August 2008. Volume 3 Issue 2
The Head as an Element in Swedish Compound Words
Hankuk University, South Korea
Ylva Olausson is Assistant Professor of Swedish at the Department of Scandinavian Studies of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul, South Korea. She has been teaching Swedish in adult education in Sweden for 15 years. Moreover, she was teaching Swedish during three years at the University of Alcalá de Henares, Spain, as well as various intensive courses for interpreters at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium. Besides teaching, her present research interests are semantics and contrastive linguistics.
This study aims to describe the meaning extension of huvud (‘head’) in modern Swedish compound words. In Swedish, and in other North Germanic languages, compounds are frequent. Most Swedish neologisms are compounds. By employing semantic analysis as a method and indicating productivity as well as translating into English and Spanish, the meaning extension is examined. The classification of the compound words shows differences in the use of huvud depending on whether it appears as the first or second element in the compound word. The translations into English and Spanish in general show good correspondence. The most significant difference that was found is the Swedish use of huvud meaning ‘the most important part of something’, which, with a few exceptions, lack correspondence in English and Spanish.
Key words: body part, extended meaning, compound words, semantic change
The body plays a central role in our lives and words related to the body and its functions belong to the basic vocabulary. The human body is also used as a point of reference to describe how we experience our physical surroundings. We see with our eyes, we hear with our ears, and we can hear our heartbeats. At the same time we can see our bodies as objects and forms in space, as in head of cabbage and letterhead. Words and expressions that belong to the semantic field of the human body are frequently used in extended meanings—possibly in all the languages of the world—making this area attractive to both lexicographers and language teachers. It is also ideal for semantic typology.
In Swedish, as in other North Germanic languages, compounds are frequent and most Swedish neologisms are compounds. The main purpose of this paper is to describe how the Swedish simplex word huvud is used in its different meanings in compound words. Comparisons with Spanish and English are made in search of similarities and differences.
It is of great importance for native speakers as well as for second-language learners to possess a large and varied vocabulary in order to understand what is said and written in different contexts and in different areas. Likewise the ability to express and communicate knowledge and experiences is of vital importance. Apart from being time-consuming there are many other difficulties associated with the extension of vocabulary. For non-native speakers of Swedish the large amount of compound words causes particular problems on one hand because compounds are often ambiguous when it comes to the exact relation between the first and second element (compare snowshoe and wooden shoe). The lexicalized meaning of a certain compound is often language specific and culture dependent and has to be learnt word by word. On the other hand compound words cause problems because a great number of them are not transparent; in other words it is not sufficient to know the meaning of the first and second elements in order to understand the meaning of the compound (compare dog head and skinhead).
Semantic variation was studied in India almost three thousand years ago, and more than two thousand years ago the Greeks conducted research in etymology. However, these early attempts did not result in any theories about semantic change. According to Sjöström (2001), the first theory of semantic change was the logic-rhetoric theory, as it was called by some researchers. This theory emanated from the science of rhetoric, especially Aristoteles’ analysis of metaphor, and looked upon semantic change as an artistic device. Only the poets could shift the meaning of a word. There was no significant interest in the language of ordinary people and this view dominated until the middle of the 19th century. Since then semantic research has broadened and deepened. One example is a growing interest in the reasons for semantic change and different theories of classification (Sjöström, 2001, p. 30).
George Lakoff and Mark Johnson were the first to present a theory of metaphor in Metaphors We Live By (1980) in which they are primarily concerned with ordinary metaphors. That theory has been further developed and applied by a number of researchers. One example is a Swedish thesis by Dr. Jan Svanlund (2001) in which the co-occurrence patterns for conventionalized metaphors from the weight domain in Swedish are investigated. The basic idea of the theory is that the ordinary metaphors we use are systematic and this depends on the fact that metaphors are central to the human thought process.
