THE SWEDISH LANGUAGE
Sweden is a multilingual country. However, Swedish is and has always been the majority language and the country’s main language. Here, Catharina Grünbaum paints a picture of the language from Viking times to the present day: its development, its peculiarities and its status.
The national language of Sweden is Despite the dominant status of Swedish, Swedish and related languages Swedish. It is the mother tongue of Sweden is not a monolingual country. Swedish is a Nordic language, a Ger- approximately 8 million of the country’s The Sami in the north have always been manic branch of the Indo-European total population of almost 10 million. a domestic minority, and the country language tree. Danish and Norwegian Swedish is also spoken by around has had a Finnish-speaking population are its siblings, while the other Nordic 300,000 Finland Swedes, 25,000 of ever since the Middle Ages. Finnish languages, Icelandic and Faroese, are whom live on the Swedish-speaking and Meänkieli (a Finnish dialect spoken more like half-siblings that have pre- Åland islands. in the Torne river valley in northern served more of their original features. Swedish is one of the two national Sweden), spoken by a total of approxi- Using this approach, English and languages of Finland, along with Finnish, mately 250,000 people in Sweden, German are almost cousins. for historical reasons. Finland was part and Sami all have legal status as The relationship with other Indo- of Sweden until 1809. domestic minority languages. Romany, European languages is particularly clear There has been a Swedish-speaking Yiddish and sign language for the deaf when we encounter so-called native population in Estonia since the Middle also have a form of legal minority- words that we have from our shared Ages. Today, only a fraction of it remains. language status. origin. These are words such as fader Since the mid-19th century and As a result of immigration and the (father), moder (mother), hus (house), up to the present day, more than influx of refugees in recent decades, at mus (mouse), hund (dog), ko (cow), a million people have emigrated from least 150 languages are now spoken in öga (eye), öra (ear), näsa (nose), blod Sweden, primarily to North America. Sweden. Arabic is the most widespread, (blood), dag (day), natt (night), sten It is estimated that Swedish is spoken with at least 150,000 speakers. No (stone), ben (bone), jord (earth), vatten by several hundred thousand people official statistics are kept on language (water), ung (young), ljuv (sweet), äta worldwide. affiliation in Sweden. (eat), dricka (drink), leva (live), dö (die). FACTS ABOUT SWEDEN / THE SWEDISH LANGUAGE sharingsweden.se
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Å Ä Ö a b c d e Its many long vowel sounds and falling and rising pitch mean that Swedish is f g h i j considered a melodic language, as parodied in The Muppet Show. k l m n o How does Swedish sound? the same sound as in the French words p q r s t The characteristic immediately apparent bleu /-ö/, bœuf /-öff/ and chauffeur /-ö:r/. to a foreign ear is that Swedish is a Swedish also contains combinations u v w x y melodious language with falling and of consonants that can be difficult for rising tones and varying pitch accents: many foreigners to pronounce: vrak, z å ä ö /´hunden/, /`ra:dhu:s/, /`å:terställa/, sprängts, östgötsk. /pro´ble:m/, /problem´a:tisk/, fotograf´i:/. The combinations of letters sj, skj A sequence of letters such as buren and stj are pronounced /∫/, for example can be pronounced in two ways. The as in the English word she. For example: INDO-EUROPEAN HERITAGE noun buren (the cage) has accent 1, sjö (sea), sjuk (sick), skjorta (shirt), with the full emphasis on bur-: /´bu:ren/. stjärna (star). The Indo-European heritage is visible However, the participle form buren The same is true of sk before the in the Swedish syster, Danish søster, Icelandic systir, English sister, German (carried), of the verb bära, has accent 2, front vowels e, i, y, ä, ö: skepp (ship), schwester, Dutch zuster, Russian sestra, with partial emphasis on the second skinn (skin), sky (sky), skämmas (be French sœur, Latin soror and Sanskrit syllable: /`bu:ren/. ashamed), sköld (shield). svasr. A particular characteristic of the The standard Swedish r sound is sound of Swedish is the many vowel an apical r, as in Spanish and Italian sounds, a, o, u, å, e, i, y, ä, ö, which can (but not as clearly articulated). In the CLASSIC SWEDISH TONGUE be both long and short. southern parts of the country, a velar r TWISTERS Vowel length often determines mean- is used, as in French. ing in Swedish: mat (food) pronounced with a long a, matt (dull) pronounced Grammatical peculiarities with a short a, ful (ugly) pronounced The hardest feature of Swedish for Sju sjösjuka with a long u, full (full) pronounced with foreigners to learn is the inverse word a short u. order in sentences that start with some-
Y Swedish u sound. U is pronounced always comes second in the sentence. U
S Shanghai, U For example, ‘Anna kommer i dag’ F not as in the German word Buch (or
O sköljde sju G the English word boot), but as a sound (Anna is coming today) but ‘I dag kom- A
N A somewhere between the vowels in mer Anna’ (Today, is coming Anna) skjortor i sjön. Y
/ S H (not ‘Today, Anna is coming’). U Buch and grün. The u can be short, as (Seven seasick T
T E A peculiarity of Nordic languages is seamen on the ship R in hund, and long, as in hus.
