Is swedish harder than norwegian?

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Is swedish harder than norwegian?

Postby kotrcka » 2010-09-14, 10:25

Simple question. OK, maybe not so simple. I will describe.

I am interested in nordic languages (plus many others, but...). As you can see, I am learning danish primarily, but I am still interested in all others, including norwegian, swedish and a bit of finnich too.

Danish is OK, pretty easy grammar, hard pronounciation. But what about swedish and norwegian?

They have both the same system of pronounciation, almost "what you see is what you get" (compared to danish). But what about grammar? I tried to look at first lessons of both languages and swedish looks harder for me. Am I right? Or basic norwegian looks more familiar to me, because of my knowledge of english? Yes, I am not an english native, but...

What is your opinion?
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Re: Is swedish harder than norwegian?

Postby Johanna » 2010-09-14, 11:39

I think they are about the same.

What might make learners think Swedish is more difficult is probably that we have a couple more plural endings, and one more for present tense, due to them having e in many cases where we have a, and in some cases where we have another vowel.

On the other hand, most Norwegian dialects have three genders while most Swedes today only use two. Also, they have two written standards: Bokmål and Nynorsk, and even if you don't learn both you still have to learn to understand the other, and some words can be quite different, even within the same standard. "How" for example... "hvordan", "åssen", "korleis" "hoss", "hossen" :P In Swedish it's "hur".

But I think you should keep to Danish until you know it very well, mixing in the other standards of the Scandinavian language before that isn't a very good idea, it will only end with you speaking and writing a mix of them.
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Re: Is swedish harder than norwegian?

Postby kotrcka » 2010-09-14, 11:45

Thanks for reply. Or better - Tack :-D

I am not going to learn any of them, I will stay at danish, which is very nice language for me. I was just curious :-D
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Re: Is swedish harder than norwegian?

Postby Quetzalcoatl » 2010-09-14, 14:32

The problem about Norwegian is that it has two different standard written forms, Bokmål and Nynorsk. Therefore I consider Swedish to be slightly easier, as you know at least what language you are learning when you are learning it :P

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Re: Is swedish harder than norwegian?

Postby Jurgen Wullenwever » 2010-09-14, 17:46

Plusquamperfekt wrote:Therefore I consider Swedish to be slightly easier, as you know at least what language you are learning when you are learning it

Speaking from a native Swedish viewpoint, I am not convinced that there are descriptions of Swedish around that correctly describes the actual language. Everything seems so biased and so flawed, following either this political angle or that particular prejudice, intending to make of the language something else than it is, and largely succeeding in doing so. :(
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Re: Is swedish harder than norwegian?

Postby ILuvEire » 2010-09-15, 2:08

From the stance of a Danish learner, Norwegian is easier. Really, Norwegian is the easiest of them all, Swedish has plurals in -ar, -er and -e (and -a maybe? I'm not sure). Danish has -er or -e, while Norwegian only has -er. Then the present tense has -er or -ar in Swedish, only -er in Danish and Norwegian. Of course, there is the Bokmål/Nynorsk issue, but no one uses Nynorsk anyway :P

Then again, Danish is my favorite. Then Swedish. Then the sound of a possum being run over by a car. Then Norwegian. I guess.
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Re: Is swedish harder than norwegian?

Postby hashi » 2010-09-15, 5:56

Hahaha tyty.

Honestly I think Swedish is harder than Norwegian from what I've seen. Not just because of the additional endings, but also Swedish phonology seems to be a bit more complex than Norwegian (for example the soft consonants, retroflex rules and of course the sje-ljud).

Furthermore, Bokmål (and maybe Nynorsk, not entirely sure) has a different syntactical structure for genitives which is a trait of Western Scandinavian languages it seems (where Swedish and Danish belong to the Eastern branch). Observe:

[flag]dk[/flag] Min hund
[flag]sv[/flag] Min hund

[flag]is[/flag] Hundur minn
[flag]no[/flag] Hunden min

Throw in Western Germanic languages for comparison:

[flag]en[/flag] My dog
[flag]nl[/flag] Mijn hond
[flag]de[/flag] Mein Hund

I don't really know if it makes it any harder to you, but in my eyes it does because it requires use of the definite article as well (just another thing to worry about).

