A Simplified Grammar of the Swedish Language/Part I/The Alphabet

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The Swedish alphabet consists of the following twenty-eight letters (Bokstäfver) :—

A, called ah, pronounced like a in father.
B " bey " as in English.
C " sey " in genuine Swedish words like k before a, o, u; and like s in words of foreign origin and when it stands before e, i, ä and y.
D " dey " as in English.
E " eh " like ai in laid, and like e in felt.
F " eff " generally as in English, but like v at the end of words. It represents ph and φ.
G " yay " like hard English g before l, r, t, a, o and u; like English y before e, j, ä, ö, y; before n it may take, with that letter, the sound of en, Fr.
H, called haw, aspirated except before j and v.
I " ee, pronounced like ee in tree, or like i in thin
J " yee " like y in yellow.
K " kaw " like English k before l, r and v, and before the hard vowels a, å, o, u, as well as at the end of words. Before the soft vowels ä, e, i, y and ö, it takes what the Swedes designate as the "tje" sound, which is nearly equivalent to the sound of English ch.
L " ell " generally as in English; but not heard before j, as ljus (pron. juus), 'light.'
M " emm " as in English.
N " enn " as in English; before k, n takes the sound of ng.
O " oh " when short like o in dog, or like o in bore, but also like oo in boon.
P " pey " as in English.
Q " coo. This letter is followed in Swedish by v instead of u, and is then pronounced like English kv.
R " err, pronounced like a strongly enunciated r, and always audible among the more cultivated classes.
S called ess, pronounced like hard English s before l, and before k and t, where these letters are not followed by j, in which case sk and st acquire the sound of english sh. This sound is, moreover, heard at all times in sj; and in sk, where the latter is followed by the soft vowels ä, e, i, ö, y.
T " tey " as in English.
U " oo " like oo in spoon, or when short like u in full. In addition to these, the Swedish u has, however, a sound not precisely analogous to any to be found in more southern European tongues, but which in many instances appears to have an intermediate sound between the English u in pull and the u in shutter.
V " vey " as in English.
X " eks " " "
Y " u " like French u in pure.
Z " seyta " as hard English s.
Å " awe " like aw in saw.
Ä " ey " like a in sale, and when short like e in wren.
Ö " eu " like eu in beurre (Fr.) and in peu (Fr.).
The letter c is generally replaced by k where it has the hard sound of that letter, as Karl for 'Carl.' In foreign words which have been adopted with little or no modification, the c is often replaced by s, as seder, or ceder, 'cedar.'

The letter d is not sounded before t, as godt (got), 'good,' nor between l and t, as mildt (millt), 'mild.' It is dropped before j in certain words, as djur (jur), 'animal.'

The letter f is followed by v, and merged in that letter, when standing between two vowels, as gifva (yeeva), 'to give.'

The letter g has the sound of hard g or soft k at the end of words, as skog, m. (skoǎgk), 'wood;' but it takes the sound of Swedish j when preceded by l or r, as talg (talj), 'tallow;' färg (färj), 'colour.'

When g precedes a soft vowel at the beginning of a word, or of a syllable, it takes the sound of Swedish j, or English y; as, gäst (yest), 'stranger;' begära (beyera), 'to require;' gerna or gärna (yerna), 'willingly.'

When g is followed by n in a root-word, it takes the so-called 'äng' sound, as regna (rengna), 'to rain,' from regn, 'rain.'

The letter h is often dropped after k, or absorbed in that letter, as bokhällare (bokkellare), 'book-keeper.'

Although k has the sound of English ch before soft vowels in ordinary Swedish words, as kyrka (chürka), 'church,' it retains the hard sound in most foreign words, as anarki (annarkee), 'anarchy.' It is occasionally dropped before other consonants, as spektakel (spektaakel), 'theatre.'

L between two consonants is generally dropped, as verld (verd), 'world.' It is not heard before j, as ljud (youd), 'sound.'

Sj, which as already observed is equivalent to sh, as sjuk (shuuk), 'sick,' is occasionally used to express the sound of si in such foreign words as asjette (assiette, Fr.), 'plate;' pasjon, 'passion.'

Although as a rule sk takes the sound of sh before soft vowels, as skepp (shepp), 'ship,' while it retains its hard sound before the hard vowels, as skall, 'shall,' its use is, however, occasionally irregular under both conditions, as handske (handskē), 'glove;' and menniska (mennisha), 'human being.'

T is often dropped before s, as båtsman (bosman), 'boatman;' skjuts (shüss), 'post-relay.' Tj has the sound of the Italian c before soft vowels, as tjära (cera, Ital.), 'tar.' Ti in foreign words has the sound of tsh, as nation (naatshone), 'nation.' The th of foreign words, pronounced like simple t, is rendered by that letter, although in the older forms of Swedish it constituted a distinct character of the alphabet.

Foreign words, although often rendered literally, as 'logis,' 'cake,' etc., are not unfrequently spelt phonetically, as marki, 'marquis,' kuragè, 'courage.'

A, å, o, u are reckoned as hard vowels, and e, i, ä, ö, y as soft vowels.

Final e is generally sounded, as in German.

In many words e has precisely the same sound as ä, which has been made to supersede it in the modern system of orthography wherever the root of the word pointed to an Old Northern derivation that warranted the adoption of this form of the vowel a. Thus while one writer gives tjenare, another will give tjänare, 'servant.' In older Swedish MSS. of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the ä (or æ) is found in all words in which the vowel has the sound of a long e, as äftär, 'after,' which is now written efter, and the object aimed at in this, as in other proposed changes of spelling, is to revert—as already observed—as far as circumstances admit, to the use of the letter which best represents the vowel-sound of the Old Northern. Similarly, it is proposed to exchange o for å, where the short sound of the latter has led to a deviation from the older Northern form, as in boll used for the more correct båll, 'ball.'

The vowel-sounds differ so widely with the varying degrees of stress and accentuation on the word, that a prolonged acquaintance with the spoken speech is absolutely necessary to enable a foreigner to know when the vowel should be long or short.

It must, moreover, be borne in mind that intonation, apart from the length or shortness of the vowel, constitutes an important element in the pronunciation of Swedish. According to Mr. Henry Sweet, who is one of the highest authorities on the sounds and intonation of spoken Swedish, there is in every word a simple and a compound tone. The simple tone he characterizes as "a rising modulation, as in asking a question in English," while in the compound tone he recognizes "a falling tone (as in answering a question) on the stress-syllable with an upward leap of the voice, together with a slight secondary stress on a succeeding syllable. The latter occurs, therefore, only in polysyllables. The simple tone is the regular one in monosyllables." . . . . In accordance further with the same competent authority. . . . "Foreign words and many names of places have the simple tone." . . . . while "The definite suffix (article) does not count as part of the word, so that dǎgen, 'the day,' retains the simple tone of dǎg, 'day.'"

In words ending in eri, as bageri, 'bakehouse,' and in various words of foreign origin and termination, as natur, 'nature;' general, 'general;' juvel, 'jewel,' the tone is on the last syllable.

In compounds the tone may be said to be grave on the first, and acute on the second syllable; as, sōlskén, 'sunshine;' ūppfóstra, 'to bring up.'

Swedish, in conformity with its general affinity with the other northern representatives of the Old Gothic, adapts itself readily to the formation of compound words composed of various different parts of speech. In the modern system of spelling there is a tendency, however, to restrict this practice within more rational limits, more especially in regard to compound prepositions, adverbs and conjunctions, the component parts of which are now more and more frequently written separately; as, till freds, 'content,' i hjäl, 'dead;' instead of tillfreds, ihjäl.