Shanghai washed O The letters å, ä och ö are more visually the postpositive definite article: man–
seven shirts C mannen (the man), hus–huset (the O than aurally distinctive. Å represents in the sea). M the same vowel sound as in the English house), hundar–hundarna (the dogs). words more and hot. Ä is equivalent to Swedish can also have a double definite the vowels in care and best. Ö represents form: det lilla huset (the little house). 2 | FACTS ABOUT SWEDEN / THE SWEDISH LANGUAGE sharingsweden.se
RUNIC SWEDISH The Nordic languages can form a spe- memory of Holmbjörn, his brother, cial passive form with -s: ‘brevet skrevs’ a good young man. Öpir carved this The runic alphabet is called Futhark after the six letters in the first group. (the letter is written), ‘brevet har skrivits’ inscription’. However, many stones The 16-character Viking era Futhark (the letter was written). talk about deeds at home and journeys in its commonest form is shown here. The old system of three grammatical and voyages to the east and west. These are the so-called Swedish- genders, han, hon, det (he, she, it), has The language of the rune stones is Danish runes or normal runes. been reduced to two in standard Swed- called runic Swedish. ish: den and det. We now have båten The runic Swedish period was fol- (the boat) – den, huset (the house) – det. lowed by the Old Swedish period, which ᚠf ᚢu ᚦth ᚬa ᚱr ᚴk However, where the gender is impor- includes the entire Middle Ages and tant, masculine and feminine pronouns ended with the Reformation in the 16th are used: mannen (the man) – han, century. Runic characters were then kvinnan (the woman) – hon, hingsten replaced by the Latin alphabet. The lan- ᚼh ᚾn ᛁi ᛅa ᛋs (the stallion) – han, stoet (the mare) – hon. guage we find in the very oldest records References to time are a relic: Hur mycket in provincial law-rolls from the early 13th är hon? Hon är halv två (What time is it? century shows that Swedish and Danish It is one thirty). had become separate languages. ᛏt ᛒb ᛘm ᛚl ᛦr In recent years, people have also started to use a new gender-neutral pronoun, Influence from other languages Bokstav (the Swedish word for letter) hen, partly to replace the combination Swedish has always been open to loans means ‘line carved in beechwood’. Wood was the commonest material, han eller hon (he or she) and partly for from elsewhere but has still survived but stone has been better preserved. people who do not want to be catego- as a separate language. The arrival of
PHOTO: BENGT A LUNDBERG/RIKSANTIKVARIEÄMBETET rised as either man or woman. Christianity in the 11th century brought In modern Swedish, the verb has the with it a number of words of Latin and same form in the singular and plural: Greek origin such as kyrka (church), jag är (I am), vi är (we are); jag tar (I take), präst (priest), mässa (mass) and paradis vi tar (we take). The old plural forms are (paradise). now found almost only in hymns and The influence from the rest of Europe in Swedish drinking songs: ‘Vi äro små continued in the Middle Ages. Romances humlor som ta oss en geting’ (We are of chivalry in verse and propaganda small bumblebees which take a wasp). such as rhyming chronicles emerged as However, Swedish has retained the literature around the king and the court. various plural forms of nouns: kyrka– The monastic system started translating kyrkor (church–churches), hund–hundar religious literature. Vadstena Abbey (dog–dogs), gäst–gäster (guest–guests), became a spiritual centre where many äpple–äpplen (apple–apples), hus–hus texts were produced. Towns grew up (house–houses), man–män (man–men), as a result of trade and crafts. Words mus–möss (mouse–mice). were borrowed and words were created in Swedish to cope with all these new When Swedish became Swedish elements. The complicated sentence The rune stone at Gripsholm Castle in In the period from the birth of Christ to the structure and long-winded phrases Södermanland recounts a famous Viking journey to the east in the 11th century. 