Svenska Akademiens Ordlista

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Svenska Akademiens Ordlista, or SAOL for short, is a dictionary published every few years by the Swedish Academy. It is a single volume that is considered the final arbiter of Swedish spelling. Traditionally it carries the motto of the Swedish Academy, "Snille och Smak" ("Talent and Taste"), on its blue cloth cover.

Whenever a new edition comes out lively discussions about new and changed entries erupt around the country. In some instances the Academy has been ahead of its times and has later had to change entries back to older spellings. Jos - juice is probably the most well-known instance.



The history of SAOL is the history of orthography of the Swedish language. While Swedish spelling was an entirely personal business in the Catholic Middle Ages, its gradual standardization (known as Modern Swedish) started in 1526 with the translation of the New testament of the Bible (Gustav Vasa Bible), as part of the Lutheran reformation. The edition was revised in 1703, known as the Swedish Bible of Carolus XII. The Swedish Academy was founded in 1786 with the task of caring for Swedish literature and language, including the publication of a grand dictionary. Spelling evolved slowly in the 18th century and was largely based on etymology. Because of its historic relationship to English heart and German Herz, this word was spelled hjerta in Swedish even though it's pronounced [ˈjɛrta]. The word for woman was spelled qvinna, similar to English queen. The question words hvad, hvar, hvilken had a silent H, like English what, where, which still have. In 1801 the Academy published an official orthography (Carl Gustaf Leopold, Afhandling om svenska stafsättet, 266 pages). A shorter version for schools was published by Carl Jonas Love Almqvist, Svensk Rättstafnings-Lära (1829, [1]).

Already in the 1750s, voices had been raised to adopt spelling to pronunciation, but this didn't resonate with the conservatively minded Academy. Public schools were made mandatory in Sweden by law in 1842 and the influence of school teachers increased, as did the pressure to reform Swedish spelling. The most radical reformists wanted to do away with all silent letters and change the remaining ones to a smaller subset of the alphabet. A similar reform movement for Danish, which at this time was the written language also in Norway, was led by Rasmus Rask (1787–1832) and his follower Niels Matthias Petersen (1791–1862). In 1869 a pan-Scandinavian orthography congress (Nordiska rättstavningsmötet) gathered in Stockholm. Secretary for the Swedish section was Artur Hazelius, who in 1871 published the proceedings of the conference. The Academy was not pleased, and as a countermeasure Johan Erik Rydqvist (1800–1877) published the first edition of SAOL in 1874, based on the orthography in Leopold's work of 1801. A second edition followed in the same year and new ones in 1875, 1880 and the 5th edition in 1883, without much change.

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