v1: ojämna

The astute amongst you will have noticed that the headings of my posts always start with ‘v’, then a number. The Swedes will know that this means the ISO 8601 week number (vecka = week). It’s a reminder to me to post once a week, but it’s also commonly used in Sweden. So instead of talking about “the week of February 22nd”, one can just say “week 8”. I knew the ISO would come in handy one day! There’s a pretty simple rule to work out week 1 – it’s the week containing the first Thursday in January, and the numbering continues until the following year gets its own week 1. So this means that some years, such as 2009, end with week 53, and then 2010 starts with week 1: two consecutive odd numbers.

In Australia, garbage in our suburb was collected every second week, and we had a little calendar on the fridge to tell us which weeks those were. In Sweden, our garbage is collected on even weeks (jämna veckor), so I guess no collection to start the New Year.

And now here’s a little more adjective morphology for you: the Swedish prefix o- means un-. For example when recycling glass, there’s a choice between the färgat (coloured) and ofärgat (colourless) bins. Why there’s no word for “clear” glass, I’m not, well, clear. Similarly, the opposite of jämna is ojämna, but one could also use udda (odd). If you were paying attention last week, you should be wondering whether jämna -> ojämna represents derivational or inflectional morphology. And the answer, I’m sure you can work out for yourself (that’s what makes linguistics fun).

Note that the terms even/odd refer to the weeks, since they have numbers associated with them. You could make the mistake of extending that thinking, as a local scout group tries to do:

Vi har våra möten ojämna lördagar…
We have our meetings on uneven Saturdays…

They should say, Saturdays of uneven weeks, or Saturdays of odd weeks, but I know what they mean. Sometimes Saturdays can be uneven.

Published in: on January 4, 2010 at 21:38  Comments (1)  
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v53: underbar

So far, most of my words have been short ones, but now it’s time to step up the pace a little and learn some morphology. Don’t worry, morphology (word structure) is fun! Morphology works like this – here are a bunch of words related to “snow”:

It snowed yesterday. There is snow on the ground. Tomorrow, it may snow; it will be snowy and snowflakes will fall from the sky.

Technical point 1. Word: there are five words related to snow; we can probably agree that there are four different words (although, five is arguable). Lexeme: I’m pretty confident there are four lexemes represented above; a lexeme is the set of words representing a particular part of speech (noun, verb, adjective, …), so we have snow/snowed (verbs), snow (noun), snowy (adjective), and snowflake (noun). Basically, a lexeme is a single dictionary entry. Lemma: the basic wordform in a lexeme set, or the headword in a dictionary; so if you look up snow (verb), you’ll also find snows and snowed. There should be a separate entry for snow (noun), which incorporates snows (plural).

Technical point 2. You may want to talk about morphological processes. Inflection is about changes within a lexeme set, such as snow -> snowed. Derivation is about changing lexemes (or parts of speech), such as snow -> snowy. Compounding just puts words together, such as snow -> snowflake.

But don’t worry too much about the above, let’s just make 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 adjectives.

In Swedish as in English, common adjectives don’t have much morphological structure: bra (good), stor (big), vit (white), and so on. However, there are some specific word endings used to make adjectives. I’ll quickly dispense with -isk, for obvious reasons: aromatisk, turkisk (that is, -ic and -ish in English). Real Swedish adjectives end in -bar or -lig:

brännbar (combustible)
förutsägbar (forseeable)
sårbar (vulnerable)
underbar (wonderful)

behaglig (pleasant)
farlig (dangerous)
molnig (cloudy)
möjlig (possible)
ryslig (dreadful)

This is not a comprehensive list (I don’t have a reverse dictionary), and I’ve saved some of the best for future posts, but there are some interesting things here. First, ryslig is derived from rysa (to shiver). Second, the -bar words are generally equivalent to English words ending in -able or -ible, that is, the adjective describes an action that can be performed on the noun it modifies. Except for underbar (related to the noun ett under (a wonder) and the verb undra (to wonder)). Or not? If a thing is wonderful, is it full of wonder, or is it something you can wonder about (wonderable)? Go and wonder about that while I wonder about next week’s word, which will unfortunately not be “wonderful”.

Published in: on December 29, 2009 at 14:04  Comments (3)  
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