9th century, the language in the Nordic of Latin left their mark on the written The leader was called Ingvar. The jour- region was roughly the same, and was language and this has remained to the ney ended badly – everyone died in called Primitive Norse. The linguistic present day. Serkland, the land of the Saracens or documents from the period consist of However, the biggest influence of Muslims, whose capital was Baghdad. a small number of runic inscriptions. all on the Swedish language came The text begins ”Tola had this stone During the Viking era (800–1050), the from German via the Hanseatic league. raised, mother of Harald, (travel) brother language spoken was still generally a The old vindögat (window) in the roof of Ingvar”. This is followed by a verse shared language, often called ‘Danish was replaced by a fönster in the wall. in an Old Norse metre with alliteration. The text should be read like this: tongue’. However, at the same time, Eldhuset became kök (kitchen), mön certain characteristics began to emerge (maiden) became jungfru, börja became Thair furu trikila They travelled valiantly that distinguished between Swedish, begynna (begin), gälda became betala fiari at kuli far for gold, auk austarla and in the east Danish and Norwegian. We have several (pay), mål and tunga became språk arni kafu gave to the eagle. thousand rune stones from the 11th cen- (language). In the new towns, there tuu sunarla (They) died in the south tury that demonstrate the development were rådhus (town halls), borgerskap a sirklanti in Serkland. of the language. (citizens), väktare (watchmen), fängelse Give to the eagle means ‘give the eagle The inscriptions are often very similar, (prisons), fogde (sheriffs) and bödel food’, that is, to ‘slaughter enemies’. such as ‘Holmfast raised this stone in (executioners). Köpmän (merchants)
3 | FACTS ABOUT SWEDEN / THE SWEDISH LANGUAGE sharingsweden.se
WORDS LOANED TO OTHER handled varor (goods), vikter (weights), Standard Swedish and dialects LANGUAGES mynt (coins) and räkenskap (accounts). Standard Swedish developed out of Occupations included skräddare (tailor), the language spoken in Mälardalen and During the Viking era, several Nordic skomakare (shoemaker), slaktare around the capital, Stockholm. This was words were loaned to English. (butcher) and krögare (innkeeper). the seat of the administration and where Window (fönster in Swedish), vindue The borrowing of German words the upper class lived. The first translation in Danish and Norwegian, from an older continued throughout the Middle Ages of the Bible in 1541 (Gustav Vasa’s bible) Nordic word vindauga, Swedish vindöga, (opening in the roof). and the Reformation in the 16th century, also contributed to the stabilisation of when Sweden adopted the Lutheran the written language and was of great Starboard, from steer and board, from doctrine, and it continued during the the Nordic styrbord, the side of a ship importance to standardisation of the on which the steering oar is attached. Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century. language and to literature. Another con- The language of science and higher tributing factor was that a higher pro- A couple of Swedish words in other education had long been Latin, the languages are ombudsman and smör- portion of the population were able to gåsbord, the latter becoming smorgas- international language. However, in read. From the end of the 17th century, bord in English. the 17th century, when France under the ministers were obliged to ensure that ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV became the leading people knew important passages from nation of Europe, French started to be- the Bible and Luther’s