Swedish language

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Native toSweden, Finland, formerly Estonia
SpeakersNative: 10 million (2012–2021)[1]
L2 speakers: 3 million[1]
Swedish Language Council (in Sweden)
Swedish Academy (in Sweden)
Institute for the Languages of Finland (in Finland)
Language codes
ISO 639-1sv
ISO 639-2swe
ISO 639-3swe
Linguasphere52-AAA-ck to -cw
     Regions where Swedish is an official language spoken by the majority of the population (Sweden, Åland, Western Finland)
     Regions where Swedish is an official language spoken by a minority of the population (Finland)
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Swedish (svenska [ˈsvɛ̂nːska] ) is a North Germanic language spoken predominantly in Sweden and in parts of Finland.[2] It has at least 10 million native speakers, the fourth most spoken Germanic language and the first among any other of its type in the Nordic countries overall.[3]

Swedish, like the other

mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Danish, although the degree of mutual intelligibility is largely dependent on the dialect
and accent of the speaker.

Standard Swedish, spoken by most Swedes, is the national language that evolved from the Central Swedish dialects in the 19th century and was well established by the beginning of the 20th century. While distinct regional varieties and rural dialects still exist, the written language is uniform and standardized. Swedish is the most widely spoken second language in Finland where it has status as co-official language.

Swedish was long spoken in parts of Estonia, although the current status of the Estonian Swedish speakers is almost extinct. It is also used in the Swedish diaspora, most notably in Oslo, Norway, with more than 50,000 Swedish residents.[4]


Swedish is an

West Scandinavian languages, consisting of Faroese, Icelandic, and Norwegian. However, more recent analyses divide the North Germanic languages into two groups: Insular Scandinavian (Faroese and Icelandic), and Continental Scandinavian (Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish), based on mutual intelligibility due to heavy influence of East Scandinavian (particularly Danish) on Norwegian during the last millennium and divergence from both Faroese and Icelandic.[5]

By many general criteria of mutual intelligibility, the Continental Scandinavian languages could very well be considered

nationalist ideas that emerged during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the languages have separate orthographies, dictionaries, grammars, and regulatory bodies. Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish are thus from a linguistic perspective more accurately described as a dialect continuum of Scandinavian (North Germanic), and some of the dialects, such as those on the border between Norway and Sweden, especially parts of Bohuslän, Dalsland, western Värmland, western Dalarna, Härjedalen, Jämtland, and Scania, could be described as intermediate dialects of the national standard languages.[5]

Swedish pronunciations also vary greatly from one region to another, a legacy of the vast geographic distances and historical isolation. Even so, the vocabulary is standardized to a level that make dialects within Sweden virtually fully mutually intelligible.


East Germanic languages

West Germanic languages

Old Norse
Old West Norse




Old East Norse




Old Norse

The approximate extent of Old Norse and related languages in the early 10th century:
  Other Germanic languages with which Old Norse still retained some mutual intelligibility

In the 8th century, the common Germanic language of Scandinavia,

runic alphabet. Unlike Proto-Norse, which was written with the Elder Futhark alphabet, Old Norse was written with the Younger Futhark alphabet, which had only 16 letters. Because the number of runes was limited, some runes were used for a range of phonemes, such as the rune for the vowel u, which was also used for the vowels o, ø and y, and the rune for i, also used for e.[6]

From 1200 onwards, the dialects in Denmark began to diverge from those of Sweden. The innovations spread unevenly from Denmark, creating a series of minor dialectal boundaries, or

Zealand in the south to Norrland, Österbotten and northwestern Finland in the north.[6]

An early change that separated Runic Danish from the other dialects of Old East Norse was the change of the diphthong æi to the monophthong é, as in stæinn to sténn "stone". This is reflected in runic inscriptions where the older read stain and the later stin. There was also a change of au as in dauðr into a long open ø as in døðr "dead". This change is shown in runic inscriptions as a change from tauþr into tuþr. Moreover, the øy diphthong changed into a long, close ø, as in the Old Norse word for "island". By the end of the period, these innovations had affected most of the Runic Swedish-speaking area as well, with the exception of the dialects spoken north and east of Mälardalen where the diphthongs still exist in remote areas.[7]

Old Swedish

The initial page of the first complete copy of Västgötalagen, the law code of Västergötland, from c. 1280. It is one of the earliest texts in Swedish written in the Latin script.

Old Swedish (Swedish: fornsvenska) is the term used for the

Hanseatic power in the late 13th and early 14th century, Middle Low German became very influential. The Hanseatic league provided Swedish commerce and administration with a large number of Low German-speaking immigrants. Many became quite influential members of Swedish medieval society, and brought terms from their native languages into the vocabulary. Besides a great number of loanwords for such areas as warfare, trade and administration, general grammatical suffixes and even conjunctions were imported. The League also brought a certain measure of influence from Danish (at the time Swedish and Danish were much more similar than today).[10]

Early Old Swedish was markedly different from the modern language in that it had a more complex

number. By the 16th century, the case and gender systems of the colloquial spoken language and the profane literature had been largely reduced to the two cases and two genders of modern Swedish.[11]

A transitional change of the Latin script in the Nordic countries was to spell the letter combination "ae" as æ – and sometimes as a' – though it varied between persons and regions. The combination "ao" was similarly rendered ao, and "oe" became oe. These three were later to evolve into the separate letters ä, å and ö.[12] The first time the new letters were used in print was in Aff dyäffwlsens frästilse ("By the Devil's temptation") published by Johan Gerson in 1495.[13]

Modern Swedish