms wouldn’t find any users – Germans love foreign words and foreign languages and German is the place where these words are not only written like they are in their native languages, but also pronounced the same way. “Restaurant” is pronounced in German the same way as in French – even though the sound /ã/ doesn’t exist in German or any of its dialects (as far as I know). I think that’s awesome – and it sets every German child better off for learning French one day, if they wish so!
Last edited by Woods on 2018-02-20, 14:30, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby Woods » 2018-02-20, 14:25

Naava wrote:
Woods wrote:speaking Danish to the (Swedish-speaking) Finns definitely does not work!

:rotfl: What made you think it would work? (I'm not laughing at you btw! I'm just trying to picture a situation where the Swedish speakers are trying to understand what you say - they must've been so surprised. I don't think many speak Danish here.)

Well, one of them just looked at me seriously and said “Do not ever talk to me like that!” So I just asked “What’s wrong?” Apparently she didn’t figure out it was the language but thought I was trying to speak like some kind of an idiot :D I think she understood me though.

Or usually they just say “I didn’t get a word from what you’re saying...”


Naava wrote:Are you planning to study in Swedish?

Well, I would study in whatever language I can – and since learning Finnish takes forever, I would rather try in Swedish as a way to get in more quickly...

It’ll be hard to imagine them not recognising my answers in Danish if they are correct and they can understand them, however – if they say I must do it in Swedish, I will try to do so, but then... if I write -ar instead of -er or -er instead of -ar as a plural, I don’t know what they’ll do – do you think they will not recognise my answers because of the “typos,” or ask me to sit an additional exam in Swedish? :D

That's also part of the reason for my frustration – after all, Swedish is one of three versions of the same language. And it’s supposed to be accepted the same way as Danish by institutions in all Scandinavian countries and also Finland. So if I’ve chosen the other standard for my writing, because it fits me better, then what’s the problem?


Naava wrote:
Woods wrote:there’s ä all over the place (including in places where it’s not needed – i.e. before a double consonant which makes it 100 % certain it’s the same sound, even if you write an e like everybody else

I've been wondering about the same thing. Is it because of some historical reasons? Were <e> and <ä> pronounced differently earlier?

To me it looks more like they wanted to be different, rather than keeping the writing the way it was and like the other ones still are. But I don’t know – let the Swedish speakers tell.

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby linguoboy » 2018-02-20, 16:03

Woods wrote:
Johanna wrote:You should never have to know five other languages in order to know how to spell one!

It's strange to hear that from a language enthusiast on UniLang, speaking, or having learnt or tried to learn eight languages!

Well, it's not about knowing five other languages. You should only know what the word you're using means and where it comes from. If you keep the French spelling, it looks fancy and you know it's French. If you change it – you no longer know where the word comes from and something is lost. And you still have to learn the other spelling – so either way you have to learn how to write the word, you just learn to write it one way or another – what's the difference?

I'm really not sure what the point is you're making here. Most speakers of Swedish do not learn French. So they only ever have to learn one spelling.

"Something is lost" either way. If you respell a word to reflect the actual pronunciation, the etymology is lost. But if you retain the spelling, then you lose the close correspondence between spelling and pronunciation. Do this enough and your orthography becomes a hodgepodge. Do you really think English spelling should be the model for the world?

Honestly, sometimes I wish we respelled more words in English. Then I wouldn't have to grit my teeth every time I heard someone pronounce bruschetta with /ʃ/.

Woods wrote:But I still prefer it only because of the writing – because I think writing is more important than speaking and it’s what carries language through time – if you change it too much, something is lost and you’re left with less of a language!

This doesn't really make sense to me either. A language that exists solely or even chiefly in written form seems like "less of a language" to me than one which is actively spoken.

Woods wrote:Of course this kind of reforms wouldn’t find any users – Germans love foreign words and foreign languages and German is the place where these words are not only written like they are in their native languages, but also pronounced the same way. “Restaurant” is pronounced in German the same way as in French – even though the sound /ã/ doesn’t exist in German or any of its dialects (as far as I know). I think that’s awesome – and it sets every German child better off for learning French one day, if they wish so!