However, because you're not actually interested in taking one up just yet, Danish is still a fine choice :)

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Re: Is swedish harder than norwegian?

Postby Johanna » 2010-09-15, 9:11

ILuvEire wrote:Really, Norwegian is the easiest of them all, Swedish has plurals in -ar, -er and -e (and -a maybe? I'm not sure). Danish has -er or -e, while Norwegian only has -er.

It's not as simple as you think, Norwegian has more than -er, even though Swedish still has a couple of more.

In Swedish there are -ar, -er, -or and no ending in the singular indefinite for common gender nouns. Those with two syllables ending in -e in the singular indefinite get -ar, those that change the vowel in the stem in plural get -er, those ending in -a in the singular indefinite get -or, those ending in -are get no ending, and the rest are divided between -ar and -er with -ar being more common.
In the plural definite you add -na to the plural indefinite.

For neuter there is no ending, -(e)n and -er. Normally when a noun ends in a consonant it gets no ending, when it ends in a vowel it gets -(e)n (when the e should be there or not is a bit tricky, I never use it when I speak and can't remember when I did it last when I wrote). Then there are the -er ones, I haven't learnt any rules about it, but they are very few, land belongs to those but it changes the vowel (ett land, två länder) so it pretty much falls under the same rule as the common gender nouns that do too, and then there is parti, but it gets the singular definite partiet despite ending in a vowel, which normally makes the e disappear, so it's not exactly the typical neuter noun.
For plural definite, add -en, -a and -na respectively to the plural indefinite.


Bokmål has -er and -e for common gender, -er where we have -ar, -er and -or and -e where we have no ending. Plural definite is -ene. Well, unless you decide to use -a instead of -er for masculine nouns, then they get -a in the definite too.

For neuter there are no ending and -er in the plural indefinite, and you have to guess which one to use. For the definite you can go with either -ene or -a, it's your choice.

Bokmål too has nouns that change vowel.

ILuvEire wrote:Then the present tense has -er or -ar in Swedish, only -er in Danish and Norwegian.

Yeah, but the present tense tell you about the past tense, since those ending in -er get -te/-de (depending on if the consonant the stem ends in is voiceless or voced), those ending in -ar get -ade.

Bokmål has as many past tense endings, but which one a verb gets depend on what it ends in, like if the stem ends in two consonants that aren't ll, mm, nn, ng or nk it's -et, if it ends in those consonants I mentioned or in only one consonant it's -te, if it ends in v or a diphtong it's -de.

Then there is -dde too, but the rule for that one is identical in both Bokmål and Standard Swedish. and of course both languages have strong verbs, but if I remeber correctly Bokmål has more of those.
ILuvEire wrote:Of course, there is the Bokmål/Nynorsk issue, but no one uses Nynorsk anyway :P

But you have to understand it since there are Norwegians who will only use Nynorsk.

And then thee are the dialects, I think it's great that they keep them, but it makes the spoken language vary quite a bit, and the gap between spoken and written language huge in many cases.

hashi wrote:Honestly I think Swedish is harder than Norwegian from what I've seen. Not just because of the additional endings, but also Swedish phonology seems to be a bit more complex than Norwegian (for example the soft consonants, retroflex rules and of course the sje-ljud).

Norwegian has this too, only they have fewer soft vowels, only i and y. Makes it a little easier to know that has a hard k and kjøre a soft one though, while in Swedish you have to know that is an exception and has a hard one. But that's a matter of orthography rather than phonology.

