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Swedish orthography

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Title: Swedish orthography  
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Swedish orthography

Swedish orthography is the system used to write the Swedish language. It uses a 29-letter alphabet based on the modern 26-letter basic Latin alphabet plus 3 other letters: 'å', 'ä' and 'ö', sorted after the letter 'z'.


  • Alphabet 1
  • Sound–spelling correspondences 2
    • Spellings for the sje-phoneme /ɧ/ 2.1
  • See also 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The 29-letter form of the alphabet has been in use for many decades, with the 26-letter modern Latin alphabet, and the 3 added letters 'å', 'ä' and 'ö', which come after the letter 'z'; hence words beginning with those letters would be found near the end of a typical Swedish dictionary. The use of the letters 'q' and 'w' is very rare, and up to 2006, the 'v' and 'w' were often combined in the collating sequence under 'v'. Before the 19th century, 'w' used to be interchangeable with 'v' ('w' was used in Fraktur, 'v' in Antiqua). Official orthographic standards since 1801 use only 'v', except in names and foreign words. The letter 'q' was commonly used in ordinary words before 1889, when its replacement by 'k' was allowed; since 1900, only the forms with 'k' are listed in dictionaries. Some loan words have 'q' as discussed below. Many family names still use 'q' and 'w'.
Letter Name
A a /ɑː/
B b /beː/
C c /seː/
D d /deː/
E e /eː/
F f /ɛf/
G g /ɡeː/
H h /hoː/
I i /iː/
J j /jiː/
K k /koː/
L l /ɛl/
M m /ɛm/
N n /ɛn/
O o /uː/
P p /peː/
Q q /kʉː/
R r /ær/
S s /ɛs/
T t /teː/
U u /ʉː/
V v /veː/
W w /ˈdɵbːəlˈveː/
X x /ɛkʰs/
Y y /yː/
Z z /ˈsɛːˈta/
Å å /oː/
Ä ä /ɛː/
Ö ö /øː/

Until the 13th edition of Svenska Akademiens ordlista (The Swedish Academy's Orthographic Dictionary) in 2006, the letters 'v' and 'w' were collated together.[1][2][3][4][5]

In addition to the basic twenty-six letters, 'a'-'z', the Swedish alphabet includes three letters in the final positions: 'å', 'ä' and 'ö'. These are distinct letters in Swedish and are sorted after 'z' as shown above. Since they do not mark grammatical variation, as the umlaut can in the German alphabet, or separate syllables, as does the diaeresis, it is not correct to call them umlauts, despite the lack of a better term in English. The umlauted 'ü' is recognised, but is only used in names of German origin, as well as the loanword müsli. It is otherwise treated as a variant of 'y' and is called a "German Y". In Swedish, 'y' is a vowel, and is pronounced as a consonant only in certain loanwords as a variant of 'j'.

The characters 'à' (which is used only in the loanword à, from French) and 'é' (used in some integrated loan words like idé and armé, and in some surnames such as Rosén or Löfvén) are regarded simply as variants of 'a' and 'e', respectively.

The letter 'q' is only used for a few loanwords, like queer, quisling, squash and quilting, student terms such as gasque in Swedish, or for family names, and foreign geographic names, like Qatar. The letters 'w' and 'z' are used for names, and also for a few loanwords such as "zon" which means "zone". á is a Swedish (old-fashioned) word, while 'à' is used in a few rare non-integrated loanwords. For Swedish native personal names, 'ü' and 'è' and others are also used. For foreign names, 'ç', 'ë', 'í', 'õ', 'ñ' and many others might be used, but are usually converted to 'e', 'i', 'o', etc.

Swedish newspapers and magazines have a tendency only to use letters available on the keyboard. 'à', 'ë', 'í', 'ñ', etc. are available on Swedish keyboards with a little effort, but usually not 'æ' and 'ø' (used in Danish and Norwegian), so they are usually substituted by 'ae' or 'ä', and 'ö'. The news agency TT follows this usage since some newspapers have no technical support for 'æ' and 'ø',[6] although there is a recommendation to use 'æ' and 'ø'.

The national population register has traditionally only used the letters 'a'~'z', 'å', 'ä', 'ö', 'ü', 'é', so immigrants with other Latin letters in their names have had their diacritic marks stripped (and æ/ø converted to ä/ö), although recently more diacritics have been allowed.[7]

The difference between the Danish/Norwegian and the Swedish alphabet is that Danish/Norwegian uses the variant Æ instead of Ä, and the variant Ø instead of Ö. Also, the collating order for these three letters is different: Æ, Ø, Å.

Sound–spelling correspondences

Letter Pronunciation (IPA) Notes
Long Short
a /ɑː/ /a/
e /eː/ /ɛ/ Some words exceptionally have e for /ɛ/, among them words with ej, numerals, proper names and their derivations, and loanwords. Before 1889, e for /ɛ/ and /ɛː/ was also used for many other words, in particular words with je now spelled . Many Swedes merge /ɛ/ and /e/.