If you think everyone speaks normative Standard German as its represented in your instructional materials, you're in for a real surprise when you start talking to people on the street! It is very common for German speakers to substitute [aŋ] or even [ɔŋ] for /ã/. I lived in a town only 20 km from the French border and learned to speak a variety with more French loans than the standard language (e.g. Trottoir, partu) and believe me, not everyone there pronounces these words "the same way as in French". Not but a long shot!
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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby Car » 2018-02-20, 16:48

linguoboy wrote:If you think everyone speaks normative Standard German as its represented in your instructional materials, you're in for a real surprise when you start talking to people on the street! It is very common for German speakers to substitute [aŋ] or even [ɔŋ] for /ã/. I lived in a town only 20 km from the French border and learned to speak a variety with more French loans than the standard language (e.g. Trottoir, partu) and believe me, not everyone there pronounces these words "the same way as in French". Not but a long shot!

Yes, and what's worse, people actually get mocked if they don't pronounce them the "proper" way. People use the "correct" pronunciation (e.g. the French one) to look down on people who aren't as educated as them. Or rather, if you adapt the pronunciation, people are quite likely to see you as less educated and react accordingly. This pronouncing-as-in-the-original-language thing only is true for a handful of languages anyway. Sure, get a word from English, French or Italian wrong and people will look down on you (Latin, too, but people love to use that for showing off anyway), but apart from that, most people don't have the slightest clue and do end up adapting the words much more, usually out of ignorance (quite ironic, really). Well, Spanish is moving into that direction as well

I really can't see people re-spell French loans the French way. It does happen to some extent to English loans, but I've yet to see it for French ones.
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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby linguoboy » 2018-02-20, 17:55

Car wrote:Yes, and what's worse, people actually get mocked if they don't pronounce them the "proper" way. People use the "correct" pronunciation (e.g. the French one) to look down on people who aren't as educated as them. Or rather, if you adapt the pronunciation, people are quite likely to see you as less educated and react accordingly.

In English, it's a delicate balancing act. If you adapt the pronunciation too much, you'll be seen as "uneducated", as with German. But if you keep it too "correct", you'll be mocked as "pretentious", which is usually worse. What's "too correct" and what's not enough? Good luck figuring that out, because it varies based on the word, the context it's used in, and who you're talking to.

It would be nice to think that this is different in Swedish, where presumably the respelling of adapted pronunciations makes them more acceptable in "educated" speech. But somehow I doubt that.
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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby Woods » 2018-02-23, 17:48

It seems like I’m alone against the world when it comes to this in Swedish. Apparently, when people are used to something, they will fiercely resist the idea of doing it differently and refuse to hear any argument in this direction. Johanna is even telling me that I'm not allowed to have an opinion about it, because I'm not as used to this spelling as she is, and who am I to have an opinion about it, if Swedish is not even my native language. Well if it was, then I would probably be labelled as some sort of a geek, nut or retard, pretending to be too educated or something else. Whatever argument comes handy, it will be used. It doesn’t matter that I would face the same kind of resistance if I proposed something similar regarding my own language, or that the question goes far beyond Swedish itself. Maybe I’m just too arrogant to think that Swedish is part of the whole world’s cultural heritage and it should not be regarded as a mere property of the Swedes?


I just read the following in an online news article:

Redan i början på 1800-talet fick en lieutenant i Sverige finna sig i att bli löjtnant. Militärerna var inte överdrivet förtjusta.

Ett intressant exempel är engelskans tape som blivit tejp när man talar om klisterremsan, men som stavas tape när man talar om en musikinspelning.