Chomsky (1975, p. 219) put forward the idea that humans have an innate knowledge of “the form and character of grammars and the principles by which grammars operate.” Since the rise of Chomsky´s transformational-generative grammar many linguists have focused on language universals, primarily in the syntactic and phonological properties of language. Study of the mental lexicon has nevertheless recently become an issue of increasing importance to linguists, language teachers, and others (Aitchison, 1994). At the beginning of the 20th century, the semantic fields appeared as a sphere of interest for scientists. A semantic field is, for example, words that represent parts of the human body. The idea is that each one of the lexical items has a fixed position in a structure and, if the meaning of one word changes, there are consequences for many other words within the same semantic field. An important cross-linguistic study of lexical universals was carried out in 1969 by Berlin & Kay in which they could demonstrate severe constraints upon the co-occurrence of color terms. They discovered, for example, that if a language has a word for yellow, it will also have a word for red but not necessarily the other way around. This indicates an implicational relationship; that is, color words have been added to languages in a specific order. Works treating body-part terminology have in many cases emphasized linguistic change. For example Friedrich (1969), Matisoff (1978), and Stross (1976) have been concerned with metaphorical extensions of body-part terms to domains outside the body. Although linguists have long been searching for universal laws to explain semantic change, they still have not found any valid universal “semantic law,” but as a consequence of their research they have begun to understand some of the mechanisms behind meaning extension. One of the distinct universal tendencies is that the human body represents a field of semantic change. An example of present research on body-part terms is a collaborative project presented in the special edition of Language Sciences 28 (2006). The articles in this edition are fieldwork-based descriptions of body-part terminology in ten different languages. The aim of the project is to develop methods for primary data collection in the field that facilitates cross-linguistic comparison of body-part terms. The studies presented in Language Sciences 28 indicate that there is no universal consistent way of categorizing the body.
Very few linguistic studies have been made on body-part names in the Swedish language. One exception is Niemi (2004), who conducted research into body-part idioms. She studies the frequency of body-part idioms in the Swedish language, and also what kind of idiom is typical for Swedish, idioms with or without a verbal phrase. Niemi has also examined the idioms from a typological perspective. She investigates which body-part nouns and which verbs are most typical in Swedish idioms compared with other languages. In her article she presents the ten most frequent body-part nouns in six different languages. In both Swedish and English hand (‘hand’) occurs most frequently. In Swedish hand is followed by öga (‘eye’), hjärta (‘heart’), and huvud (‘head’). In English head is the second most frequent, followed by eye and mind.
The main purpose of this study is to describe the meaning extension of huvud in contemporary Swedish compound words. Furthermore, comparisons are made with English and Spanish in order to find similar patterns of meaning extension on the one hand and, on the other, to look for traits that have gone along non-parallel paths and which, therefore, could be considered as traits that are distinctive for the Swedish language. The study is mainly synchronic; that is, modern Swedish compounds are categorized and analyzed but, as the first attested use of the words is specified in order to examine their productivity, there is also a diachronic perspective.
All compound words that contain the word huvud, a total of 223, were extracted from Svenska Akademins Ordlista (2006, 13 uppl.; henceforth SAOL) and Nyord i svenskan från 40-tal till 80-tal (2001, henceforth NO). The first attested use of each word was specified according to Ordbok över svenska språket, published by the Swedish Academy (henceforth SAOB) with the purpose of clarifying the occurrence of neologism. Given the aims of this paper, Malmgren’s (2001, p. 302) broad definition of the concept productivity is considered appropriate: “A prefix or a suffix is productive if it is used in the contemporary language to form new words.”
SAOB is a historical dictionary that also lists extinct meanings and, therefore, it contains more compound words with huvud as the first or last element than does SAOL, which is a glossary for orthography of the contemporary language. Since the description of the meaning extension principally aims at presenting a picture of contemporary Swedish, words from SAOL and NO have been used for this study.
