Som ni see.

John Cowan writes:

The good folks at Project Wombat have gotten a request for transcription and translation of Swedish text on the backs of some photographs, online here.

So far, they’ve gotten this feedback:

My best guesses:

  1. Olga Ernie har varit ute och fiskat ‘Olga [and] Ernie have been out fishing’
  2. The start of the word looks weird, but I think this should be Hunden Judi ‘The dog Judi’
  3. detta ar min fottograf det var taken seste vintern ljemna du mig agan. I am not sure what is meant here: It could be Detta är mitt fotografi. Det var taget sista vintern, lämnade du mig igen ‘This is my photograph. It was taken last winter, you left me again.’ Alternatively (although I doubt it): Detta är mitt fotografi. Det var tacken. Sista vintern lämnade du mig igen ‘This is my photo. This is how I was thanked [or ‘This was my reward’ / ‘This is how you thanked me”, depending on context]. Last winter you left me again.’

The three lines on the bottom just look like sentence fragments. My guess, with reservation from errors both in interpreting the letters and figuring out which Swedish words was meant:

detta ar min (detta är min) ‘this is my’

detta åkk vån (detta och vän) ‘this and friend’

som ni see (som ni ser) ‘as you can see’

I suspect this is some kind of Swedish dialect, which our good Hattics might be able to identify and properly translate. Alternatively, I suppose it could be archaic (but not too archaic), illiterate, or foreigner’s Swedish.

So what say you good Hattics?

Comments

  1. fisheyed says:

    This is my photo. This is how I was thanked. Last winter you left me again. …. I don’t know about Swedish but this sounds like the beginning of a poem that I would read.

  2. Oskar Sigvardsson says:

    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 occassionally “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.

  3. Oskar Sigvardsson says:

    Correction! 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 🙂

  4. Trond Engen says:

    With, the names Olga Ernie and Judi, ‘fottograf’, ‘det var taken’, ‘agan’ and ‘see’ I was pretty sure it was written by a Swedish American even before I opened the image, The stamp seems to confirm my suspicion. Anyway:

    1. Olga Ernie has been out fishing

    2. Judi the dog

    3a. This is my photograph. It was taken last winter. Do you recognize me?
    3b This is my daughter and friend as you see.

    The revealing vocabulary:
    – ‘fottograf’ is a reasonable spelling of a loan from English.
    – ‘det var taken’ is a blatant anglicism.
    – ‘agan’ and ‘see’ are influences from English, close cognates in the dominant language making their way in.

    The spelling errors:
    – Most of them suggest to me that the writer was fairly knowledgeable of the Swedish ortographic system, but not the spelling of every word.
    – The exception is ‘åkk’ for ‘och’. The double k could be from Norwegian if this is from a mixed Swedish-Norwegian community.

  5. Northern Swedish place names (like Jokkmokk, for instance)

    The post was worth it just to learn about Jokkmokk.

  6. Trond Engen says:

    That’s just about the naughtiest placename Norwegian schoolboys know. We used to read the Atlas in secret.

  7. Trond Engen says:

    The atlas. We stopped short of going to Morocco back then.

  8. I’ve relayed Oskar’s comments back to the Project Wombat mailing list, with a link here so they can read Trune’s (which I may relay later). List members are mostly reference librarians, but there are unattached polymaths like me there too. Come on in, the water’s fine!

  9. Oskar Sigvardsson says:

    @Trond Engen: that’s a very reasonable hypothesis as well. You’re right, the names sound like American names more than Swedish ones. I still get a northern Sweden vibe from the language, but you might be right.

  10. Trond Engen says:

    I should add that I’m Norwegian, not Swedish. Still, for what it’s worth, I’m 100% certain on my readings.

    I should have elaborated at ‘do you recognize me?’, since that’s the point where I diverge.

    The text is to be read tjenna du mig agan, with tj- as a misspelling for k-. In that position they’re pronounced the same (or nearly so, depending on dialect).

  11. Trond Engen says:

    I woke up this morning having realized that the syntax of tjenna du mig agan is Norwegian. I’d expect tjenna du agan mig in Swedish. I don’t really know what distribution the “Norwegian” “split verb/adverb” construction might have in Swedish dialects, but I’d suspect northern.

    Also, on a detailed level, tjenna could be a misspelling of either the present ‘känner’ or the preterite ‘kännade’, so “do you…” or “did you recognize me?”.

    The dots on the ä and the ring on the å have been dropped in most places. As consistent spellings, that’s something a native speller of Swedish just wouldn’t do, since both ä and å are understood as different letters, with very different pronunciations, from a.

  12. Trond Engen’s reading of “tjenna du mig” as a mis-spelling of “känna du mig” sounds very convincing: much closer in pronunciation than “ljenna” -> “lämnade”, and semantically more natural on a mailed photograph.

