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Swedish Academy Dictionary completed after 140 years of work

The Swedish Academy Dictionary (SAOB) is the definitive record of the Swedish language. It has been completed after 140 years of work. The dictionary contains 33,111 pages across 39 volumes. It covers the Swedish language from 1521 to the present day. What does this mean for the language and learners of it?

Why hasn’t Sweden had a dictionary until now?

There are a few reasons why Sweden hasn’t had a comprehensive dictionary until now.

  • The Swedish language is relatively young. Swedish is a North Germanic language. It’s thought to have emerged in the 13th century. This is much later than many other European languages, such as English and French. This means less time to compile a comprehensive record.
  • The Swedish language is very diverse. Sweden is a relatively large country. It has a long history. As a result, the Swedish language is spoken in a variety of different dialects. This diversity has made it difficult to create a single dictionary. It needs to be accurate and comprehensive for all speakers of Swedish.
  • Creating a comprehensive dictionary is a massive undertaking. A dictionary of the Swedish language would need to include hundreds of thousands of words. Plus information on their pronunciation, etymology, and meaning. This requires a great deal of time, resources, and expertise.

It is important to note that Sweden had other dictionaries before the SAOB. But these dictionaries were either less comprehensive or focused on specific aspects of the language. (Contemporary Swedish, or the Swedish used in literature.) The SAOB is the first dictionary to provide a comprehensive and historical record.

What does the Swedish dictionary cover?

The SAOB is a historical dictionary. This means it not only provides the definitions of words but also traces their history and evolution over time. This is done by providing examples of how each word has been used in different contexts over the centuries. The SAOB also includes information on the etymology of words.

The SAOB is an essential resource for linguists, historians, and anyone interested in the Swedish language. It is also a valuable tool for translators, writers, and anyone else who wants to use the Swedish language accurately and effectively.

What does this mean for Sweden? 

The completion of the SAOB is a major milestone in the history of Swedish lexicography. It is a testament to the dedication and hard work of the many people who have contributed to the project over the years. The SAOB is a national treasure that will be used and enjoyed by future generations.

In addition to its historical value, the SAOB is also a fascinating document of Swedish culture and society. The dictionary contains entries for words that are no longer in use, as well as words that have changed meaning over time. For example, the word “dator” (computer) originally meant “calculator.” The word “allergi” (allergy) was not even coined until the early 1900s.

The SAOB is also a reflection of Sweden’s long and rich literary tradition. The dictionary contains entries for words that were first coined by Swedish authors. For example, “dystopi” (dystopia) by August Strindberg and “lagom” by Selma Lagerlöf.

The SAOB is a truly remarkable work of scholarship. It’s a testament to the vitality and richness of the Swedish language.