Monday 20 April 2015

Blogging from A to Z in April - The Letter Q - Monday 20th April 2015

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Monday 20th April 2015 - The Letter Q.

Q is for QUINNA (which is old Swedish spelling for KVINNA, which means WOMAN in English. (Take a look at older original Swedish texts and you will find 'Q's in other words too. Obsolete letters in Swedish, like 'Q', 'W' and 'Z' are found in family names like 'Lundquist' and 'Wigren'.) 

Most modern Swedish alphabet books for children, don't even consider this possibility. They just use an English loan-word like 'queen'. But I think we are doing our children an injustice if we never show them a historical development. Language is a living thing. But if a language is to survive over time, it should not change too much, or we loose contact with the past.

These words that mean 'woman', in the different Germanic languages, are related to one other. Let's look at the the word for 'woman': in Danish it is kvinde and Norwegian in is kvinne. The word for 'queen' in Swedish is drottning and in Danish and Norwegian it is dronning. But look at the word for 'wife' (hustru in Swedish). In Danish and Norwegian it is kone (and kona in modern Icelandic). All of these words sound close to the English word 'Queen'.

Are you wondering why the Danish and Norwegian words are so alike? When the Reformation came to Scandinavia, the Bible was supposed to be translated into the language of the people.  For the Swedish language, the Reformation and the translation of the Holy Bible into Swedish, meant a huge step in the development of the Swedish language as a written language. 

But for the Norwegians, it meant that their language became split into two versions: Bokmål and eventually later on, Nynorsk. The Norwegians were given a Bible translated into Danish, and not Norwegian. This Danish-Norwegian written and spoken language was what became Bokmål. Eventually Speakers of different dialects in Norway tried to establish a more Norwegian Norwegian, by using the older Norwegian forms. Ironically it came to be called Nynorsk, 'New-Norwegian'.

Thank you for visiting!

Best wishes,

First Commenter:
Alex J. Cavanaugh

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