catechism. SIMILARITIES BETWEEN come a status language and even more The 18th century saw the emergence LANGUAGES so during the 18th century, the century of an educated middle class and with it of culture and the Enlightenment. the start of the journalistic Swedish we Björken, a tree with Indo-European The loan words show what sort of have today. A scientific Swedish was roots, is birk in Danish, bjerk in Norwegian, björk in Icelandic, birch in culture was being borrowed: möbel also created and Sweden’s success in English, Birke in German, berk in Dutch, (furniture), balkong (balcony), garderob this field, with representatives such as bereza in Russian, brzoza in Polish, (wardrobe), salong (salon), mustasch Carl von Linné and Anders Celsius, was b ¯e r z s in Latvian, beržas in Lithuanian (moustache), parfym (perfume), sås also shared with the people. and bhurja in Sanskrit. (sauce), kastrull (saucepan), balett (bal- The development of standard Swedish The missionary Ansgar came to the let), ridå (curtain), pjäs (play), journalist, continued in subsequent centuries trading place Birka in Lake Mälaren, roman (novel), modern. with inward migration to the cities, the Sweden, in the 9th century. The island In the 19th century, English began to growth of the press, public education itself is now called Björkö. flow in with the vocabulary of industrial- (compulsory primary school was isation, travel and sport: jobb (job), stre- established in 1842 with Swedish as jk (strike), bojkott (boycott), räls (rail), SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN a separate subject), literature for the lokomotiv (locomotive), turist (tourist), educated public (August Strindberg, Saint Bridget is writing down one of her sport, rekord (record). Selma Lagerlöf, etc.), folk high schools visions here. When, at the start of the 19th century, and popular movements (where genera- She wrote ceaselessly, was politically the Nordic countries ended their last tions of politicians learned to speak and active, travelled widely (she died in war with each other, a strong sense of write in public), standards for the writ- Rome in 1373) and founded Vadstena solidarity emerged, giving rise to the Abbey, which became a text and trans- ten language in the Swedish Academy lation workshop of great importance to Scandinavism movement, followed in Glossary and eventually the broad the development of written Swedish. the second half of the century by the casting media. Modern Breakthrough in literature. Standard Swedish and its regional
PHOTO: ELISABET OMSÉN/TT Authors and artists mingled freely variants essentially have the same across borders and borrowed words vocabulary and inflections. The differ- from each other. During this period ences are primarily in pronunciation and the following words arrived from intonation. The most distinctive vari- Danish and Norwegian: hänsyn (con- ants are Southern Swedish and Finland sideration), spydig (malicious), under- Swedish (which also has a number of fundig (sly), förälskelse (love), rabalder variant words). However, people raised (tumult). in Gothenburg, Stockholm, Gotland The 20th century was the century and Norrland are also usually easy to of English more than anything else. identify. The way a person speaks often Since the Second World War, English reveals which part of the country they has been about the only language from come from. which words have been borrowed but Pure dialect is spoken less and less. there have been a great many such The few people who speak a genuine words. Immigrants’ languages have local dialect in their home district usually had little impact on Swedish, although switch to a variant closer to standard Church painting of Saint Bridget. kebab, pizza and couscous are now Swedish when they encounter people everyday Swedish words. from elsewhere. 4 | FACTS ABOUT SWEDEN / THE SWEDISH LANGUAGE sharingsweden.se FOTO: TIINA TAHVANAINEN/VISITALAND.COM PLACE NAMES IN FINLAND