Ordet sjangsera ”förändras, försämras” kom in i Svenska Akademiens ordlista i denna stavning först 2013. I tidigare ordlistor fanns changera (fransk stavning) och från 1986 också alternativet chansera. Då fordrades det kunskaper i franska för att hitta i ordlistan. Ofta är det klokt med försvenskning, men ibland får vi finna oss i att bära med oss 500 års språkhistoria eller mer i stavningen.

Vem vill läsa Jötebåsch-Påsten?


This is not conservatism. Conservatism is when you look into your own language and find a way to express the new concept with a word that already exists. For example, the word "dator". I really like this way of making sure Swedish remains Swedish. This is like making Swedish 0,000001% more Swedish. Introducing the word “computer” would make it 0,000001% less Swedish. But of course, you can’t stop this from happening, unless you establish and charge an “Académie Suédoise” with doing it. But they also won’t succeed 100% of the time, so the word “computer” might indeed find its place in Swedish, like it did in Danish. This is 1 poäng plus for Swedish. Oh, I wish it was one point, but, unfortunately, now I have to give it 1 poäng minus :( And, I forgot, if the word “computer” found its way into Swedish, it would indeed be spelt "kampjottarr," which is goddamn ugly, but saying this is some blasphemy and I’m also committing the crime of having an opinion about something that is none of my business. Well, the fact that I’ve spent many hours learning [some] Swedish doesn’t matter!

I really don’t see the point in introducing the word “changera” into Swedish in the first place. In Bulgarian, which I doubt any of you cares about, I see this every day. Journalists use French, German and in this day and age predominantly English words for concepts which were already named and established probably before even English came into existence! But why not just use the foreign word, I guess this way we’re more international? When I was a kid, I would look at these words with a lack of understanding and confusion. When I learnt French, English and a little bit of German, I started to understand perfectly what they mean, but I refuse to use them and I think that being a journalist or a public figure and treating your language this way should be considered a crime. I think somebody should go around and fine them every time they happen to do it more than five times in the same broadcast. They think they’re educated, but by using a shitload of foreign words, they’re showing nothing but illiteracy, putting out there whatever word they heard last in their English-language materials without taking an extra five seconds to find a more convenient Bulgarian one, which has existed for millennia. This sounds like a beginner student trying to substitute an English word because they haven’t yet attained a sufficient level in Bulgarian.

So I think using foreign words when you can use native ones is not always good. Respelling foreign words to make them look like they were part of the language long ago is even worse. Because at the end, what are we all going to speak – the exact same language? It’s going to have different versions – British English, American English, Bulgarian English, Swedish English and so on. The differences will lie in spelling and pronunciation, not in vocabulary or cultural background. And what will my point in learning Swedish be – an alternative spelling for English, rather than a language of its own?


Linguoboy wrote:Do you really think English spelling should be the model for the world?

English has done a pretty good job. French has too. Danish has.

You gotta appreciate it.


Linguoboy wrote:Honestly, sometimes I wish we respelled more words in English. Then I wouldn't have to grit my teeth every time I heard someone pronounce bruschetta with /ʃ/.

How are you gonna spell it – broskätta? And then how are you going to guarantee that the pronunciation will not become /bru'hwɛta/. And when it does, what will be the point in using an Italian word if it’s no longer Italian? Could you not find somewhere in English or Swedish some other way of saying “a piece of bread with some stuff on top of it”? And how am I going to decipher what this word means and where it comes from, without opening some huge dictionary and doing a lot of work? How will the other Swedes/Americans that will not open these books know? Wouldn’t it be easier if they can see that the word looks Italian?


linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:Well, it's not about knowing five other languages. You should only know what the word you're using means and where it comes from. If you keep the French spelling, it looks fancy and you know it's French. If you change it – you no longer know where the word comes from and something is lost. And you still have to learn the other spelling – so either way you have to learn how to write the word, you just learn to write it one way or another – what's the difference?

I'm really not sure what the point is you're making here. Most speakers of Swedish do not learn French. So they only ever have to learn one spelling.

