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Compound words: julfirande or jul firande

My Swedish mother in law has told me that she is noticing a trend in Swedish to spell compound words as separated words instead of their more traditional connected setting.

For example, she is seeing a word like "julfirande" spelled "jul firande."

Have any other Swedes noticed this trend? How does duolingo deal with inconsistencies like this?

December 4, 2014



Actually särskrivning is a very old phenomenon in the Swedish language, in texts from the 17th and 18th centuries you can see it a lot, although not always in the same places where it happens most often now. Today we're also seeing a reverse trend, where people write words together that should be written separately, partly because of the big attention that särskrivning receives.

In our course, we spell all words according to the norm. In some cases, the norm says both versions are OK. For words like i dag and i kväll, they are accepted both written that way and as idag, ikväll, but the norm actually recommends writing them apart. Therefore we write them separately in all sentences, but the other version should always be accepted too. With other words, that are not accepted both ways by the norm, as in julfirande (only correct when written in one word), we only accept that version.


Oh yes, it is well known! Just google "särskrivning" and you will find out :). If a compound word is incorrectly split into two, you sometimes get a completely different meaning.

For example:
stekt kycklinglever - fried chicken liver
stekt kyckling lever - fried chicken is alive


I wouldn't say that "julfirande" vs. "jul firande" is traditional vs. a "trend", but rather correct vs. incorrect. Certainly there are many natives who make this mistake! And there are also a great number of people whose blood starts boiling when they see such a 'särskrivning' - there is, for example, a Facebook page called Sverige mot särskrivning that posts pictures of 'särskrivningar' in the wild. They have 120k+ followers... it's probably THE most commonly discussed language mistake in Sweden.

Most of the time when you incorrectly split compound words, people will still know exactly what you mean. But they might think that you're a bit uneducated and/or that you have poor writing skills, or that Swedish is not your first language.

Some Swedes do the opposite mistake when writing in English, incorrectly not splitting/hyphenating words. You might very well see a Swede write Christmastree or chickenliver.


Speculating, I think the särskrivning trend already had its peak. The problem can be attributed to primitive spell checkers in old word processors. Often only the compound constituent words were in the spell check dictionary, and the algorithm lacked a way to recognize compound words. This has changed in recent years.


This is a really interesting point.

My mother-in-law clarified that she feels like she sees these errors much more than she did 30 years ago. It isn't just in signage, but is in printed materials she gets from "reputable" sources. For example she sees these errors in letters and event announcements in a frequency that she didn't see in the past.


More errors in printed material might be due to newspapers and marketing bureaus cutting down on proofreaders because they are too expensive...

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