A Simplified Grammar of the Swedish Language/Part II/The Definite Articles

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The Definite Articles.

In the Old Northern there was no distinct definite article till a comparatively late period, when its place was supplied by the use of the demonstrative pronoun –

hinn, m., hin, f., hint (hitt), n., singular, this, that;
hinir, ... hinar, ... hin, ... plural, these, those;

which either followed the noun in an independent form, as Sæmundr hinn frodi, 'the wise Sæmund,' or was affixed to it with the h and final n dropped for euphony, as hestrin, 'the horse.' In conformity with this process of adaptation, the modern Scandinavian tongues have used the demonstrative pronoun den, det, de, 'this,' 'that,' etc., as a definite independent article, pronounced without the vowel-stress that marks the former. In the earlier forms of Swedish this unaccented pronoun generally followed the noun which it defined, and came in process of time to be incorporated with it in the form of the suffixes -en or -n, m., f.; -et or -t, n., sing.; -ne, -na, -en or -a, pl., which now constitute one of the most distinctive characteristics of the language.

Swedish thus possesses two distinct forms of the definite article, the one independent, as den blomma, 'the flower,' and the other supplemental and affixed, as blomman, 'the flower.' The suffixes, which must accord in number and gender with the noun with which they are amalgamated, thus simply but completely represent the English definite article 'the;' as, skalden, 'the bard;' blomman, f., 'the flower;' namnet, n., 'the name;' riket, 'the kingdom;' skalderna, 'the bards;' blommorna, 'the flowers;' namnen, 'the names;' rikena, 'the kingdoms;' skald, blomma, etc., without such terminals, being indefinite, as 'bard,' 'flower,' etc.

Nouns used in an abstract sense take the article in Swedish where it is omitted in English; as, lifvet är kort, '(the) life is short;' vinet pressas ur drufvor, '(the) wine is extracted from grapes;' hvad kostar smöret i dag? 'what does (the) butter cost to-day?'

The affix is used with some names of countries and places; as for example: Italien, '(the) Italy;' Alperna, 'the Alps;' Scandinavien, 'Scandinavia;' and with certain titles; as, Riksrådet '(councillor)' Lynberg; Presidenten Wrangel. But it is not used with konung, 'king;' furste, 'prince;' grefve, 'count;' Herr, 'Mr.;' Löjtnant, 'lieutenant;' nor with any feminine titles; as, drottning, 'queen;' Fru, 'Mrs.;' Fröken, Jungfru, 'Miss;' 'Madam,' etc.

When Herr precedes another title, the latter takes the terminal article; as, har Herr grefven varit i London? 'have you been in London, count?'

When a title or professional designation precedes the name of the person addressed, the former has the final article; as, Docenten Almqvist. The article is omitted when the noun is preceded and governed by a genitive; as, iqvnnans pligt är att älska sina barn, 'a woman's duty (the duty of a woman) is to love her children.'

The affix-article is not used when the noun is preceded by a relative or interrogative pronoun; as, hvilken pojke var det? 'what boy was that?'

Swedish requires that the terminal article should be added to the noun, even when the latter is preceded by an adjective with the independent article, den, det, de, 'the;' as, det behagede ej den lilla prinsessan, 'this did not please the little princess.'

This pleonastic method of construction is also met with when the noun is preceded by the demonstrative pronoun, den, det, de, 'that,' 'those;' as, den mannen skulle jag vilja lära känna, 'that man I should like to know.'

In the older forms of the language the suffix-article was generally omitted in such modes of construction, as may be seen from certain familiar expressions still current; as, i de äldsta tider ', 'in the olden times.'

The use of the definite article before a noun, where the latter is not qualified by an adjective, is regarded as a Germanism, and is of frequent occurrence in the Scriptures, which in many particulars reflect the German literary influences to which the earlier translators had been subjected; thus we find de Romare, 'the Romans;' de Kolosser, 'the Colossians,' instead of the more genuinely Northern construction 'Romarne,' 'Kolosserne.'

As a general rule it may be assumed that the terminal suffix-article should be used wherever the English 'the' is required to define the noun; as, jorden är rund, the earth is round; Såg du herrarne? 'did you see the gentlemen?'