IMMIGRANT WORDS The official language of the Åland islands is Swedish, as can be seen on these signs. Established everyday words that arrived with immigrants include tjej A special variant of Swedish is spoken Some words that are now more or less (girl) and jycke (dog) from Romany and in the districts of cities that are dominated obsolete in standard Swedish are still in kola (die) and kul (fun) (from Finnish). by immigrants. This is sometimes sweep- use in Finland Swedish, such as kännspak Guz (girl) from Turkish and jalla! (hurry ingly called Rinkeby Swedish after a (characteristic, easily recognisable) and up!) from Arabic are two of the more suburb of Stockholm. This suburban menföre (bad weather in winter). Other widely known words used in the Swedish spoken in immigrant areas. Swedish is a variable youth language with differences in vocabulary are due to the local differences and contains elements influence of Finnish, such as skyddsväg,
COPYRIGHT: MEMFIS FILM of several different immigrant languages which is övergångsställe (pedestrian and its own intonation, constructions crossing) in standard Swedish. and translated phrases. Finland Swedish is under great pres- There are socially determined language sure from Finnish in terms of both loan variations but they are small compared words and syntax, which is a problem. with many other countries. The condition for the Swedish used in Finland to be considered a valid language Finland Swedish is that it can be used in Sweden as well. The Swedish used in Finland is not a Many Finnish places have both Swedish separate language, but it has features and Finnish names: Helsingfors/Helsinki, that differ from standard Swedish, above Åbo/Turku, Vasa/Vaasa. When writing or all in speech. Like the Swedish used in speaking Swedish, the Swedish names Sweden, it also has a number of different are used. This is also true if the person dialects. Swedish is spoken on the Åland speaking or writing has Finnish as their islands, which are Swedish-speaking, mother tongue. in the coastal areas of southern Finland The film Jalla! Jalla! from 2008. and further north in Österbotten. Swedish in the 20th century A characteristic feature of the Swedish Over the past century, the written and used in Finland is that it does not distin- spoken forms of the language have guish between accent 1 and accent 2. undergone a process of equalisation. Speakers of standard Swedish think As the proportion of the population that Finland Swedish sounds ‘singsong’, able to read has increased, the written while speakers of Finland Swedish say language has influenced the spoken the same about standard Swedish. language, and genuine spoken forms In general, Finland Swedish is pro- are increasingly disappearing: å>av nounced more literally than standard (of), tappa’>tappade (tapped/dropped), Swedish. The last two letters of hunn>hunden (dog), massäck>matsäck Helsingfors (Swedish for Helsinki) are (packed lunch), körrgårn>kyrkogården pronounced by many as a separate r and (cemetery). The polished spoken lan- a separate s, and not as a ‘sh’ sound, as in guage used in the broadcasting media standard Swedish. Djup (deep) and djur also contributes to this development. (animal) retain the d when pronounced, At the same time, the spoken language where standard Swedish says /ju:p/ and / has influenced the written language, ju:r/. The u sound is also different. which has become increasingly infor- 5 | FACTS ABOUT SWEDEN / THE SWEDISH LANGUAGE sharingsweden.se PHOTO: ROSENKVIST/IMAGEBANK.SWEDEN.SE ANN-SOFI
Sveær egho konung at taka ok sva vrækæ.
‘Svearna äga taga konung och likaså vräka (avsätta)’ (The Swedes are entitled to appoint and dismiss the king).
From Äldre Västgötalagen (the Elder Westrogothic law), around 1280.
