History Hans Högman
Copyright © Hans Högman 2019-05-21

The Orthography (Spelling) Reform of 1906 –

Sweden

Introduction

If you know some Swedish and are doing genealogy research of Swedish parish records and military rolls you might now and then wish to look for a Swedish word in a Swedish/English dictionary to find out what it means. However, if you enter a word as it is spelled in the old records there is a risk that you will not get a match in the dictionary. The reason for this is that the spelling of many words was changed in 1906 and dictionaries of today only contain modern spelling. If you know the basics of the spelling reform it is easy to change the spelling of the old word into modern spelling. It is only a few simple rules that you have to follow which is described below.

Swedish Orthography

The orthography norm of 1801

The rules of Swedish orthography were from early times very free but began to stabilize with the first translation of the Bible into Swedish in 1526. Prior to 1526 the Bible was in Latin. However, the first norm for Swedish orthography wasn’t adopted until 1801. The initiator of this norm was the member of the Swedish Academy Carl Gustaf af Leopold with his work “Afhandling om svenska stafsättet” (Thesis of Swedish Orthography). After the Swedish reform of the elementary school in 1842 (Folkskolestadgan) it became obvious that teaching of reading and writing would be made easier if the spellings of Swedish words were reformed. The Swedish schoolteachers were pushing for an orthography reform during the second half of the 19th century. Also, the Old Norse term ”idrott” was reintroduced as an alternative to the English/German/French term ”sport”. The ambition was also to remove old medieval German influences of the Swedish language by abolishing first elements such as “be-“ and “ge-“ in verbs. An opposite force to all these sometimes radical demands of orthographic reforms was the Swedish Academy. The Academy wanted to keep the language as it was and didn’t want to see any reforms. When the first edition of the Swedish Academy’s Word List of the Swedish Language (Svenska Akademins Ordlista, SAOL) was published in 1874 it contained no orthographic reforms. They kept the spelling as they were in the norm of 1801.

1898

The sixth edition of SAOL was published in 1898 and contained some changes of Swedish orthography. For example, the letters “qv was changed to “kv” in spelling many words. The word “Qvart” (quarter) became “Kvart”. Another example is the word “Qvinna” (Woman) which became “Kvinna”. The letter "E" was also changed to the letter ”Ä” in words such as människa, järn, gärna, där and älg. “W” was changed to “V” and “Swerige” (Sweden) became Sverige. Another alternation was that “th” was changed to just “t” and for example Götheburg (Gothenburg) became Göteborg. The Swedish language is indeed a phonetic language and words are most often pronounced as the combined sound of the individual letters in the words. The changes mentioned above of the spelling of words didn’t change the way the words were pronounced. For example, “Qvinna” and “Kvinna”, “Jern” and “Järn”, “Swerige” and “Sverige” etc are pronounced in the same way. Unlike in English, the letters “V” and “W” are pronounced the same way in Swedish words and the way they are pronounced is rather like the way letter “W” is pronounced in English.

The Orthography Reform of 1906

An orthography reform of the Swedish language was introduced in 1906. The initiator was the Minister of Education and Ecclesiastical Affairs Fridtjuv Berg in the Government led by the Prime Minister Staaf. The reform was called ”stafningsukasen” and it provoked a large number of protests in many circles. The reform became the end to the old way of spelling words which today are known as “gammalstavning” (the old spelling). The reason for the reform was a proposal from the Teachers of the Swedish Elementary Schools who in 1903 handed in an orthographic study to the Government. A Royal decree about the new way of spelling was issued on April 7, 1906, which contained a direction for a gradual introduction of the new orthography reform in schools. The reform was finally enacted by the Swedish Parliament in 1907. Above all, it was the spelling of the “v” and the “t” sounds that was simplified. Prior to 1906 the “v” sound was spelled with an “f” and the “t” sound with “dt”. So if you, for example, see a noble name such as Carl Gustaf af Leopold’s name is pronounced as if it was spelled “Carl Gustaf av Leopold.” The orthography reform of 1906 was part of a changeover from younger new Swedish to present day Swedish. Swedish orthography has with a few exceptions been rather static since 1906. The orthography reform made Swedish spelling a bit more differentiated from Norwegian and Danish spellings. The Danes and the Norwegians had in 1906 already begun to spell the “v”-sound with a “v” (instead of “f”) but the other changes in the Swedish reform made the Swedish spelling unique compared to our Scandinavian neighbors. The orthography reform was introduced in schools in 1906. However, authorities didn’t follow with the new spelling in public communications until 1912. The new spelling wasn’t introduced in SAOL until the eighth edition published in 1923. The encyclopedia Nordisk Familjebok used the old spelling until 1926. The reform didn’t change the spelling of personal names that much but affected the names of places. However, during the 1920’s some words spelled with “Ä” did go back to “E”. The City of Helsingborg, for example, changed their name to Hälsingborg in 1912 but went back to the old spelling Helsingborg in 1971.