I was saying that if they have to learn one spelling, it might as well be “bureau” instead of “byrå.” Maybe it will not make that much sense right away, but it will make much more sense in the long run.

Indeed, just look at the irony: every scholar in Sweden is required to have English as their first foreign language. Which means that they will have to learn the historically correct spelling anyway, no matter if they want it or not. So, in spite of the arguments that have been laid out here, if one learns to spell "byrå" in Swedish and "bureau" in English, one will have to learn two spellings, and if the word was written with its original spelling in Swedish too, then the Swedes would have to learn only one spelling!

This being said, I am not against some mild, very consistent changes in orthography, which align foreign vocabulary with the spelling of the language, while at the same time preserving the root of the word. Like in English we write “community” instead of “communauté,” “reality” instead of “realité” and so on. But we don’t write “biewrau” instead of “bureau” or “leftenant” instead of “lieutenant,” because that wouldn’t make any sense!

So Johanna, I hope I've not become your arch enemy now and I hope that you will underestand that the fact that I have an opinion that is counter to what has been adopted in Swedish does not mean that I disrespect Swedish - on the contrary, I'm very much interested in this language and I would love to learn it - in order to find all the uniqueness and culture that has been preserved in it (as you probably could understand, I am not after the misspelt French words that annoy me, but after some other things – like purely Swedish or at least Germanic and Scandinavian words and concepts).

I would expect a proof of that should be the mere fact that I'm interested in this language and I'm trying to learn it (and if you look into my profile, you're going to see that the largest amount of posts that I've written on UniLang have been in the Swedish forum indeed (strange, isn't it?)

Some people no longer write mig and de, but mej and dom. Do you think I should agree with that? If not, then why do you support the spelling byrå, but not these changes? And if we change the spelling every ten years, what are we going to do with all the books that have been printed decades and centuries ago – burn them and rewrite everything?

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby linguoboy » 2018-02-23, 18:48

Woods wrote:Johanna is even telling me that I'm not allowed to have an opinion about it, because I'm not as used to this spelling as she is, and who am I to have an opinion about it, if Swedish is not even my native language.

She never said any of those things. She just said she found your complaining "ironic".

Woods wrote:I really don’t see the point in introducing the word “changera” into Swedish in the first place. In Bulgarian, which I doubt any of you cares about, I see this every day. Journalists use French, German and in this day and age predominantly English words for concepts which were already named and established probably before even English came into existence!

It's often hard to define the exact extent of a particular concept let alone determine when it "came into existence". All languages I know have a word for "child" but the idea of who is a "child" and what implications this has for how they should be treated and expected to behave vary wildly according to time and place, even within the same society. So it's hard to say that a particular concept was "established" in a language just because there was a word which covered what we consider to be the same conception space.

"Change" has a broad array of meanings in English. No other language I know has a word which maps to it exactly. For instance, native English-speakers like me who learn German often struggle with knowing when to use ändern, verändern, and wechseln, because each translates to "change" in some contexts but not in others. So there are all sorts of reasons why one might want to borrow change or changer into a language which have nothing to do with showing off one's knowledge.

Woods wrote:So I think using foreign words when you can use native ones is not always good.

This begs the question of whether you can use native words in those instances and still fully express what you mean to convey.

Also, what counts as "native"? Change has been part of the English language for at least 900 years, but of course we had words before which covered some of the same territory. Should we never have adopted it in the first place?

Woods wrote:Because at the end, what are we all going to speak – the exact same language?

Slippery slope arguments tend not to be very convincing, and this one is no exception.

Woods wrote:
Linguoboy wrote:Do you really think English spelling should be the model for the world?

English has done a pretty good job.

In what respect?

The fact that English has been so successful as an international auxiliary language has everything to do with economic and political factors and virtually nothing to do with any characteristics of the language itself.

Woods wrote:
Linguoboy wrote:Honestly, sometimes I wish we respelled more words in English. Then I wouldn't have to grit my teeth every time I heard someone pronounce bruschetta with /ʃ/.

