Commas in English and Swedish. A contrastive study of the quantitative use of commas in some journalistic texts


  • Karin Lindqvist


The article discusses the use of commas in a corpus consisting of a number of British English and Swedish newspaper articles. The aim is to describe and to compare the comma use in the two languages, primarily with focus on quantitative aspects. The study is contrastive rather than translational. However, the result of the study is meant to serve as a short presentation of the comma use in the two languages, and could be of interest for a translator, teacher or student, or simply for anyone with an interest in differences between English and Swedish. The article shows that commas are more frequent in the English texts than in the Swedish ones, and also that the commas often have different functions in the two languages: in the English texts, the commas are often used to delimit different types of elements from each other, whereas the commas in the Swedish texts often are used to separate the same types of elements. These differences reflect divergences in sentence structure: in English, there are more hypotactic relations, where commas tend to be frequently used, whereas in Swedish, there are more paratactic relations, which are less often associated with commas. The article also tries to outline some cases which could be problematic for the language user: cases where there could be interference between different norms concerning the comma use.