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A Simplified Grammar of the Swedish Language/Part II/The Noun

The Noun.

The noun agrees in gender and number with its predicate; as, månen är klar, 'the moon is bright;' hästarne voro feta, men oxarne magra, 'the horses were fat, but the oxen were lean.'

In simple sentences the subject noun precedes the verb; as, jag ser flickan, 'I see the girl.' But it follows the verb:—

1. In interrogatives; as, hvarför ligger inte barnet? 'why does not the child go to bed?'

2. In secondary sentences; as, när flickan har något godt, så delar hon alltid med sig åt andra, 'when the girl has anything good, she always shares it with others.'

3. When some assertion made by, or in reference to, the subject precedes the latter; as, det är en öfversättning, ser jag, 'it is a translation, I see.'

4. When the subject follows the adverbial part of the sentence; as, samma dag uppläste han öfversättningen, 'on the same day he read out the translation;' förut hade han hållit arbetet hemligt för dem, 'before that, he had kept the work a secret from them.'

Elliptically the subject may be put into the accusative with an infinitive; as, han ansågs vara en rik man, 'he was regarded as a rich man;' jag såg henne komma, 'I saw her come.'

The genitive may be expressed by the use, not merely of the inflectional s, as qvinnans barn, 'the woman's child,' but also by numerous prepositions, as bland, till, af, efter, etc.; as, son till qvinnan, 'the woman's son;' hon är enka efter en prest, 'she is a clergyman's widow;' tre af oss, 'three of us;' den yngsta bland flickorna, 'the youngest of the girls;' kärleken till Gud, 'the love of God.'

Where several nouns stand in apposition, the last only takes the genitive form; as, kejsar Karl den Stores efterkommande, 'the descendants of Charles the Great.'

After words expressing quantity the genitive is not used, although implied, such words being merely put in apposition with the nouns which they govern; as, en hop soldater, 'a number (of) soldiers;' ett par handskar, 'a pair (of) gloves;' ett glas vin, 'a glass (of) wine.'

The genitive is used after hos, 'at,' and in familiar parlance when a person's family or house is understood; as, hon är hos prestens, 'she is at the clergyman's;' vi ha sett doktorns, 'we saw the doctor's (family).' In some cases the genitive is used directly before the noun by which it is governed; as, en ärans man, 'a man of honour;' en sexton års flicka, 'a girl of sixteen.'

The dative may be expressed simply by position; as, Herren gaf bonden brefvet, 'the gentleman gave (to) the peasant the letter;' arbetet är oss nyttligt, 'work is good for us.'

It may be expressed by åt, 'at;' för, 'for; as, Smeden skrattade åt sitt eget infall, 'the smith laughed at his own fancy;' för hvem är arbetet nyttligt? 'for (or to) whom is labour good?' gif äpplet åt honom, (or gif honom äpplet,) 'give him the apple.'

The objective may be used with an infinitive, as in Latin, in the place of a subjective with its predicate; as, Jag anser mig uppfylla min skyldighet, 'I consider that I am doing my duty.'

In regard to the five declensions of nouns adopted in modern Swedish, it may be well to draw attention to the following points:—

1. The First Declension includes all feminine nouns ending in a. Of these, some were masculines in the older forms of the language, and had in some of their cases the termination u (o,) which is still met with; as, närvaro, 'presence;' frånvaro, 'absence.' Some of these words may be used both with the present feminine and the older masculine termination; as, ådra or åder, 'vein.'

2. The Second Declension, which includes both masculines and feminines, has upwards of 600 of the former gender which are monosyllabic, and end in a consonant. Some have no plural; as, gråt, 'weeping;' kål, 'cabbage.' Most words in sel are without the plural; as, känsel, 'sense,' 'perception;' trängsel, 'crowd.' Moder and dotter, belonging to this declension, change the radical vowel in the plural, as mödrar, 'mothers;' döttrar, 'daughters.' Here it may be remarked that many words belonging to the other declensions similarly make their plural in an Umlaut, or change the radical vowel; as, bonde, pl. bönder, 'peasants;' fader, pl. fäder, 'fathers;' broder, pl. bröder, 'brothers;' etc.

3. The Third Declension, which includes nouns of all genders, contains a large proportion of foreign words. The termination -er in the plural, which is its distinctive character, is unknown in genuine Swedish words of the neuter gender, and is due to German and Danish influences.

4. The Fourth Declension, to which belong only neuter nouns ending in a vowel, includes the neuter nouns of the older form of the language ending in a and other vowels, which early in the eighteenth century began to acquire the plural termination -n, which is now the characteristic distinction of this declension.

5. The Fifth Declension, which includes masculine and neuter nouns, remains unchanged in the plural, although there is a tendency among modern writers to add -er or -r to express the plural; as, svarander instad of svarande, 'defendants.'

Many nouns vary in declension either from uncertainty of gender or from difference of meaning; as, bolag, n. sing. bolag, m. pl., 'partnership.'

Many nouns are of irregular declension; as, sko, m., skor, pl., 'shoe;' fot, m., fötter, pl., 'foot;' öga, n., ögon, pl., 'eye;' öra, n., öron, pl., 'ear.'

In these instances the apparent divergencies from the established rules are dependent on the declension originally followed by the word in the Old Northern.

Similar traces of the ancient construction are to be found in certain words and expressions which retain the termination of the original genitive, as, among many others, in giftoman, 'guardian' (giver in marriage); kyrkogård, 'churchyard;' i förmågo af, 'in virtue of.' Thus, too, in the expression i lagom tid, in good time,' we have a survival of an old dative form.

The tendency of the spoken language is to disregard the older grammatical distinction of masculine, reminine and neuter, and to comprehend the two former under one common gender. Thus in speaking of inanimate objects, and even of animals, it is usual to refer to them as den, 'this, that,' instead of han, 'he,' and hon, 'she.'

Numerous divergencies between the written and the spoken language are observable in the tendency to lessen the number of declensions, by using the termination -er to mark the plural of many words for which grammatical rules demand a different ending. This is more especially the case in regard to neuters belonging to the fifth declension, but a similar practice prevails in reference to the plural of feminines belonging to the first declension, in which the terminal -or is frequently changed to -er in the spoken language.

Abstract nouns, or foreign words ending in an or en, do not take the affix-article; as, början, 'beginning,' 'the beginning;' examen, 'examination,' 'the examination.'

When an adjective is preceded by the independent article den, det, de, it may be used in the sense of a noun; as, den flitige belönas, 'the diligent (man, or individual, understood) is rewarded;' den femtonde är snart inne, 'the fifteenth (of the month) will soon be here.'