How are you gonna spell it – broskätta?

Why would I give an English word a Swedish spelling?

Woods wrote:Could you not find somewhere in English or Swedish some other way of saying “a piece of bread with some stuff on top of it”?

That's not what "bruschetta" means, making this a pretty good illustration of why we borrowed the word in the first place.

Woods wrote:And how am I going to decipher what this word means and where it comes from, without opening some huge dictionary and doing a lot of work?

By asking someone what the word means?

Most people don't learn new words from cracking open dictionaries. That's something language freaks like us do. Most people learn words in context as they need them. Where did most Americans learn the word "bruschetta"? Same place they learned most Italian words relating to food if they didn't grow up in Italian families: from reading the menus at Italian restaurants.

I don't remember how I learned the word "bruschetta" but I remember how I learned the word "mousse". I was in my early teens and my mother took me to a crêperie (it must have been a special occasion of some sort) where I saw "chocolate mousse" in the list of desserts. I said, "What's chocolate mousse?" and she said, "It's like chocolate pudding."[*] So I ordered it and found out just how different it was from the Jell-O chocolate pudding I'd had for years--more than different enough to deserve its own name!

[*] "pudding" in the American sense, i.e. what to most Commonwealth speakers would be a form of "(instant) custard".
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby linguoboy » 2018-02-23, 21:10

Woods wrote:I was saying that if they have to learn one spelling, it might as well be “bureau” instead of “byrå.” Maybe it will not make that much sense right away, but it will make much more sense in the long run.

Knowing that the English word "beauty" comes from French "beauté" doesn't make spelling /juː/ with eau in English make any more sense.

Woods wrote:Indeed, just look at the irony: every scholar in Sweden is required to have English as their first foreign language.

Not every speaker of Swedish will become a scholar.

Woods wrote:Which means that they will have to learn the historically correct spelling anyway, no matter if they want it or not.

Not necessarily. "Bureau" isn't an especially common word in English. (This word frequency list puts it at #4323, right after "entrepreneur" and "syndrome".) You could easily be a competent speaker of the language without ever having to learn it, or just have it in your passive vocabulary (meaning you'd never be forced to go from sound to spelling).

Woods wrote:This being said, I am not against some mild, very consistent changes in orthography, which align foreign vocabulary with the spelling of the language, while at the same time preserving the root of the word. Like in English we write “community” instead of “communauté,” “reality” instead of “realité” and so on. But we don’t write “biewrau” instead of “bureau” or “leftenant” instead of “lieutenant,” because that wouldn’t make any sense!

"Biewrau" is just a nonsensical spelling any way you look at it.

We don't write "leftenant" in my country because we don't pronounce the word that way. (One of the strongest arguments for conservative spellings is that they're supradialectal.)

Woods wrote:And if we change the spelling every ten years, what are we going to do with all the books that have been printed decades and centuries ago – burn them and rewrite everything?

What percentage of books published in any given year get read again a decade later, let alone a century? For the books that do get reprinted, it's easy enough to redo them in contemporary spelling. Plenty of languages with 20th-century spelling reforms do this, and even for English, we routinely produce American and Commonwealth spelling editions of the same text.
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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby Naava » 2018-02-25, 16:58

Well, one of them just looked at me seriously and said “Do not ever talk to me like that!”

:lol:

Well, I would study in whatever language I can – and since learning Finnish takes forever, I would rather try in Swedish as a way to get in more quickly...

I think that's a good idea. If you already know Danish, Swedish shouldn't be too hard to learn. At least Danish will help you more with Swedish than with Finnish.

if I write -ar instead of -er or -er instead of -ar as a plural, I don’t know what they’ll do – do you think they will not recognise my answers because of the “typos,” or ask me to sit an additional exam in Swedish? :D

I don't think anyone's gonna care if you make a mistake. I study in English and I still make mistakes with articles and prepositions, but it hasn't had any effect in my grades. They do make corrections in essays, though.