    Are the actual pictures available? Several of these variant readings seem like they would be easily settled by seeing the pictures: e.g. whether “datta” is “dadda” [father] or “dotter” [daughter], whether “Hunden Judi” is plausible, and perhaps also the background question (America, northern Sweden, …).

  13. Il vergognoso says:

    I woke up this morning having realized that the syntax of tjenna du mig agan is Norwegian. I’d expect tjenna du agan mig in Swedish. I don’t really know what distribution the “Norwegian” “split verb/adverb” construction might have in Swedish dialects, but I’d suspect northern.

    So there are some intra-Mainland-Scandinavian differences!

  14. Trond Engen says:

    Peter: Trond Engen’s reading of “tjenna du mig” as a mis-spelling of “känna du mig” sounds very convincing: much closer in pronunciation than “ljenna” -> “lämnade”, and semantically more natural on a mailed photograph.

    It’s supported by the fact that the stroke across the loop makes the first letter look like a t.

    Are the actual pictures available? Several of these variant readings seem like they would be easily settled by seeing the pictures: e.g. whether “datta” is “dadda” [father] or “dotter” [daughter], whether “Hunden Judi” is plausible, and perhaps also the background question (America, northern Sweden, …).

    It’s datter, not datta. That might point to Norwegian again, but I think it’s a misspelling dåtter, itself misspelled without the ring. A second order error.

    Hunden Judi is easy. I can’t think of any other reading.

  15. Trond Engen says:

    So there are some intra-Mainland-Scandinavian differences!

    Funny you’d ask now.

  16. Are the actual pictures available?

    See the link in the post (fourth line: “here”).

  17. That shows the handwritten scrawls, but not the photographs they correspond to.

  18. Oops, sorry.

  19. @Il vergognoso: I suspect that the later position of compound verb particles is a Danish trait imported into literary Norwegian. It’s a shared trait, anyway, and from geography it would be just as likely to be found in Southern Swedish.

    Also, Swedish splits the adverbs just as much as Danish and Norwegian, it’s more a question of how the direct object is treated: Danish ‘Samler du den ikke snart op?’ vs Swedish ‘plockar du inte snart upp den?’ (Won’t you pick it up soon?). The general rule in all the languages is that ‘light’ components move in front of heavier, with slightly different rules for how heavy things are.

    Compare ‘samler du den ikke op lidt hurtigt?’ vs ‘plockar du inte upp den lite snabbt?’

  20. Il vergognoso says:

    @Lars: Fascinating stuff!

  21. J.W. Brewer says:

    This might be a suitable thread in which to post this link to a promotional video featuring Moldovans trying to speak (or at least utter phonetically-memorized bits of) Norwegian, in appreciation of Norway’s value as an export market for Moldovan wine:

    http://www.globalpost.com/article/6509589/2015/04/08/watch-adorable-thank-you-video-moldovan-winemakers-made-their-norwegian

  22. I agree with Trond Engen’s Swedish-American with Norwegian influence theory. Long ago I met some Swedish-Americans in Sweden, and saw some of their attempts at writing Swedish, and it was very similar. Plenty of misspellings and use of English in the middle of Swedish. And the doubled letters do point to Norwegian admixture.

  23. Trond Engen says:

    Lars. True about Danish, and I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. It just wasn’t in my thoughts since Danish isn’t a likely (direct) influence on Swedish in America. I don’t think it’s likely that the construction was imported to literary Norwegian from Danish, since it’s idiomatic in all dialects except maybe in some Eastern inland varieties. Looking at the parallel constructions in other Germanic languages as well, it seems to me that the Swedish one is the innovation. On the other hand, replacing the pronoun with a noun Danish and Norwegian alike use the “Swedish” syntax: En mann slo meg ned vs. Jeg slo ned en mann. And that’s where my Northern hunch comes from: In both Norwegian and Swedish speakers are more likely to wrap the verb+adverb combination around a noun the further north you get: Jeg slo en mann ned.

  24. @Trond: Your grammar for Danish is wrong on that point. The direct object always goes before the separable verb particle (and certain adverbials that follow it), to the point where if you discover while speaking that your noun phrase is too unwieldy, you either have to dislocate part of it, or mark the particle with a pause and an embarrassed look since it’s way out of place and your listeners will have stopped expecting it. With better planning, you dislocate left.

    “Jeg slog ham naboen ned i går, du ved som aldrig klipper sine roser.”
    “Jeg slog ham naboen du ved som aldrig klipper sine roser — øm, ned i går.”
    “Ham naboen du ved som aldrig klipper sine roser — ham slog jeg ned i går.”

    (Trond picked the verb. We’re talking about knocking out the neighbour who never prunes his roses, FWIW).

    This is much less of a problem in formal writing, since most separable verbs have unseparated equivalents available.

  25. Trond Engen says:

    Lars: @Trond: Your grammar for Danish is wrong on that point.

    …and I’ve had grievances over that the whole day. That and more, actually, since it’s not the only error. But I don’t want to add yet another layer of miscorrections, so I’ll have to work a little on the next contribution.

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