In his article Sammansättning, SAOB en guldgruva för studium i ämnet (2002) Jonsson defines the compound word in order to distinguish it from other types of word compilations. According to Jonsson, prosody alone cannot separate compound words from simplex words although most of the compound words have a specific pronunciation, the grave accent with a caesura between the elements, as in kålhuvud. There are two reasons why prosody is not the only distinctive feature. On one hand a few compound words occur with the acute accent as in blåbär;on the other there are non-compound words with the grave accent and caesura, for example words with the suffix –het. Nor is it possible to find a semantic distinctive feature which alone separates lexical compounds from occasional compounds and other types of word compilations. Jonsson (2002) uses a combination of prosody and semantics to define compound words and that definition is valid also for the study presented in this paper:
A compound word is a combination of two (or more) words with 1) either (and usually) a specific accent with grave and cesur or simplex word accent 2) or a content that is a combination of (a part of) the content of the two elements, often with a meaning extension in the combination. (translated by Ylva Olausson)
According to Svenska Akademins Grammatik, (part 2, p. 44) the semantic relationship between the two elements in a compound varies a lot, but it is emphasized that in most of the cases the last element is the main element of the compound. This implies a determinative interpretation of the compound word. The first element is furthermore often a hyponym to the last element, for example, lejonhuvud (‘lion´s head’) is a kind of head. In determinative compounds the last element has less meaning range in comparison with when it is used as a simplex word. For example, the compound word huvudregel (‘main rule’) requires a longer definition than the word regel (‘rule’). Klokhuvud (‘smarthead’) is an example of a compound that is not determinative. Klokhuvud is not a kind of head, it is a person with a smart head. This is a bahuvrihi compound, one in which the last element represents only a part of the entirety. Panini, an Indian linguist who, in the fourth century, described Sanskrit, was the first researcher who described different kinds of compound words, according to Josefsson (2005, p. 85). The term bahuvrihi has its origin there. A third kind of compound is the copulative, one in which the significance of the compound word is the first element + last element, that is the entirety as in sötsur (sweet-sour). Compound words can be occasional or conventionalized. In this paper it is assumed that the compounds that exist as headwords in SAOL and NO are conventionalized.
The definitions in SAOB of the different meanings of the simplex word huvud form the basis of the classification of the compound words in this paper. In certain cases it is necessary to have a close look at the linguistic environment before deciding to which category, or categories, the word belongs. Therefore the classification is done with the help of SAOB and Språkbanken vid Institutionen för svenska språket,¹Göteborgs universitet (henceforth Språkbanken). Huvudklang, for example, is not the most important klang as a person without knowledge of music terminology might think. Literally, huvudklang means ‘head voice’ in English, ‘one of the higher ranges of the voice in singing or speaking’. In this case huvud in the compound word has the meaning of the original, concrete simplex word ‘head’, not huvud meaning ‘the most important part of something’. Språkbanken is also used to illustrate the occurrence of neologismwith huvud as first or last element in compound words and words that have developed more than one meaning, like kålhuvud (‘head of cabbage’), which means both a vegetable and a stupid person. Efforts have been made to classify the compound words as logically and coherently as possible, but there are, of course, cases where another division would have been conceivable.
In order to find similar patterns for meaning extension, as well as to have a closer look at those compound words in which the metaphoric extension of body-part terminology has gone along non-parallel paths, all the compound words have been translated into English and Spanish.
The present study focuses on the classification of the 223 compound words that were excerpted from SAOL and NO. A presentation of the different meanings of huvud as a simplex word is necessary as an introduction since this is the basis for the classification. Huvud is a word that derives from Old Swedish (OS). According to SAOB it has got six different principal meanings, each one with a number of subdivisions. Below is a short presentation of the different meanings, with the first attested use in brackets. All the examples are taken from SAOB:
1. the concrete body part; head (OS)
2. organ for someone’s spiritual life; generally as a metaphor (1535)
Vår here (har) hvarken skapat språket eller Hufvuderna i Sverige sämre än
annorstädes. CGTESSIN (1738)
3. about the bearer or owner of the head (with the meaning of 1 or 2) (1541)
För itt grått hoffuudh skalt tu vpstå och ära the gamla. 3Mos.19:32 (Bib. 1541)
4. in a figurative use of meaning 1 (and 2), especially considering the head as the most important organ of the body (1540)
Tå huffuuet är krankt bedröffuas all lemmarna. SvOrds. C 6a (1604)
5. about different objects that are intended for the head in meaning 1 (1695)
Vid lik-kistans hufvud stoden äldre vän till den aflidne. STRINDBERG Kamm 3:69 (1907)
6. about objects of different kinds that, owing to their form or position, reminds one of a head
(Laddstockens) tjockare ända kallas hufvudet. JOCHNICK Handgev. 22 (1854)
Table 1. The distribution of the 228 compound words into different categories
-huvud as the last element in compound words
Fifty compound words containing huvud as the last element were extracted from SAOL and NO and divided into the five different subcategories presented in Table 1. The semantic analysis shows that all compounds with huvud as last element are determinative with the exception of group 4, “human characteristics,” which are all bahuvrihi compounds. Examples of compounds originating from Old Swedish were found only in group 1, where huvud as the last element has its original, concrete meaning, while productivity has been found in all five subcategories. In the following each subcategory is commented upon, with illustrative examples of compound words, with their first attested use in brackets as well as their translations into Spanish and English.