The sound /eː/ at the end of loanwords and in the last syllable of Swedish surnames is represented by é.

i /iː/ /ɪ/
o /uː/ /ʊ/, /ɔ/ The phoneme /ʊ/ is relatively infrequent; short o more often represents /ɔ/. In a few words, long o represents /oː/.
u /ʉː/ /ɵ/
y /yː/ /ʏ/
å /oː/ /ɔ/ Most words with /ɔ/ and some words with /oː/ are spelled with o.
ä /ɛː/ /ɛ/ Some words with /ɛ/ are spelled with e.
ö /øː/ /œ/ The short ö is, in some dialects, pronounced as /ɵ/.

Short vowels are followed by two or more consonants; long vowels are followed by a single consonant, by a vowel or are word-final.

Grapheme Sound (IPA) Notes
b /b/
c /k/, /s/ /s/ before front vowels e i y ä ö, otherwise /k/. The letter c alone is used only in loanwords (usually in the /s/ value) and proper names, but ck is a normal representation for /k/ after a short vowel (as in English and German).
ch /ɧ/, /ɕ/ In loanwords. The conjunction 'och' (and) is pronounced /ɔk/ or /ɔ/.
d /d/
dj /j/
f /f/
g /ɡ/, /j/ /j/ before front vowels e i y ä ö, otherwise /ɡ/
gj /j/
gn /ɡn/, /ŋn/ /ɡn/ word-initially; /ŋn/ elsewhere
h /h/
hj /j/
j /j/
k /k/, /ɕ/ /ɕ/ before front vowels e i y ä ö, otherwise /k/
kj /ɕ/
l /l/
lj /j/
m /m/
n /n/
ng /ŋ/, /ŋg/
p /p/
r /r/ Is pronounced as /ɾ/ in some words.
s /s/
sj /ɧ/
sk /sk/, /ɧ/ /ɧ/ before front vowels e i y ä ö, otherwise /sk/
skj /ɧ/
stj /ɧ/
t /t/
tj /ɕ/
v /v/ Before 1906, fv, hv and final f were also used for /v/. Now these spellings are used in some proper names.
w /v/ Rarely used (loanwords, proper names). In loanwords from English may be pronounced /w/.
x /ks/
z /s/ Used in loanwords and proper names.

The combinations rd rl rn rs rt are pronounced [ɖ ɭ ɳ ʂ ʈ] respectively.

Spellings for the sje-phoneme /ɧ/

Due to several phonetic combinations coalescing over recent centuries, the spelling of the Swedish sje-sound is very eclectic. Some estimates claim that there are over 50 possible different spellings of the sound, though this figure is disputed. Garlén (1988) gives a list of 22 spellings ('ch', 'che', 'g', 'ge', 'gi', 'ige', 'j', 'je', 'sc', 'sch', 'sh', 'shi', 'si', 'sj', 'sk', 'skj', 'ssi', 'ssj', 'stg', 'sti', 'stj', 'ti'), but many of them are confined to only a few words, often loanwords, and all of them can correspond to other sounds or sound sequences as well. Some spellings of the sje-sound are as follows:

  • 'sj' in native Swedish words, before both front ('e', 'i', 'y', 'ä', 'ö') and back vowels ('a', 'o', 'u', 'å')
  • 'sk' in native Swedish words before the front vowels 'e', 'i', 'y', 'ä', 'ö'
  • 'stj' in five words only, all enumerated in the phrase Det är lättare att stjäla en stjälk än att stjälpa en stjärna med stjärten. ("It is easier to steal a stalk than to overturn a star with your behind.")
  • 'skj' in five words only, four of which are enumerated in the phrase I bara skjortan skjuter han skjutsen in i skjulet. ("In just his shirt he pushes the vehicle into the shed.") The fifth word is skjuva ("shear"). It is also used in an old word skjura meaning Eurasian magpie and dialectic derivations of the same
  • 'stg' in three words only: västgöte, östgöte, gästgiveri. These are not common and are often pronounced as /stj/. All of them are compound words: väst+göte (person from Västergötland) öst+göte (person from Östergötland) and gäst+giveri ("inn")
  • 'sch' in all positions in a large number of German loanwords, like schack
  • 'sh' in all positions in a large number of English loanwords
  • 'ch' in most French loan words, but in final position often respelled 'sch'; note that English loan words with this spelling usually use the tje-sound
  • 'sc' in fascinera (fascinate)
  • 'ge' mostly in the end of the word in a large number of French loanwords, like garage, prestige
  • 'j' in French loanwords, for example jalusi
  • 'g' in words mainly from French, for example generös and gentil
  • -tion, -sion, -ssion (pronounced /ɧon/) in a large number of words of Latin origin; in a few of these words, the sje-sound is preceded by a /t/ (e.g. nation, rationell), also in some adjective derivations (pretentiös, infektiös)
  • 'gi' in for example religiös
  • 'xj' for the sequence /kɧ/ occurs only in the place-name Växjö
  • 'sti' occurs only in the place-name Kristianstad and in the pronunciation of the name Christian when used about Danish kings

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ has a copy of the national population and tax register and there all diacritics incl æ,ç,ñ,ø are stripped except that å,ä,ö,ü,é are kept, except for a few people. There are for example 580 people named Francois and 20 named François.


External links

  • Swedish alphabet pronounced by a native speaker (youtube)
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