v2: skapade

Let’s see if you can work out why skapade is this week’s word, before I tell you? While I’ve been pointing out some of the tricky parts of Swedish grammar (but there are many more…), you might have noticed that the English and Swedish versions of my examples have essentially identical word order. So is this true, do English and Swedish have the same word order, and what are the rules about word order anyway?

There are many aspects to word order, such as the position of the basic elements in a sentence, and the the position of modifiers (such as adjectives) in relation to the words they modify. Both Swedish and English are SVO languages, that is, they follow the general pattern subject-verb-object.

This week’s point is that Swedish is what’s called a ‘V2’ language (hence appropriate to discuss this week), that is, the verb occurs in the second position in the sentence. You might think this follows from the SVO notion, but look at the following examples:

Vi åker hem.
We’re going home.

Vi åker hem nu.
We’re going home now.

Nu åker vi hem.
Now we’re going home.

See what I mean? The addition of nu (now) at the start of the sentence forces the change in word order, such that the verb stays in the second position. And by “position”, I don’t mean it’s the second word in the sentence, since each position can be occupied by a phrase, which may consist of more than one word.

Modern Swedish is said to date from 1526, with the publication of the New Testament of the Gustav Vasa Bible. Similarly, Late Modern Swedish dates from 1732, with the publication of the first edition of Olof von Dalin’s periodical Then Swänska Argus. It would have been nice to have a quote from either of those references to illustrate Swedish word order, but I figured this would do. Here’s Genesis 1:1 from the Swedish Bible translation of 1917 and the English Revised Standard Version of 1952 / the New International Version of 1978 / New King James version of 1982 (just to keep everyone happy, Genesis 1:1 is the same in all three):

I begynnelsen skapade Gud himmel och jord.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

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Published in: on January 13, 2010 at 08:16  Comments (1)  
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  1. […] dictionaries. Back in those old days, Swedish had a plural form of the verb in its various tenses. Remember that I said Modern Swedish dates from 1526, and Late Modern Swedish from 1732, so how old is too […]


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