Swedish has a little more variation when it comes to the sje-sound, that's true, and for an English speaker the [x]-like one is hard to make. But you can go Finland-Swedish and make it [ʃ] all the time, or northern and only use [ʂ]. Besides, Norwegian's tje-sound (they call it "the kj-sound") is /ç/, which isn't exactly the easiest sound to pronounce if your own language doesn't have it.

They have retroflex consonants too, the same as us actually. Maybe not if you decide to use the back r, but then again, then we don't either ;) And in Norway retroflex l is neutral and very common in the dialects that are close to Bokmål, in Sweden it's seen as dialectal and nothing you need to learn in order to sound like a native, no matter what accent you decide to go with.

hashi wrote:Furthermore, Bokmål (and maybe Nynorsk, not entirely sure) has a different syntactical structure for genitives which is a trait of Western Scandinavian languages it seems (where Swedish and Danish belong to the Eastern branch). Observe:

[flag]dk[/flag] Min hund
[flag]sv[/flag] Min hund

[flag]is[/flag] Hundur minn
[flag]no[/flag] Hunden min

[...]

I don't really know if it makes it any harder to you, but in my eyes it does because it requires use of the definite article as well (just another thing to worry about).

Nynorsk has it too. And to make things even worse, in at least Bokmål you can write either hunden min or min hund, and only context will tell you what looks ok or not.
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Re: Is swedish harder than norwegian?

Postby Jurgen Wullenwever » 2010-09-15, 17:57

hashi wrote:Furthermore, Bokmål (and maybe Nynorsk, not entirely sure) has a different syntactical structure for genitives which is a trait of Western Scandinavian languages it seems (where Swedish and Danish belong to the Eastern branch). Observe:

dk Min hund
sv Min hund

is Hundur minn
no Hunden min

Throw in Western Germanic languages for comparison:

en My dog
nl Mijn hond
de Mein Hund

I don't really know if it makes it any harder to you, but in my eyes it does because it requires use of the definite article as well (just another thing to worry about).


We do have these constructions like "hunden min" in Swedish as well, but they have the character of older-style non-formal speech.
Chekhov wrote:I don't know about naive worldviews, but Jurgen Wullenwhatever pisses me off to no end because of his extreme pessimism and cynicism. You'd think the world was going to end imminently when talking to that guy.

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Re: Is swedish harder than norwegian?

Postby csjc » 2010-09-16, 16:32

hashi wrote:[flag]is[/flag] Hundur minn
[flag]no[/flag] Hunden min


The Icelandic construction normally attaches the definite article to the object being possessed, so, hundurinn minn. You could also say hundur minn or minn hundur but they sound archaic/formal/unusual.
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Re: Is swedish harder than norwegian?

Postby Hunef » 2010-11-02, 20:25

Jurgen Wullenwever wrote:We do have these constructions like "hunden min" in Swedish as well, but they have the character of older-style non-formal speech.

I'd say it's dialectal. But when it comes to family nouns it's older style ("mor min" 'my mother').
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Re: Is swedish harder than norwegian?

Postby hashi » 2010-11-02, 22:49

csjc wrote:
hashi wrote:[flag]is[/flag] Hundur minn
[flag]no[/flag] Hunden min


The Icelandic construction normally attaches the definite article to the object being possessed, so, hundurinn minn. You could also say hundur minn or minn hundur but they sound archaic/formal/unusual.


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Re: Is swedish harder than norwegian?

Postby Gormur » 2010-11-04, 17:06

I think norsk would be slightly easier due to a more similar prosody & vowel system to English. Swedish has pitch accent, which only East-Norwegian dialects retain

So in perspective, West Norwegian would be closest to English
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Re: Is swedish harder than norwegian?

Postby linguoboy » 2010-11-04, 17:57

Gormur wrote:I think norsk would be slightly easier due to a more similar prosody & vowel system to English. Swedish has pitch accent, which only East-Norwegian dialects retain

On the other hand, Finland-Swedish lacks pitch-accent and it also has more English-like values for /ç/ ("tj-ljud") and /ɧ/ ("sj-ljud").

