Alatius wrote:The etymology of "på" is a bit interesting. The original form of this preposition was simply this "å" that you have noticed. It is related with the English "on". And just as in English, it was often used in the combination "uppå" ("upon"). But what happened was that this word started to be perceived as "upp-på" instead of "upp-å", and then people started to say "på" even without the preceding "upp". (Imagine, if you like, an alternative history form of the English language where "pon" is the regular preposition, and "on", to the extent it is used at all, sounds quaintly Victorian!)
What about Danish and Norwegian? In the former, the preposition is definitely also på, and is used the exact same way as in Swedish. Or did the change you were talking about occur before Swedish and Danish split into two separate languages?
Or was it initially å in Swedish, but på in Danish? Actually the preposition по exists also in Bulgarian and Russian, with slightly different but similar meanings. Russians even say по-русски the same way Swedes say på svenska. We don't do that, but we might say по пътя за вкъщи as a Dane might say på vej hjem.
These are my observations without any factual knowledge of the origin and evolution of this preposition in these languages - maybe somebody else could explain the link between them or lack thereof?
I'm not exactly sure when the shift between å
happened, but it was definitely after we start talking about Old Danish, Norwegian and Swedish as opposed to Old Norse.
The thing is, this cut-off point is arbitrary and simply set at a very convenient point: when rune stones fell out of fashion. Then there's a gap of 100-150 years where all preserved texts are in Latin, and also religious in nature IIRC, before you start seeing laws in the local tongues. It's set before the Great Vowel Dance even, so the preposition was still á
, just like in Old Norse. (Faroese and Icelandic keep it to this day, but they have since changed the pronunciation from /aː/
, or possibly /ɑː/
; Faroese uses /ɔaː/
depending on dialect, and Icelandic /auː/
In any case, it seems to simply have been yet another of those things that happened all over Scandinavia that further separated those varieties from its island cousins. And it makes much more sense to speak about regions and dialects when it comes to Danish, Norwegian and Swedish from that perspective, especially since they still were one big dialect continuum until at least the mid-20th century.
As for the Slavic по
, it's a complete coincidence. It's a cognate of German von
and Dutch van
, which rather mean something like "from", or perhaps a combination of that and "of". The Bulgarian cognate of på
, which I think can mean "on" in other contexts?