1. Huvud as the last element with its original, concrete meaning
In 15 of the 50 compound words with huvud as the last element we find huvud in its original, concrete meaning:
barnhuvud (1601) cabeza de niño child head
djurhuvud (OS) cabeza de animal animal head
renhuvud (1820) cabeza de reno reindeer head
Two of the compounds in this subcategory, djurhuvud and hundhuvud, were used already in Old Swedish according to SAOB. The translations of the compound words in this group show no discrepancies when compared with Swedish.
2. Projection of huvud on other objects
Seventeen of the 50 compound words with huvud as the last element belong to this category. In the two subgroups “vegetables” and “tools, etc.” it is the form of the head as a metaphor which is the last element.
blomkålshuvud (1773) coliflor head of cauliflower
kålhuvud (1637) col head of cabbage
There are no discrepancies when compared with the English translations, but in Spanish cabeza (‘head’) is not used in any of the examples. On the contrary garlic is cabeza de ajo in Spanish, while neither garlic head* nor vitlökshuvud* is possible in English and Swedish. On the other hand English uses head about dill, head of dill, which is dillkrona in Swedish and parte superior del eneldo in Spanish.
nithuvud (1873) cabeza de remache tack head
piphuvud (1732) cazoleta de la pipa pipe-bowl
typhuvud (NO:1960) modelo de cabeza type-head
Piphuvud is the only word in this subgroup that has no equivalent in either English or Spanish. Otherwise huvud is translated into cabeza and head respectively with klubbhuvud as the only exception as Spanish uses cara, ‘face’, instead of head.
3. Position in the room
Six of 50 compound words with huvud as last element belong to this group.
brevhuvud (1906) membrete letterhead
kolumnhuvud (SAOL) encabezamiento de columna column head
This way of using the body parts metaphorically can be found in the majority of the world’s languages, but the expressions may vary even when we compare languages that are closely related to each other (Sjöström, 2001, p. 139). A tendency in semantic change, which is possibly universal, is that the body is used as a point of reference to express position in the room. A tyoplogical survey of a great number of African and Oceanic languages shows that the most common origin of ‘up’-words as, for example, “over”, “up,” and “on” is that the name of a body part, almost always head, has been grammaticalized (Heine,1997, pp. 40–41).
Once again, no discrepances are found in the translations from Swedish to English. In two cases Spanish does not use cabeza: membrete (‘letterhead’) and morro (‘pier head’). The last example, morro, means ‘snout’, a body part, but from the animal kingdom.
4. Human characteristics
Twelve of the total of 50 compound words with huvud as the last element are bahuvrihi compounds in which huvud represents a person with a head with the quality that the first element indicates. A blockhead, for example, cannot, as in a determinative compound, be described as a type of head. Blockhead denotes a person who is stupid.
brushuvud (1703) impulsivo hothead
dumhuvud (1987) cabeza de chorlito blockhead
hundhuvud (1541) cabeza de turco scapegoat
There are more discrepancies between English and Spanish than in the two previous groups. Spanish uses cabeza only in four of the twelve words and English uses head in seven. In several cases Spanish and English have nothing in common when they differ from Swedish. The differences that are found in this subcategory could be an indication that these words are more culture-dependant than the previous subcategories.
