Swedish orka viewed through its English correspondences – ability, insufficient strength/energy or insufficient volition?


  • Mats Johansson
  • Lene Nordrum




sufficiency verbs, orka, participant-internal possibility, parallel corpora, English/Swedish


This paper explores the Swedish auxiliary orka and its English correspondences as reflected in English-Swedish parallel corpora. Orka is interesting from a contrastive perspective since it lacks a straightforward equivalent in English. We show that most of the English correspondences, both in the direction Swedish original to English translation and in the direction English original to Swedish translation, indicate a semantic analysis of Swedish orka involving a combination of two meaning components 1) ability and 2) sufficient physical or mental strength/energy. We suggest an analysis inspired by Nadathur (2016) where ability is the core semantic property, but sufficiency of physical or mental energy is included in the lexical meaning of the verb as a potential obstacle to ability. In addition, our material includes correspondences reflecting a second meaning involving sufficiency of volition (von Fintel, 2006), which we assume is derived from the meaning above. We also note that orka predominantly occurs in negative polarity contexts, and speculate that the relatively recent use of the imperative form orka in informal talk, meaning something along the lines of ‘I could not be bothered’, might have its source in such negative connotations. In addition to offering a specified semantic description of the Swedish verb orka, our study contributes to cross-linguistic studies of expressions of sufficiency meanings and sufficiency as a meaning component in verbs (Fortuin, 2013).




How to Cite

Johansson, Mats, and Lene Nordrum. 2018. “Swedish Orka Viewed through Its English Correspondences – Ability, Insufficient strength/Energy or Insufficient Volition?”. Bergen Language and Linguistics Studies 9 (1). https://doi.org/10.15845/bells.v9i1.1524.