Simplifications in 1898

The Orthography Reform of 1906

The mute ”h” was kept in front of ”j” in words such as”hjort”, ”hjul”, ”hjälp”, ”hjälte”, ”hjärna” and ”hjärta”. The old spellings have been kept for nostalgic reasons in many personal names. For example Gustaf Löfqvist remained as such instead of Gustav Lövkvist for many people with these and similar names. Many names of noble families contain either “af” or “von”. Both words means “from” in English. “von” is an German word and “v” in “von” is pronounced like “f”. So if you, for example, see a noble name such as “Carl von Linné” it is pronounced as if it were spelled “Carl fon Linné”. Also, the above mentioned Carl Gustaf af Leopold’s name is pronounced as if it was spelled “Carl Gustaf av Leopold. In the 1940’s and 1950’s there was another change, this time regarding linguistic usage of the Swedish language. Now, the plural form of verbs such as gingo (gick), voro (var), äro (är) was abolished.

Source References

Wikipedia Article in the Swedish daily newpaper Dagens Nyheter, DN on 2014-04-02 Överst på sidan
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History Hans Högman
Copyright © Hans Högman 2019-05-21

The Orthography

(Spelling) Reform of

1906 – Sweden

Introduction

If you know some Swedish and are doing genealogy research of Swedish parish records and military rolls you might now and then wish to look for a Swedish word in a Swedish/English dictionary to find out what it means. However, if you enter a word as it is spelled in the old records there is a risk that you will not get a match in the dictionary. The reason for this is that the spelling of many words was changed in 1906 and dictionaries of today only contain modern spelling. If you know the basics of the spelling reform it is easy to change the spelling of the old word into modern spelling. It is only a few simple rules that you have to follow which is described below.

Swedish Orthography

The orthography norm of 1801

The rules of Swedish orthography were from early times very free but began to stabilize with the first translation of the Bible into Swedish in 1526. Prior to 1526 the Bible was in Latin. However, the first norm for Swedish orthography wasn’t adopted until 1801. The initiator of this norm was the member of the Swedish Academy Carl Gustaf af Leopold with his work “Afhandling om svenska stafsättet” (Thesis of Swedish Orthography). After the Swedish reform of the elementary school in 1842 (Folkskolestadgan) it became obvious that teaching of reading and writing would be made easier if the spellings of Swedish words were reformed. The Swedish schoolteachers were pushing for an orthography reform during the second half of the 19th century. Also, the Old Norse term ”idrott” was reintroduced as an alternative to the English/German/French term ”sport”. The ambition was also to remove old medieval German influences of the Swedish language by abolishing first elements such as “be- and “ge-“ in verbs. An opposite force to all these sometimes radical demands of orthographic reforms was the Swedish Academy. The Academy wanted to keep the language as it was and didn’t want to see any reforms. When the first edition of the Swedish Academy’s Word List of the Swedish Language (Svenska Akademins Ordlista, SAOL) was published in 1874 it contained no orthographic reforms. They kept the spelling as they were in the norm of 1801.

