s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: Learning Swedish, part 2 (Reading Comprehension)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Learning Swedish, part 2 (Reading Comprehension)

I found a really great online Swedish-English dictionary, so I decided to jump into some reading comprehension. (The “really great” part about the dictionary is that it will uninflect entry words, so I don’t have to know anything about Swedish declension or conjugation to use it.) The ever-subversive Petra pointed out that if I could probably get away with learning Swedish in Sacrament Meeting if I was reading a Church magazine, so I’m plowing through the Swedish Friend, which is about at my level. (She also pointed out that reading a work originally written in Swedish is preferable to reading one translated from English, but I don’t really care at this point.)

In Swedish, The Children’s Friend is called

Lilla Stjärnan: För Barn
(Small Stars: For the Child)

The dictionary entry for “lilla” is “liten.” They’re both adjectives, so I wasn’t sure what the difference was.
Another website informs me that “After an identifying word . . . ‘liten’ is changed to ‘lilla’” and then proceeds to give me a list of “identifying words,” which include determiners (more or less) and names or nouns in the genitive. That’s fine, but I don’t see anything in front of “Lilla Stjärnan” at all, let alone an “identifying word.” Just one of the mysteries of Swedish, I suppose.

I guessed that “barn” might be a cognate of the English “bairn,” and the OED confirms it. That’s kind of cool.

Ärlige Morgan
(Honest Morgan)

I thought that “Morgan” might be a cognate of the German “Morgen,” making the title something like “Early morning” (which would go along with the picture of two kids at the breakfast table). The actual Swedish cognate is “morgon”; “Morgan” is just a name (of someone who is apparently honest, or who will be by the end of the story).

En dag körde Morgan sin leksakslastbil över köksbordet.
(One day Morgan drove his toy truck across the kitchen table.)

“Leksakslastbil” is kind of fun because it breaks down into “leksaks” (“toy”) and “lastbil” (“truck”), which further break down into “lek” (“play”), “saks” (“thing”), “last” (“load”), and “bil” (“car”). So it’s a play-thing-load-car. Also, it looks like Swedish does the same thing as German, where the verb and subject switch if the sentence starts with an adverbial time phrase. (And Melyngoch said it had no verb-seconding! Oh du of little faith!)

Morgans lillebror Jacksen satt i sin stol och tittade på.
(Morgan’s baby brother Jacksen sat in his chair and watched.)

“Lillebror” could also be “little brother,” but the picture makes it clear that he’s a baby. (This will become an important plot point later on, when it comes time for Morgan to be honest. I hope I’m not giving too much away, here.)

I think that’s all I have time for, today. Sorry to keep you in suspense about the rest of the story. I’ll try to finish it up later in the week.


At April 29, 2007 10:03 PM, Blogger Th. said...


I like the word bairn.

At April 30, 2007 12:00 AM, Blogger Katya said...

It's a good word.

At April 30, 2007 1:02 PM, Blogger Optimistic. said...

While I don't have any innate interest in Swedish and only a moderate level of interest in linguistics in general, I found this post to be absolutely fascinating. Serious. I was riveted. Maybe I'll learn a language of my own this year, too.

At April 30, 2007 7:49 PM, Blogger Katya said...

Well, I'm glad your reaction was more positive than Melyngoch's. ("I HATE YOU.") And we could always revive "Da, eto kniga" if you want to work on Russian again.

At May 18, 2007 11:00 PM, Blogger Ruth said...

Wow. Swedish is more like German than I expected it to be. And I knew it was quite a lot like German.


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