View Full Version : Swedish spelling changes

Jaska Sarell
30-11-09, 21:35
I wonder if there's any explanatory article available on changes in spelling of the Swedish language during centuries, especially in the late 19th century.
This may help us English or Finnish speakers in finding the modern words and thereby their meanings.

I've noticed some regular changes like omitting extra f (hufvud -> huvud), changing w to v, some other simplifications - these are easy ones. But then e.g. changing ä to e or vice versa is often confusing.

:) Jaska

June Pelo
30-11-09, 22:49
I tried to search google for something, but nothing came up that dealt with this specific change.. I've noticed that some Swedish language newspapers are using the "new" spelling sometimes.

01-12-09, 03:45
Yeah I would love an article about this. Trying to translate 19th century newspapers written in "old Swedish" into English has been very challenging for me. Any Swedish dictionary you get now (that I know of, anyway) does not mention the historical spelling variations.

Someone with some authority on the subject would do alot of good by writting up a simple article on the subject.

June Pelo
01-12-09, 22:10
Many years ago I bought a dictionary in Finland and have been happy with it: Modern Svensk-Engelsk Ordbok, published by Bokförlaget Prisma, Stockholm. I also have the Britannica World Language dictionary that has a nice Swedish/English dictionary. I also have Phyllis Pladsen's Swedish Genealogical Dictionary. I wrote to tell her there are many words missing, and she said if I send her a list, she'll include the words - but I never seem to find time to make up a list..

04-12-09, 02:22
Next week, when my college finals are over (and I ...finally... graduate), I will go through my translations and throw up some words I had trouble with in this thread.

09-12-09, 22:56
I once made a list of spelling variations, but as it is about 1700th and
1800th century texts, I do not know, if it is of any interest. If yes, I can add it here.


10-12-09, 06:08
Yes, it is certainly of interest, I'm sure by more than just me.

Perhaps you have a list or a link to an outside site?

10-12-09, 12:35
Sorry, I do not know about any list available in the net. Mine was made as we started a project collecting surnames from judicial records, which are very informative, but also very tedious to use - or rather to find anything in them. So this is only in my computer (the old one with no outside connection) but I'll dig it up.

OK, here are some letters with their ancient spellings & examples, current spelling in parenthesis:

a => ia : sökia (söka), enckia (enka) [at the end of the word]
d => dh : medh (med), sadhe (sade)
e => ee : deel (del), eedh (ed)
e => i : emillan (emellan), swidie (svedje), egit (eget)
g => gh : skogh (skog), iagh (jag)
i => e : wedh (vid)
i => ij : tijdh (tid), wijdare (vidare)
j => i : sielf (sjelv), niuta (njuta), giordhe (gjorde), tiufnadh (tjuvnad)
k => ck : hwilcken (vilken), kyrckioheerde (kyrkoherde)
m => mb : rymbdh (rymd), gambla (gamla)
s => z : slagzmåhl (slagsmål) [with genetive (or possessive) forms]
t => dt : dömbdt (dömd) [at the end of the word]
t => th : uthfattigh (utfattig)
v => f : blef (blev), döf (döv) [at the end of the word]
å => åh : åhr (år), måhl (mål)
ä => äh : ähn (än), nähr (när)
ö => iö : giöra (göra), kiöpt (köpt)

Also letters e and ä seem to have been interchangeable, even in the same sentence you can see the same word written in both ways. Letter v was kinda news to the 1900th century scribes. In 1500's and 1600's it was mostly replaced with u like in huem (vem) or blifuit (blivit) which later changed to w and finally in 1900th century to v. The f which often preseded it, like in hufvud (huvud, nowadays even huv) , was dropped even later. Many other conventions varied - or rather, there were no conventions, writing was just a way to conserve spoken language, so it did not really matter, how it was spelled, as long as it sounded the same. For example, vowels could be long (double) or short, combined words could be written separately or into one, there is no logic in using capital letters etc...

As I do not speak proper Swedish, nor have any linguistic education, you should not take this too seriously. They are just my observations after wading thru hundreds of pages of old documents. Feel free to correct or
add, maybe we could build a spelling database out of it, if there is none out there.


11-12-09, 00:08

Thank you.:D

Jaska Sarell
11-12-09, 00:33
Kiitos Eeva!

That's a very good start for e.g. a SFHS Wiki article, which can later be refined.

The Swedish speakers usually can understand old writing straight away, Finns that have studied Swedish at school have a bit difficulty but may succeed by experience, but for those abroad who try to use a dictionary only (or online translator) these guidelines will be really useful.

BTW. That old spelling affected also Finnish place names in old documents. As an example, many names ending with järvi (lake) were written jerfwi or a similar variation.

:) Jaska

11-12-09, 10:22
I noticed one crucial bit missing if you are using dictionary or translator. Words nowadays starting with v used to start with h followed by u, w or v depending on the time period, like huilcken/hvilken which became vilken and means which. This spelling form was a long lasting one, from the earliest document until late 1900th century. The common word varje (each) used to be written huar in 1500's and 1600's - not much left of the original spelling.