Personally, I'm amused to see so much discussion of such minor points. From where I stand, the two (three?) languages are so similar as to make discussions of relative difficulty essentially moot. If I had to give one the edge, it would probably be Swedish but that's only because my impression so far is that is has a slightly higher percentage of loan translations from German, which I already speak (a criterion which wouldn't be relevant to 99% of all English-speakers).

In terms of deciding which I wanted to learn, it's far more important that--for whatever superficial personal reasons--Swedish simply appeals to me more. Because learning any language is time-consuming and often tedious, you need to go with whatever will keep your motivation up. Though I guess the impression that the language you're studying is "easier" than one or more of the alternatives can have that effect.
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Re: Is swedish harder than norwegian?

Postby j0nas » 2010-11-06, 13:24

Gormur wrote:I think norsk would be slightly easier due to a more similar prosody & vowel system to English. Swedish has pitch accent, which only East-Norwegian dialects retain


What?[/lil jon]

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Re: Is swedish harder than norwegian?

Postby Jurgen Wullenwever » 2010-11-06, 17:25

In Norwegian they refer to them as tonemes, but I do not think we have them in the mid-central Swedish where I live. Not that those words are pronounced the same, but instead of making a pitch difference, we differ between having vowels in the second syllable or not:
tomt-tomtn
tomte-tomten
but jultomte-jultomtn
(This might just be my personal idiolect, though.)
Chekhov wrote:I don't know about naive worldviews, but Jurgen Wullenwhatever pisses me off to no end because of his extreme pessimism and cynicism. You'd think the world was going to end imminently when talking to that guy.

Jag är rebell: jag sockrar teet, saltar maten, cyklar utan hjälm, och tänder glödlampor.
(Ovanstående var förut, nu försöker jag minska sockret och saltet.)

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Re: Is swedish harder than norwegian?

Postby Gormur » 2010-11-07, 20:03

j0nas wrote:
Gormur wrote:I think norsk would be slightly easier due to a more similar prosody & vowel system to English. Swedish has pitch accent, which only East-Norwegian dialects retain


What?[/lil jon]


The pitch accent in Northern Norway is different, but still a pitch accent nonetheless. I was aware of this of course, but failed to mention it

I'm not personally exposed to many Norwegian dialects aside from my own & a few oslosk speakers, thus i overlooked the details while examining the general topic here

Thanks for reminding me tho. I often overlook mid & northern dialects due to difficulty in understanding :oops:
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Re: Is swedish harder than norwegian?

Postby j0nas » 2010-11-10, 10:30

Yeah, my point was that also west-, sout-, mid- and north-norwegian dialects have pitch accent. (There are a couple of exceptions, tho.)

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Re: Is swedish harder than norwegian?

Postby Hunef » 2010-11-10, 18:57

linguoboy wrote:[...] it would probably be Swedish but that's only because my impression so far is that is has a slightly higher percentage of loan translations from German [...]

I don't think this is true, unless you compare Swedish with New Norwegian (especially more conservative varities). I think it's the ä and ö letters that trick you into believing Swedish has more Germans loan words. :?
But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.
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Re: Is swedish harder than norwegian?

Postby Hunef » 2010-11-10, 19:05

j0nas wrote:Yeah, my point was that also west-, sout-, mid- and north-norwegian dialects have pitch accent. (There are a couple of exceptions, tho.)

According to linguists, West and North Norwegian have the same pitch accent system as South Swedish (i..e, Scanian), Trøndsk has the same system as Sveamål and North Swedish, and East Norwegian is unique having its closest relative in Götamål, which also has a unique (though less so) pitch accent system. Furthermore, the Trøndsk/Sveamål/North-Swedish pitch accent seems to be closest to the original Old Norse one, and East Norwegian furthest away among Norwegian and Swedish dialects. (Icelandic, Faroese, Finland Swedish and Danish are, of course, even further away from the Old Norse pitch accent system.)

Source.
But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.
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