v40: dold

Compound words, particularly compound nouns, are common in Swedish. Swedish is more likely to have a compound noun where English might use a compound, a hyphen, or two separate words, for example vattenskyddsområde (water protection area). But of course, it’s not that simple: for example järnväg (railway) is a compound in both languages, but English is reluctant to extend the exercise: järnvägslinje (railway line).

Back to last week’s question: Norstedts lists the following: lögndetektor (lie detector), mindetektor (mine detector), and rökdetektor (smoke detector). But dold detektor means hidden detector. So I guess if we want to look for rules, we might say that the compound noun, made up of first element (FE) + second element (SE), is a specific type of SE, whereas separate words are used for a description of a general SE.

The following example works equally well in Swedish and English: blåbär (blueberries) are a specific type of berry, whereas blå bär (blue berries) are any old berries that happen to be blue.

That simple rule won’t cover everything, and a lot seems to me to depend on the differences between the ways adjectives work in Swedish and English. Contrast:

en kort hårig flicka = a short, hairy girl
en korthårig flicka = a short-haired girl

rök fritt = smoke freely (smoking allowed)
rökfritt = smoke-free (smoking prohibited)

There is a phenomenon in Swedish called särskrivning (separated writing), which refers to the incorrect use of separate words where a compound is correct. If you want to see the kind of fervor this stirs up, have a look at skrivihop.nu. While the “short-haired girl” example above provides a nice example of how linguistic functions are realised differently in English and Swedish, I do find it hard to take seriously the argument that särskrivning would result in any serious misunderstandings. But they do offer this helpful piece of advice:

Om det uttalas som ett sammansatt ord skall det också skrivas som ett sammansatt ord!
If it is pronounced as a compound word, it is also written as a compound word!

Yeah, right.

Next week:

Baker's van

How many Romani loan words (or loanwords or even loan-words?) do you know, and what does the picture have to do with anything?

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Published in: on September 28, 2009 at 11:45  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] some words. Actually, previously we’ve looked at inflections for adjectives and nouns, and compounding, so this week it’s got to be derivations. Derivations are fun, and so are […]

  2. […] the opposite of a kändis is a doldis, an unperson or anonymous public figure, derived from dold, hidden and dölja, to hide. Otherwise, the -dis ending does not seem particularly productive, so […]


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