1898

The sixth edition of SAOL was published in 1898 and contained some changes of Swedish orthography. For example, the letters “qv” was changed to “kv” in spelling many words. The word “Qvart” (quarter) became “Kvart”. Another example is the word “Qvinna” (Woman) which became “Kvinna”. The letter "E" was also changed to the letter ”Ä” in words such as människa, järn, gärna, där and älg. “W” was changed to “V” and “Swerige” (Sweden) became Sverige. Another alternation was that “th” was changed to just “t” and for example Götheburg (Gothenburg) became Göteborg. The Swedish language is indeed a phonetic language and words are most often pronounced as the combined sound of the individual letters in the words. The changes mentioned above of the spelling of words didn’t change the way the words were pronounced. For example, “Qvinna” and “Kvinna”, “Jern” and “Järn”, “Swerige” and “Sverige” etc are pronounced in the same way. Unlike in English, the letters “V” and “W” are pronounced the same way in Swedish words and the way they are pronounced is rather like the way letter “W” is pronounced in English.

The Orthography Reform of 1906

An orthography reform of the Swedish language was introduced in 1906. The initiator was the Minister of Education and Ecclesiastical Affairs Fridtjuv Berg in the Government led by the Prime Minister Staaf. The reform was called stafningsukasen” and it provoked a large number of protests in many circles. The reform became the end to the old way of spelling words which today are known as gammalstavning” (the old spelling). The reason for the reform was a proposal from the Teachers of the Swedish Elementary Schools who in 1903 handed in an orthographic study to the Government. A Royal decree about the new way of spelling was issued on April 7, 1906, which contained a direction for a gradual introduction of the new orthography reform in schools. The reform was finally enacted by the Swedish Parliament in 1907. Above all, it was the spelling of the “v” and the “t” sounds that was simplified. Prior to 1906 the “v” sound was spelled with an “f” and the “t” sound with “dt”. So if you, for example, see a noble name such as Carl Gustaf af Leopold’s name is pronounced as if it was spelled “Carl Gustaf av Leopold.” The orthography reform of 1906 was part of a changeover from younger new Swedish to present day Swedish. Swedish orthography has with a few exceptions been rather static since 1906. The orthography reform made Swedish spelling a bit more differentiated from Norwegian and Danish spellings. The Danes and the Norwegians had in 1906 already begun to spell the “v”-sound with a “v” (instead of “f”) but the other changes in the Swedish reform made the Swedish spelling unique compared to our Scandinavian neighbors. The orthography reform was introduced in schools in 1906. However, authorities didn’t follow with the new spelling in public communications until 1912. The new spelling wasn’t introduced in SAOL until the eighth edition published in 1923. The encyclopedia Nordisk Familjebok used the old spelling until 1926. The reform didn’t change the spelling of personal names that much but affected the names of places. However, during the 1920’s some words spelled with “Ä” did go back to “E”. The City of Helsingborg, for example, changed their name to Hälsingborg in 1912 but went back to the old spelling Helsingborg in 1971.

Simplifications in 1898

The Orthography Reform of 1906

The mute ”h” was kept in front of ”j” in words such as”hjort”, ”hjul”, ”hjälp”, ”hjälte”, ”hjärna” and ”hjärta”. The old spellings have been kept for nostalgic reasons in many personal names. For example Gustaf Löfqvist remained as such instead of Gustav Lövkvist for many people with these and similar names. Many names of noble families contain either “af or “von”. Both words means “from” in English. “von” is an German word and “v” in “von” is pronounced like “f”. So if you, for example, see a noble name such as “Carl von Linné” it is pronounced as if it were spelled “Carl fon Linné”. Also, the above mentioned Carl Gustaf af Leopold’s name is pronounced as if it was spelled “Carl Gustaf av Leopold. In the 1940’s and 1950’s there was another change, this time regarding linguistic usage of the Swedish language. Now, the plural form of verbs such as gingo (gick), voro (var), äro (är) was abolished.

Source References

Wikipedia Article in the Swedish daily newpaper Dagens Nyheter, DN on 2014-04-02 Överst på sidan