If you make many mistakes, they might recommend you to take some extra Swedish lessons to make sure you can study in the language. I mean, I know Finnish speaking Finns study in Swedish, too, and there's no way they all would speak perfect Swedish. :D

after all, Swedish is one of three versions of the same language.

No, it's not. It's one of the three languages that are closely related.

And it’s supposed to be accepted the same way as Danish by institutions in all Scandinavian countries and also Finland.

Really? I've never heard of this. Where did you find this? :o

if I’ve chosen the other standard for my writing, because it fits me better, then what’s the problem?

It's the same problem as in if you were asked to write your answers in English, but you decided to use Dutch. Wrong language. :D

Btw, since you don't seem to think it'd be a problem if you used Danish instead of Swedish - do you know if you could do that in Bulgaria? Would Bulgarian universities accept exams written in other Slavic languages even if the exam was in Bulgarian? :hmm:

To me it looks more like they wanted to be different, rather than keeping the writing the way it was and like the other ones still are. But I don’t know – let the Swedish speakers tell.

I know that, at least with some words, the <ä> was originally /a/. I don't know if that's the case with every word with <ä> though.

Woods wrote: Maybe I’m just too arrogant to think that Swedish is part of the whole world’s cultural heritage and it should not be regarded as a mere property of the Swedes?

What? Do you think that everyone has equal rights to every language in the world, too?

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby Woods » 2018-02-26, 15:09

Naava wrote:If you already know Danish, Swedish shouldn't be too hard to learn. At least Danish will help you more with Swedish than with Finnish.

Me “knowing” Danish might as well be too much of a saying. My level is not so far beyond intermediate. But it’s definitely better than my Swedish. And I also have problems hearing these guys – you’re not the only ones :D

Believe me the more you know Danish, the harder Swedish is to learn – because it’s literally the same thing, but with some differences in pronunciation and orthography. So of course the more you know one of these, the more you understand the other one too, but at the same time – if you write it, more often than not you find yourself writing ‘er’ instead of ‘är’ and you go back and correct yourself… until you encounter a word like ‘byrå’ which makes you want to stick to Danish :D


Naava wrote:I don't think anyone's gonna care if you make a mistake. I study in English and I still make mistakes with articles and prepositions, but it hasn't had any effect in my grades.

Okay, so then if I invent my own version of Swedish where all -er/-ar/-or plurals, as well as all the present -er/-ar endings are written as -er, it shouldn’t be a problem :D

Unless I find some handy rule that explains which one is to be used in which case (I think I found that if a word ends in -a in the present, then the plural goes -or – so I can use that. But for the rest it looks totally random and messy. Also one more rule that seems to make sense (but is not always useable) – if the imperative keeps the a from the infinitive, then the present ending is -ar, if it doesn’t – it’s -er (I will have to know all the infinities though in order to use that – so I guess I would rather make mistakes and render most of the imperatives without the a by not knowing).


Naava wrote:If you make many mistakes, they might recommend you to take some extra Swedish lessons to make sure you can study in the language.

Of course I can study in the language. Recognising ten different endings that mean the same thing is much easier than knowing which one to write – but this wouldn’t affect my ability to understand the meaning of the lectures.

I wouldn’t mind taking some Swedish courses. Indeed I joined one Swedish class while I was in Finland (by the way I’m taking a break – but I may get back there in the summer). But it was boring and I didn’t learn much – so it wasn’t really worth my two hours. I think I need a much higher level even though I don’t know the basics.

And the worst of all – it wouldn’t change my opinion that the grammar of this language is overcomplicated and my preference for Danish orthography because of this and the re-spelling.

But if one day I write something in outstanding Danish and someone “translates” it into Swedish, this would really annoy me. Likewise, it would also piss me off if I wrote my text in British English and someone reprinted it with American re-spelling. If Americans can’t figure that ‘colour’ means ‘color,’ the problem is not with my book but with their heads – this is my text and I don’t want anyone to tell me how to write it!


