The winner of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature was someone who writes in Norwegian, Jon Fosse. That award is notable not just because Fosse is the first winner known best for his plays since Harold Pinter (2005). And not just because he is the first winner who writes in Norwegian since Sigrid Undset (1928).…… Continue reading Nynorsk writer wins Nobel literature prize
Swedish uses a morpheme -s to form genitive noun phrases and, surprisingly, uses it in much the same as English. This post looks at how this works. Much of the discussion here comes from Börjars (1998). Genitive form of unmodified nouns Like English, Swedish creates a genitive form of nouns by adding -s to the…… Continue reading Surprised by genitive -s in Swedish
Swedish has a sound /s/, broadly similar to English /s/ in, for example, English seep. I’ve known for a long time that Swedish also has 2 other sibilant consonants, which I’d thought corresponded roughly to English /ʃ/, as in English sheep. Common transcriptions for those 2 sibilants in the International Phonetic Alphabet are /ɕ/ and…… Continue reading Is that Swedish ‘sj-sound’ really a sibilant?
Is it possible to quantity how one language differs from another language? In 2015, two academic researchers tried to do that by creating what they called a ‘Language Friction Index’ (LFI). They describe the index in their paper Language friction and partner selection in cross-border R&D alliance formation, Amol M Joshi and Nandini Lahiri, Journal…… Continue reading Measuring how much languages differ
The Scandinavian languages are similar to each other, but also differ from each other. Here is an example that illustrates nicely some of the similarities and differences. I came across it in The Syntax of Icelandic, Höskuldur Thráinson (2007). Although Höskuldur Thráinson uses the example to make one specific point about word order, I use…… Continue reading Similarities and differences within Scandinavian languages
Here is a summary of some things I learnt about the Mainland Scandinavian languages (Danish, Swedish and Norwegian) a couple of years ago, when I was carrying out a self-imposed language challenge. http://languagemiscellany.com/2021/09/scandinavian-challenge-how-did-it-go/ I am commenting here only on those 3 languages, not their relatives, the insular Scandinavian Languages (Icelandic and Faroese). For an…… Continue reading Language sketch: Danish, Swedish and Norwegian
Many western European languages have a perfect tense, formed by combining an auxiliary verb (meaning ‘have’ or ‘be’) with a past participle. Different languages use this verb form in different ways. A recent paper used translations of a well-known French novel to explore those differences. The aim was to see which tense the translators used…… Continue reading Using translation to show how the perfect differs across languages
Some Danes often make errors in inflecting English verbs, even though the same people speak English very fluently and, in almost every other respect, very accurately. Their error is that they don’t add the suffix -s in the 3rd person singular of the present tense. For example, they might say she give instead of she…… Continue reading A difficulty for Danes learning English
The University of Westminster runs language courses in about 20 languages. In fact I did 3 of their evening courses in the mid 90s. For some languages they have a brief online diagnostic quiz. This tests how much you know so you can enrol at the right level. The quiz contains 50 questions, in a…… Continue reading Test your languages online
In June and July, I set myself a challenge of working through introductory language courses on Danish, Swedish and Norwegian. I planned to work each day on one of the languages. I finished the challenge in late July. I worked on these similar languages in parallel and more systematically than in earlier intermittent and brief…… Continue reading Scandinavian challenge: how did it go?