v37: kyssas

Following on from the previous post, what do you think of the following:

Ida met Lars.

It’s clear that Ida is the subject and Lars the object, but what about the semantic roles? If Ida and Lars are meeting each other, it’s difficult to assign agent and patient roles to one or the other:

Ida and Lars met (each other).

Verbs such as this are reciprocal verbs, and it’s simple enough (because of what we know about grammatical voice) to see the connection with passives. And in fact, Swedish does use the s-form of the verb for reciprocal constructions:

Ida and Lars meet every Monday.
Ida och Lars träffas varje måndag.

But compare this very similar expression, which uses the plain form of the verb:

Ida and Lars meet each other every Monday.
Ida och Lars träffar varandra varje måndag.

Reciprocal verbs include träffas (meet), enas (agree), kramas (hug), höras (be in touch), kyssas (kiss), brottas (wrestle), and slåss (fight). A particularly common expression involves ses:

Vi ses (senare / på måndag)!
See you (later / on Monday)!

There are s-forms for the infinitive, present, past, and supine. In most but not all cases they are formed by adding -s to the corresponding plain form of the verb. For example, here is the conjugation paradigm for kyssa/kyssas, a type IIb verb:

plain s-form
infinitive kyssa kyssas
present kysser kysses
past kysste kysstes
supine kysst kyssts

I hope you’re getting to understand (and maybe even like) s-forms, because there’s more to come. Vi ses!

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Published in: on October 24, 2010 at 16:36  Leave a Comment  
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v36: slopas

Grammar is the set of rules that govern the structure of sentences, whereas semantics refers to the meaning of the sentence. In grammatical terms, verbs have subjects and objects, whereas in semantic terms, verbs have agents and patients (and more). The relationship between the grammar and the semantics of verbs is called voice. With me so far? Here are some examples:

1. I am opening the door.
2. Ida is opening the door.
3. Ida is opening the doors.

4. The door is opened by me.
5. The door is opened by Ida.
6. The doors are opened by Ida.

In 1., I is the subject, door is the object. In 2. and 3., Ida is the subject, door/doors is the object. You can see this because English has (limited) subject-verb agreement, so am/is changes when the subject changes, but not when the object changes. By similar reasoning, one can see that in 4., 5. and 6., door/doors is the subject and me/Ida is the object. But all these sentences describe the same action: a person opens a door. Semantically, the person is the agent of the verb, and the door is the patient. In 1., 2. and 3., agent = subject, so the verb is in the active voice, while in 4., 5. and 6., patient = subject, so the verb is in the passive voice.

As demonstrated above, English has a periphrastic passive, that is, the passive is formed by the use of additional words. This gives you a clue that something different is going on. Compare different ways of expressing the past in English:

7. Ida opened the door.
8. Ida did open the door.

7. is a grammatical past tense, whereas 8. is a periphrastic past.

As with English, Swedish also has a periphrastic passive:

Dörren blir öppnad (av Ida).
The door was opened (by Ida).

But the commonest way of forming the passive in Swedish is by using the s-form of the verb:

Dörren öppnas.
The door is opened.

Dörren öppnades.
The door was opened.

I find the s-form confusing because it looks just like an English 3rd person singular present tense (as if I am expecting to see an English word in the middle of a Swedish sentence; then again I find the Swedish present tense confusing because it reminds me of a French infinitive). So in the following example, from a letter I received from Transportstyrelsen, I initially thought the kontrollmärke (car registration sticker is a close as I can get) was doing something, whereas it is in fact the semantic patient:

Kontrollmärke slopas
Registration sticker is abolished

You’ll note I’ve called it the s-form rather than the passive form. That’s because the s-form of the verb has a whole lot of other interesting uses, more about which in the very near future.

Published in: on October 19, 2010 at 12:26  Comments (1)  
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v35: skilsmässa

The word mässa in Swedish means either a (religious) mass or a (trade-) fair. The etymologies are connected, markets often being held in connection with important days in the church calendar. However I was a bit puzzled by skilsmässa (divorce), which is derived from skilja (to separate) + mässa.

My sources give the origin of skilsmässa as a mass held at the end of a meeting, that, is some kind of separation ceremony.  However in connection with this etymology Norstedt’s uses the word troligen (probably), whereas SAOB says both omtvistat (disputed) and möjl[igen] (possibly). So you be the judge…

The word brassy in English has a sense of cheap and flashy, which apparently dates from the 1800s, as opposed to the related sense debased, which is cited in the 1500s. Both meanings relate to the contrast between brass and gold. English brass = Swedish mässing, which is quite unrelated to mässa but I’m including it here because in researching mässa I found the expression i bara mässingen (completely naked). Unlike the English use, there is no reference to gold here. Instead, the expression refers to silver-coated brass objects, where the silver has worn off, allowing the brass beneath to be seen.

Published in: on October 6, 2010 at 12:15  Leave a Comment  
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