söndag 16 maj 2010

Å, Ä and Ö

Å, Ä and Ö are the three last letters in the Swedish alphabet. If you look for Åke Ögren's phone number in the phone book, you have to look at the end of the book. To us they aren't simply an a or o with circles or dots over — they are three separate letters. The Swe-dish word "laga" means mend, but the word "låga" means flame. Väg means way, but våg means wave (in the water or hair) or a balance (to weigh things on). Lök means onion while a lok is an locomotive. So you have to know where to place the circles and dots, or the sentence might mean something you didn't mean!
How do you pronounce these letters is a common question — and a good one.
Like in most other (if not all) languages, the same letter is pronounced differently, depending on the letters which surround it. So these examples won't cover all the possibilities — not to mention dialects.
Å, is pronounced as the a in law.
Ä as the a in fast — the American way of saying fast, that is.
Ö, is similar to u in fur.

I know that English speaking people some-times refer to these letter as umlaut — which I consider wrong even if it has become pretty common. The German word umlaut means "around/changed"+"sound". And is used when a vowel changes like o in mouse becomes i in plural, mice. So English also has umlaut, just as Swedish and many other languages.

3 kommentarer:

  1. Interesting, even I think I haven't quite understood it yet....Your words for way and onion make me think of German Weg and English leek. The languages are close....But the explanation of umlaut is confusing! In German if your typewriter doesn't have an umlaut, you can use an e after the vowel which is changing. It's a more subtle change than o to i as in the plural of mouse.

    But I speak Hungarian and it has lots of letters which are thought of as separate letters of the alphabet and are made with either accents (long slanting lines, a German sort of umlaut or longer lines in umlaut style) or two of what an English speaker would think of as separate letters such as ly, ny, cs, or dz to name a few.

    Spelling and pronunciation are so peculiar to a language. English could use a good spelling reform, which Hungarian got some time ago, but I think this will never happen!

  2. Also, Hungarian has an ancient writing called rovasiras which is like runic writing. Some people think the Finns brought this to Scandinavia.

    Lots of mysteries........


  3. Kristi,
    I think you find umlaut confusing because you have learnt that it means the dots - I find it confusing because I've learnt what it originally meant. It's always hard and confusing to grasp that things mean different things in different parts of the world.
    Spelling and pronunciation are peculiar in all languages I believe - but that's what makes it so fascinating. Keeping the old spelling and old fashion words and expressions makes it possible for us to understand the origin of words an phrases - I'm not so sure that I'm for spelling reforms. It will happen anyway over the years - whether we like it or not.