[PW] need help with swedish translation

cowan at ccil.org cowan at ccil.org
Wed May 6 13:19:12 PDT 2015

Sten Thaning scripsit:

> My best guesses:

I sent your email (anonymized) to the proprietor of Language Hat, a
linguistics blog with a lot of highly knowledgeable people on it,
and he posted it at <http://languagehat.com/som-ni-see>, open to
comments.  One has already arrived, which I will transcribe here
(OP, please note):

It’s definitely written by a barely literate Swede, there are many
lexicographic errors there. For instance, the word “fottograf”
is all wrong, it should be “fotografi”. You could maybe blame
the double t’s on 19th century spelling (there was a major Swedish
spelling reform in the early 20th century, but I don’t think this
case would have been affected), but more importantly “fotograf” means
“photographer”, not “photograph”. “sesta” is a clearly misspelling of
“sista” (“last”, in Swedish).

“ljemna” is interesting. There’s no Swedish word spelled like that,
but  “lämna” meaning “to leave” (which could easily be misspelled
as “lemna”) is close. It looks weird to Swedish speakers though,
because in Swedish, “lj” in the beginning of words are universally
pronounced as a soft “j” (such as in “ljuga”, “to lie”). You’d have
to be a fairly terrible speller to make that mistake.

The last case is interesting. I agree that at first it looks like
sentence fragments, but it could also reasonably be transcribed as
“detta ar min datta åkk vån”, which, with a huge pinch of salt,
could mean “This is my father and friend”.

Many of these words sound like transcriptions of Swedish dialects,
and I would be fairly certain that it’s a rural speaker that wrote this.
The most interesting clue is “åkk”, the misspelling of “och” (“and”, in
Swedish). Double k’s are almost unheard of in Swedish (like English,
we use “ck” or occasionally “ch”), but it’s common in Northern Swedish
place names (like Jokkmokk, for instance). The reason for this is that
those place names doesn’t come from Swedish, they come from the Sami
language, the Finno-Ugric language spoken by the Sami peoples in northern
Sweden and Finland.

If I were to guess, I would say that whoever wrote this comes from a
bilingual community where both Swedish and Sami (or Meänkieli) are spoken,
and that he or she has very little formal education.

As it happens, I’m visiting my parents right now, so I showed my mother
the writing (she being vastly better att reading cursive than me).
She read the last sentence fragment as “detta ar min dotter åkk vån”,
which would mean “this is my daughter and friend” (though still very
misspelled). That makes much more sense, I fairly convinced she’s right.

Full disclosure though: she doesn’t buy my northern Sweden theory.
I think she’s wrong about that, though.


More comments will probably accumulate with varying amounts of relevance:
topic drift is a fact of life at Language Hat, but it's one of the
rare civilized places on the Web where "Don't read the comments" is
not at all to be recommended.

John Cowan          http://www.ccil.org/~cowan        cowan at ccil.org
Monday we watch-a Firefly's house, but he no come out.  He wasn't home.
Tuesday we go to the ball game, but he fool us.  He no show up.  Wednesday he
go to the ball game, and we fool him.  We no show up.  Thursday was a
double-header.  Nobody show up.  Friday it rained all day.  There was no ball
game, so we stayed home and we listened to it on-a the radio.  --Chicolini

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