"What books are you reading?"
Translation:Vilka böcker läser du?
In English, the meanings of which and what have merged somewhat, and you can use both for this purpose. But in Swedish, their corresponding words - vilka and vad - still function differently. You have to ask vilken bok and vilka böcker. You use vad in the sense of what do you think? - vad tror du?
i still feel then it should be, in English, written as Which. In English Which/What means same thing (for this case) but in Swedish they don't so it matters what word of English we use here. What -> vad and Which -> vilka ... otherwise we end up guessing if originally in Swedish we had which or what that eventually got translated to a generic form thus losing the distinction
It's a question. The V2 rule only applies to main clauses that are not questions.
In questions, the verb goes first and the subject right after that. The only thing that can go before the verb are question words (like what or who) or, as in this cases, phrases that fulfill the same function. (what books has the same function in the sentence as just what could have had).
More about word order here: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/8970470
Ah I see - because you could replace it with "What are you reading?" just as easily, which would be "Vad läser du?"
Is there a verb-first variation of this that would be appropriate as well? Like "Läser vilka böcker du?" or "Läser vad du?"
Those both sound wrong to me but I notice you said that the following would be correct in your example, so I'm wondering if the same is appropriate when asking what someone is reading: Läser hon? 'Does she read?'
It's through a process called "umlaut", or "vowel mutation", in which vowels change over time to accomodate for other things, mostly other vowels. All Germanic languages have this, which is why you get e.g. one foot but two feet in English.
In this case, bok - böcker in Swedish is consistent with Buch - Bücher in German. And in fact, Saxon did have a word béc which would likely have turned into the "ee" vowel sound in Old English. Now, even though this specific vowel shift didn't happen in English - its separate one did. The word "book" is derived from a word for the tree "beech", and you can see that the vowel change did happen here. Weirdly, it didn't in Swedish (en bok - två bokar), nor in German (eine Buche - zwei Buchen).
Languages are weird sometimes. :)
(Edit: Actually, I lied. All Germanic languages except for excibit this phenomenon - Gothic is the odd one out!)
Sorry - I asked the wrong question. I'm familiar with umlaut: what I'm curious about is not that very major topic, but the very minor one of how a C got into the spelling of the Swedish plural! Re umlaut, the English pural "books" is actually unhistorical: Old English had fot - fet, gos - ges, giving modern foot - feet, goose - geese; and similarly boc - bec - but the latter was pronounced BAYTCH, not BAYK, the C being palatalised by the front vowel, so that in modern English the plural of "book" should be "beech"!
Exactly! That's why I wrote "the 'ee' vowel" rather than "beek". :)
Sorry that I misunderstood your question. When the Swedish vowel shifted from o to ö, it also changed character from long to short, and short vowels are marked with an extra consonant much like many (predominantly Germanic) words are in English. Since Swedish doesn't have the kk cluster, we use ck instead.
(I should note that this is a general spelling rule and not one that is 100% true. But I assume you already know that.)