Naava wrote:It's the same problem as in if you were asked to write your answers in English, but you decided to use Dutch. Wrong language. :D

Hm, can you show me a Dutch text where speakers of English will be able to recognise 95% of the words without using a dictionary?


Naava wrote:
Woods wrote:And it’s supposed to be accepted the same way as Danish by institutions in all Scandinavian countries and also Finland.

Really? I've never heard of this. Where did you find this? :o

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nordic_Language_Convention

Under the Convention, citizens of the Nordic countries have the opportunity to use their native language when interacting with official bodies in other Nordic countries without being liable to any interpretation or translation costs. The Convention covers health care, social security, tax, school, and employment authorities, the police and courts. The languages included are Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish and Icelandic.

Yes, I do know that this does not apply to universities and that if you take for example Finnish, nobody will be able to understand it except the Finns and therefore the convention is not based on linguistic closeness, but on some other things. But the fact of the matter is, that I have written to Swedish-speaking institutions in Finland and have gotten replies in Swedish and continued the communication the same way without a problem. And people in universities are supposed to be more intelligent and knowledgeable and be able to handle this even better!


Naava wrote:
Woods wrote:after all, Swedish is one of three versions of the same language.

No, it's not. It's one of the three languages that are closely related.

Is Danish’s weird pronunciation what you stops you from seeing how close the two languages are?


Naava wrote:Btw, since you don't seem to think it'd be a problem if you used Danish instead of Swedish - do you know if you could do that in Bulgaria? Would Bulgarian universities accept exams written in other Slavic languages even if the exam was in Bulgarian?

Other Slavic languages are far more apart. Even if you take the closest one – I guess Serbian – it will have a few noun cases unheard of in Bulgarian and the words would be much more different. So that would be more like writing the Swedish exam in German or Icelandic, not in Danish.

Well, actually – I think they will have to accept Macedonian, because Bulgarian science does not recognise that as a separate language – so if they don’t, they will be in contradiction with themselves. :D


Naava wrote:
Woods wrote:Maybe I’m just too arrogant to think that Swedish is part of the whole world’s cultural heritage and it should not be regarded as a mere property of the Swedes?

What? Do you think that everyone has equal rights to every language in the world, too?

Why not?

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby hashi » 2018-06-11, 1:00

Woods wrote:- there are not two, but ten different plural endings
- the past participle (the form used to make the perfect) has not one, but three different forms
- the present verb ending can be either -er or -ar (and how in this world am I supposed to know which one to use?)

And then there’s the writing…

- there’s ä all over the place (including in places where it’s not needed – i.e. before a double consonant which makes it 100 % certain it’s the same sound, even if you write an e like everybody else
- the doubling of consonants at the end of the words makes it harder to recognise words we otherwise know very well from other languages;

and the worst of all:

- it has invented its own spelling for words that are written the same way in almost every other language (byrå, essä, restaurang and god knows what else…)


I haven't read the whole thread (cause it's loooong), but with specific reference to the above points, you'll find that this is the case in damn near most foreign languages you study. There are always redundancies, illogical patterns, exceptions, and things that you "just have to memorise".

The point about loanwords is the same - some languages will just copy the word in its entirety (whether or not its pronounced the same is another issue), but others will adapt it (sometimes in a seemingly odd way) like Swedish does. It's just what language does and Swedish is no exception lol.

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby Woods » 2018-07-22, 13:12

hashi wrote:
Woods wrote:and the worst of all:

- it has invented its own spelling for words that are written the same way in almost every other language (byrå, essä, restaurang and god knows what else…)

[...]

The point about loanwords is the same - some languages will just copy the word in its entirety (whether or not its pronounced the same is another issue), but others will adapt it (sometimes in a seemingly odd way) like Swedish does. It's just what language does and Swedish is no exception lol.

I agree, but I'll always support languages keeping their roots alive rather than hiding them. And not masking foreign elements and making them look like they were always part of that language.


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