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Swedish language

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Swedish is a language spoken in Sweden and Finland. Swedish is a one of the Scandinavian languages, a sub-group of the Germanic group of the Indo-European language family.

Swedish is closely related to, and often mutually intelligible with, Danish and Norwegian. All three diverged from Old Norse about a millennium ago. Swedish and Danish are both considered East Scandinavian languages, although Swedes usually find it easier to understand Norwegian than Danish. But even if a Swede finds it difficult to understand a Dane it is not necessarily the other way around.[1] (http://www.um.dk/english/faktaark/fa29/fa29_eng.asp)

The primary task of the Swedish Academy is to further the use of the Swedish language. The primary instrument for this is its dictionaries. Even though the dictionaries are sometimes perceived as an official definition of the language, their task is more of a descriptive nature.

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Where Spoken Swedish is the national (but not official) language of Sweden, mother tongue[?] for the Sweden-born inhabitants (7,881,000) and acquired by nearly all immigrants (1,028,000) (figures according to official statistics for 2001).

Swedish is the official language of the small autonomous territory of the Åland Islands, under sovereignty of Finland, protected by international treaties and Finnish laws. In contrast to Finland the Åland Islands are monolingual - Finnish has no official status.

In Finland, both Swedish and Finnish are official languages. Swedish had been the language of government in Finland for some 700 years, when Finnish go equal status in 1892, following Russian strivings to isolate the Grand Duchy from Sweden. (This, ironically, means that Finland, with Åland, is the only country where Swedish holds official status.) However, Swedish is mother tongue[?] for only a minority of the Finns: about 265,000 in Finland and 25,000 on Åland, or 5.6% of the total population according to official statistics for 2002. Since an education reform in the 1970s Swedish has been a compulsory subject in Finnish schools, and mandatory in the final examinations - in Finnish derogatory referred to as Pakkoruotsi. The Finland-Swedish minority is concentrated in some coastal areas and archipelagos of southern and south-western Finland, where they form a local majority in some communities.

There were formerly Swedish-speaking communities in the Baltic states, especially on the islands (Dagö, Ösel and Ormsö[?]) along the coast. After the loss of the Baltic territories to Russia in the early 18th century, many of them were forced to make the long march to Ukraine. The survivors of that march eventually founded a number of Swedish-speaking villages which survived until the Russian revolution, when the inhabitants were evacuated to Sweden. The dialect they spoke was known as gammalsvenska (Old Swedish). (Today there exist a few elderly descendants in the village of Gammalsvenskby (Old Swedish Village) in Ukraine, whom still speak Swedish and observe holidays according to the Swedish calendar.)

In Estonia, the small remaining Swedish community was very well treated between the first and second world wars. Municipalities with a Swedish majority, mainly found along the coast, had Swedish as the administrative language and Swedish-Estonian culture experienced an upswing. Most Swedish-speaking people fled to Sweden at the end of World War II.

There are small numbers of Swedish speakers in other countries, such as the United States. (See Languages in the United States.) There are also descendants in Brasil and Argentina resulting from Swedish immigration that have maintained a distinction by language and names, also against groups of European immigrants in the region.

There is considerable migration (labor and other) between the Scandinavian countries, but due to the similarity between the languages and culture expatriates generally assimilate quickly and do not stand out as a group. (Note: Finland is, strictly speaking, not a Scandinavian country. It does, however, belong to the group of Nordic countries together with Iceland and the Scandinavian countries.)

Alphabet The Swedish alphabet is a twenty-eight letter alphabet: the standard twenty-six-letter Latin alphabet with the exception of 'W', plus the three additional letters Å / å, Ä / ä, and Ö / ö. These letters are sorted in that order following z. 'W' is not considered as a unique letter, but a variant of 'v' (as in German) used only in names (such as "Wallenberg") and foreign words ("bowling"). Diacritics are unusual in Swedish: Accent aigu (acute accent) and, less often, accent grave can be seen in names and some foreign words. German ü is considered a variant of y and sometimes retained in foreign names. Diaeresis is not considered necessary, although it might exceptionally be seen in elaborated style (for instance: "Aïda", "naïve").

The runic alphabet (the futhark) was used before the Latin alphabet for Old Norse and early Swedish (Old Swedish), but this ancient script was gradually overtaken by the Latin alphabet during medieval times, although use of various futharks continued in certain rural districts at least until the 17th century.

Basic Facts Most Swedish words are of Germanic origin (the oldest category, representing the most common, everyday words) or are borrowings from Latin, French, German, or English. New words are often formed by compounding. New verbs can also be made by adding an -a to an existing noun, as in disk (dishes) and diska (do the dishes). Some compounds are translations of the elements (calques) of German original compounds into Swedish. Examples of Germanic words in Swedish are mus (mouse), kung (king), and gås (goose).

With respect to inflection, Swedish has five different kinds of nouns and four different kinds of verbs. Nouns come in two grammatical genders: common and neuter. Old Swedish formerly had masculine and feminine genders in place of common; some old phrases and ceremonial uses preserve these archaic forms. Noun gender is largely arbitrary and must be memorized. Nouns form the plural in a variety of ways: by adding -r with or without a mutation in the terminal vowel (e.g., flicka, girl, flickor, girls), by adding -n (e.g., äpple, apple, äpplen, apples), by no marker at all (e.g., barn, child or children), or by mutation of the root vowel from back to front (e.g., man, man, män, men). The last form is rare.

Most verbs end in -a in the infinitive, -r in the present tense, and -de, -te, or -dde in the past. Verbs generally do not inflect for person or number. Other tenses are formed by combinations of auxiliary verbs with infinitives or a special form of the participle called the supine. As in all the Germanic languages, there are strong and weak verbs. For most Swedish strong verbs that have a verb cognate in English or German, that cognate is also strong.

Dialects The written language is uniform, with very few exception: Adjectives are typically conjugated according to (real) gender in Southern Sweden, not at all in high-prestige varieties in the rest of Sweden, but sometimes according to numerus in Finland.

Vocabulary (or rather lexicon according to linguist jargon) is rather uniform in Sweden, at least in the style of prose[?] seen in news papers, and in higher styles. Finland-Swedish has a set of separate terms, being close cognates of their Finnish counterparts, chiefly terms of law and government.

A major problem for students of Swedish is what can be perceived as a lack of standardization of pronounciation. The pronounciation of vowels, and of some consonant sounds (particularly sibilants), demonstrates marked differences in spoken high-prestige varieties. In addition the melodic accent of South-Sweden is strikingly different from that of the capital-region (including Åland), which in turn differs clearly from provincial Dalecarlia and Gotland. In Finland-Swedish melodic accent isn't used at all, as is also typical for parts of northernmost Sweden, where Finnish dominated less than a century ago.

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See also: Common phrases in different languages



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