5. Head, ‘the most important person in a group’
Three of the 50 words with huvud as the last element are compounds in which the preposition över as first element + the last element huvud have the meaning ‘the most important person in a group’.
familjeöverhuvud (1891) cabeza de familia head of a family
statsöverhuvud (1870) jefe de estado head of a state
överhuvud jefe, cabeza head, chief
In three of the compounds the English word head is used. According to SAOB familjeöverhuvud is a Latin loanword (caput familia) and statsöverhuvud is a German loanword (staatsoberhaupt). This could explain why Spanish uses cabeza in the first example but not in the second.
Huvud as the first element in compound words
From SAOB and NO 173 compound words containing huvud as the first element were extracted and divided into five different subcategories presented in Table 1. The semantic analysis shows that all compounds with huvud as last element are determinative with the exception of group 3, “human characteristics,” which are bahuvrihi compounds. Examples of compounds originating from Old Swedish are found in group 1, where huvud as the last element has its original, concrete meaning, as well as in group 5, where huvud means ‘the most important part of something’. Huvud as the first element is productive in the subcategories 1, 5, and 6.
In the following each subcategory is commented upon, with illustrative examples of compound words with their first attested use in brackets as well as translations into Spanish and English.
1. Huvud as the first element with its original, concrete meaning
In 38 of 173 compound words with huvud as the first element, huvud keeps the concrete meaning of the simplex word.
huvudbjudning (SAOL) encajado (posición fetal) engagement
huvudbonad (OS) cubrecabeza headgear
huvudbry (1686) quebradero de cabeza headache
Ten compound words in this category were already in use in Old Swedish according to SAOB. Huvudfoting has a new extended meaning that is not yet shown in SAOL and NO. SAOB has a reference to cefalopod (‘cephalopod’). Cefalopod is Greek for ‘head and foot’ and this mollusk got its name because the arms or legs it uses to move are directly attached to the head. In Språkbanken this example was found:
Hon reser sig återigen. Den här gången ritar hon en huvudfoting, figuren med det
stora huvudet direkt ovanpå streckgubbebenen … (Språkbanken, p. 97)
(She gets up again. This time she draws a huvudfoting, the figure with the big head
directly on the legs of the stick figure.)
In both senses the compound word huvudfoting has huvud in its concrete meaning as first element. That means that the recent extended meaning presented above has no importance for the division into categories. As already mentioned, the human body is a point of reference that is universal and the head, of course, is one of the most important body parts. Therefore it is interesting to note how small children see the human body and the position of the head and to note that the Swedish language has even got a word for this.
Quite a few discrepancies are found in the translations. Spanish uses cabeza in 28 words and English head occurs in 26 words. Nine of the words in which the translations to Spanish and English do not contain cabeza and head, respectively, coincide. Only one word, huvudlag (‘headstall’), contains head in English but not cabeza in Spanish. And only three words, huvudsvål (‘scalp’) and the synonyms huvudvärkspulver (‘pain reliever’) and huvudvärkstablett (‘pain killer’) have the Spanish cabeza in the translation but English head does not appear. In this subcategory it seems as if Spanish and English are closer and that Swedish diverges somewhat.
2. Projection of huvud on other objects and on the room
Of 173 compound words with huvud as the first element there is only one that falls into this category, huvudsallad (and the spelling variant huvudsallat), with its first attested use in 1772. The word is synonymous with salladshuvud (‘head lettuce’), and it is the form of the vegetable that is described with a body-part metaphor.
3. Human characteristics
Only two of the 173 compounds with huvud as first element belong to this group. SAOL defines huvudjägare as a ‘person that recruits higher-ranked employees within the business world’. The meaning of the first element, huvud, in huvudjägare och huvudjakt is here more or less ‘high-ranked employee’. By analogy with bahuvrihi compounds like dumhuvud (‘blockhead’), the first element in huvudjakt bears a meaning that could be explained as ‘a good business head’. This meaning of huvud as first element does not seem to be productive.
huvudjägare (SAOL) cazatalentos/headhunter (American Spanish) headhunter
huvudjakt (SAOL) caza de talentos/headhunting (American Spanish) headhunting
SAOL recommends the use of huvudjägare instead of the direct loan headhunter. The Swedish Language Committee (Svenska Språknämnden) suggests huvudjakt instead of the direct loan headhunting.
