Trisha Shetty (Editor)

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.


Uncommon letters

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.

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. 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'. The two letters 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. By 2006, 'W' had grown in usage because of new loanwords, so 'W' officially became a letter, and the 'V' = 'W' sorting rule was 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. (The Swedish Academy's Orthographic Dictionary) declared a change.

The letter 'Z' is rare, used in names and a few loanwords such as zon ("zone"). 'Z' was historically pronounced /ts/. By 1700, this had merged with /s/. As a result, 'Z' was replaced by 'S' in 1700. 'Z' was instead used in loanwords for historical /z/. 'Z' is more common than 'Q' or 'W'.

Accented letters

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

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', 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', 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', 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.

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

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

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

Spellings for the sje-phoneme /ɧ/

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 ("generous", "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")
  • '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
  • References

    Swedish alphabet Wikipedia

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