4. Huvud as the first element meaning ‘the most important person in a group’ (head)
In two of the 173 compounds in which huvud is the first element huvud means ‘the most important person in a group’ in analogy with the above mentioned överhuvud as in familjeöverhuvud, statsöverhuvud.
huvudlös (1558) sin cabeza headless
huvudman (1734) cabeza head
5. Huvud as the first element representing ‘the most important part of something’
In 145 of the 173 compound words with huvud as first element, huvud has the meaning ‘the most important part of something’. This is without doubt the most common use of huvud in compound words. Huvud does not have this meaning as a simplex word. We can consider the extended meaning ‘the most important part of something’ as a metaphorical association regarding the position and function of the head on the human body. This interpretation is supported by SAOB, which presents a figurative use of head when it is considered as “the most important organ of the body”. A meaning that is limited to the use of huvud as first element in some compound words has thus developed and SAOB states that it functions like a prefix. Since huvud is also an independent word, it is not a “pure” prefix according to prevalent definitions in the linguistic literature.
huvudkontor (1746) oficina central head office
huvudmisstänkt (SAOL) principal sospechoso prime suspect
huvudstad(1526) capital capital
There are quite a lot of words in this category that were found in SAOL but not in SAOB. That means in most of the cases, if not all, that they have been added to the vocabulary quite recently. This is an indication that huvud as first element meaning ‘the most important part of something’ is productive to a considerable extent. In the compound words huvudbeståndsdel, huvudgudstjänst, huvudpostkontor, and huvudströmbrytare, huvud functions as first element to a compound last element, and huvudroll and huvudstad are compound first elements for the last elements –innehavare and-tidning. According to Malmgren (2000), long and complex compound words have probably increased considerably during the last two hundred years. His explanation is that the society has become more complex, resulting in the need for more precise expressions. Teleman’s (1985) theories about the interplay between language change and the state of things in a society constitute the general theory frame for the Gothenburg project, The Development of the Swedish Vocabulary 1800–1900. In this context the productivity of this category can be interpreted as a reflection of an increasing need for broadening the vocabulary in an increasingly more complex society.
Regarding the translation into Spanish, cabeza is never used for any of the words in the list. In English head is used only in a few cases, for example, head office. Huvudstad is a special case where both the Spanish capital and the English capital have their origin in the Latin caput, which means ‘head’. Spanish and English show similarities as both languages sometimes use principal and principal, respectively, where Swedish uses huvud, for example, oración principal and principal clause. The most common equivalence for huvud meaning ‘the most important part of something’ seems to be principal in Spanish and main in English.
The present study aims at presenting the meaning extension of huvud in contemporary Swedish compound words. To achieve this goal I have employed semantic analysis as a method and indicated the productivity of each sense category. Furthermore, I have provided both Spanish and English translations.
The concrete meaning of huvud in compound words is found already in Old Swedish, both as a first and last element. There are also a few examples of huvud as first element meaning ‘the most important part of something’ dating back to Old Swedish. Since then a large number of neologisms with huvud as the first and last element in compound words have been added to the Swedish language. A difference is found in the use of huvud as first and last element. When huvud is the last element, the meaning extension is more varied and all subgroups are productive. In contrast, three out of six subgroups are productive when head is the first element. For example, the bahuvrihi compounds are productive only when huvud is the last element. On the other hand there are considerably more compound words with huvud as the first element than as the last element. The main reason for this is that huvud has developed a function as a prefix where it means ‘the most important part of something’. This prefix shows considerable productivity.
The category where huvud is the last element in its original, concrete meaning is the only one where the translations to English and Spanish show no discrepancies at all. In all other categories English shows fewer divergences than Spanish, but the cases with correspondence in both English and Spanish are much more frequent than the divergences. The most conspicuous difference is when huvud is used in its “prefix function” and means ‘the most important part of something’. The Spanish cabeza cannot be used in this way at all, and in English we find only a few examples like head office. Both English and Spanish use in certain cases the word principal to express ‘the most important part of something’. Also in other cases Spanish and English show similarities when they diverge from Swedish. One example is when huvud is the first element with its concrete meaning. The translated words that do not contain head or cabeza coincide almost throughout the list. The compound words in the category “human characteristics,” with head as first element, show quite a few divergences in all three languages. This could be an indication that human characteristics are more culture-dependent than, for example, the position in the room.
Conclusions and implications
In this paper I have presented a limited study and it is not possible to draw any far-reaching conclusions. There remains a lot of research to be done. Translations into languages that are less close to Swedish like, for instance, Chinese and Korean would certainly yield totally different results. If universal laws for semantic change really exist, which is not yet proved, it would probably affect language teaching since one of the mayor impediments for language students is when the target language diverges from their native tongue. If it appears that universal laws explain the divergences, some obstacles could be removed on the student´s way to the target language. But as long as we lack the tools, and research results point towards more or less tangible tendencies of similarity but no universal law, even in closely related languages like those examined in this paper, we find divergences that are difficult to explain.
As already mentioned, there is a clear divergence in the Swedish use of huvud as a first element meaning ‘the most important part of something’ in comparison with Spanish and English. Whether or not this divergence is valid in comparison with other languages remains to be investigated. For teachers of Swedish as a second language and translators this sense of huvud is not difficult to explain and, as it is frequent, the language student will not have major difficulty in understanding and using it in words like huvudstad (‘capital’) and huvudingång (‘main entrance’). Also, it is not easily mistaken for the use of huvud with its concrete meaning since the significance is usually clear from the context. There are few compounds where huvud as the first element has more than one meaning. The importance of the context is also evident when it comes to interpreting huvud as the last element, where the meaning extension is more varied.
The category “human characteristics” is where we find some signs of cultural influences. The variation we find in comparison with Spanish and English can be explained by the fact that the metonymic relation connected to body parts is more random than, for example, the use of head for the position ‘up’ which Heine (1997, pp. 40-41) demonstrates in his typological survey. For instance, clumsiness in English is associated with the thumb: he is all thumbs, in Spanish with the hand, ser un manazas (literally ‘be big handed’) and in Swedish we have klantskalle (skalle=’head’). In Swedish we find the thumb referred to in the expression ha tummen mitt i handen. The English equivalent is he has two left feet. In Spanish, on the other hand, the left foot is associated with a bad mood, se levantó con el pie izquierdo, which in Swedish would be han vaknade på fel sida. Obviously, there remains a lot of research to be done to complete this list of similarities and differences. Such a list would be of great use for language teachers and translators since a word-to-word translation of this kind of culturally dependent expressions is possible only in rare cases. It would also be interesting to examine all Swedish body-part words in a more extensive study to see if the categories in this study can be used for all of them, as well as to find out if there are more categories that need to be added.
In order to reach a high level of second-language proficiency, including a vocabulary as close to the native speaker´s as possible, a prolonged, intensive, and diversified contact with the target language is required, and this includes, of course, the study of Swedish compound words. Since words seldom appear in isolation it is important that language learners study words in a natural context, listening to a lot of spoken Swedish and reading large amounts of texts. To achieve a good result in a relatively short period of time, a more conscious and systematic method is required, one which, above all, aims at improving the ability to guess the meaning of a word in context as well as learning patterns of word formation. Furthermore, the learner of Swedish as a second language needs knowledge about the inner structure of the lexicon so as to increase her awareness of the different relations that can be found between words and, over the course of time, to build up a sense of useful word combinations (Enström, 2006).
In many contemporary language textbooks and teaching aids one can find examples of influences from lexical-semantic research. One example is that emphasis is often put on practicing vocabulary in a context, and sometimes semantic fields are presented, but a lot remains to be done to communicate the meaning of words in a more systematic way in language teaching. New methods need to be developed to keep step with the progress of language science research.
●This work was supported by Hankuk University of Foreign Studies Research Fund of
1. Språkbanken, the Swedish Language Bank, was established in 1975 as a national center with a remit to collect, process, and store (Swedish) text corpora, and to make linguistic data extracted from the corpora available to researchers and to the public. Through Språkbanken, such users have been able to access linguistic and statistical data about a diverse range of Swedish texts since the 1970s.
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