The word lärare (teacher) is gender neutral. IMAGE: KIDLER IMAGE:
mal, with shorter sentences, simpler too much English. Language planning sentence structure and more everyday takes a two-pronged approach, either Snabel-a (@). vocabulary. This development has been replacing loan words: computer>dator, led by both literature and the media. airbag>krockkudde, e-mail>e-post, web Many words that would have been con- site>webbplats, or adapting them: mejl, sidered to belong to a less elevated mejla (email), sajt (site), hackare (hacker), style 50 years ago can now be used in mobba (bully), mobbning (bullying). neutral, informal prose. The words tjej New words continue to be created och kille are now normal alternatives to largely on the basis of existing domestic flicka and pojke (girl and boy) for younger word forms. Compounds are a familiar generations, while they remain slang feature of Swedish. Many words have or at least very everyday terms for the been created with Swedish roots, such oldest generations. as föräldravandring (parents’ watch), Similarly, there is now no longer an kretsloppssamhälle (sustainable society), elevated style with archaic words and avknoppning (hiving off), båtluffa (go word forms and complicated syntax. island hopping), svartbygge (building Both new laws and the official new trans- built without a permit), snabel-a (@). lation of the Bible from 2000 are written Others are created with Swedish roots in polished contemporary Swedish. but the concept itself has been borrowed Great efforts are being undertaken (a translated loan): kärnkraft (nuclear to make the language used by the pub- power), såpopera (soap opera), hemsida lic administration less bureaucratic in (home page), frosta av (defrost), skogs- order to make it accessible to ordinary död (Waldsterben – death of forests). Swedes. Complex EU language is seen as a threat to democratised public Gender equality in linguistic usage Swedish, and linguists at the Swedish Sweden is one of the countries in the translation unit at the EU Commission world in which gender equality work in Brussels have fought hard to ensure and the attitude to gender equality have that translations are in good, compre- advanced most. In linguistic usage, hensible Swedish and do not bear the this work is expressed in the fact that mark of the source language (which is previously very masculine derivative usually French or English). endings are now gender neutral, while English is the language from which female derivative endings have gradu- most words are borrowed, in Sweden ally become uncommon. As a result, and in many other parts of the world. the previously masculine ending -are English enjoys high prestige, especially now designates both genders. Lärare in the business community, IT and youth (teacher), författare (author) and bagare culture, and many words are borrowed (baker) have replaced lärarinna, förfat- more or less as they are: management, tarinna and bagerska for women who outsourcing, e-mail, techno, wannabe. have these occupations. The same is However, there is also widespread true of konduktriser, direktriser and am- resistance to the direct incorporation of bassadriser, who are now konduktörer 6 | FACTS ABOUT SWEDEN / THE SWEDISH LANGUAGE sharingsweden.se
PHOTO: P. X ERIKSSON/IDUS FÖRLAG (conductors), direktörer (directors) and On the other hand, compounds are ambassadörer (ambassadors). However, able to create new terms with their the transition has not been fully completed. own expressiveness: fulöl (bad beer), We still have servitriser (waitresses), kramgo (cuddly), skåpsupa, (indulge in skulptriser (sculptresses) and aktriser secret drinking), strulputte, (messer- (actresses). upper), räknenisse, (bean-counter). The suffix -man is replaced in some Much of Swedish poetry consists of cases. A female riksdagsman is called unique compounds. And translation riksdagsledamot (member of the Riks- fails to do justice to the tone of some- dag) and a female forskare (researcher) thing as everyday Swedish as solvarma is known as that and not as vetenskaps- smultron med kylskåpskall fil (wild man (literally man of science). Talesman strawberries warmed by the sun with is sometimes talesperson as in English sour milk fresh from the fridge). (spokesperson). But ombudsman and ”Girl and boy: the same or different?” nämndeman (lay judge) are unchanged, Language planning in Sweden – a children’s book about us all and they are often women. Swedish language planning has a long being equally good even if we look Women are no longer given a title tradition, from the first Bible translators different. according to their husband’s occupation. to those who create Swedish IT terms Överstinnor (colonels’ wives) and pro- today. fessorskor (professors’ wives) are now The tasks of language planning are IMAGE: RUNEBERG.ORGIMAGE: an extinct species. and have always been to create stability The female sexual organ has been in spelling, inflection and grammar, to given a respectable new name after not counteract complicated language and having had one for a long time. Snippa to replace or adapt loan words to make is the word, and it is used in particular them good Swedish words. by children. (The word snopp has long Two autocratic kings, Charles XI and been used for boys’ sexual organs.) Charles XII, ordered their civil servants to write pure, comprehensible Swedish. Does the Swedish language Georg Stiernhielm, ‘the father of Swed- have a soul? ish poetry’, wanted to see the many The contrast between Swedish and French vogue words replaced by purely other European languages becomes Nordic ones, and, to the delight of pos- clear in the translation of EU legislation. terity, he revived old Nordic words such Where French and German official lan- as alster (product), fräck (impudent), guage excels at producing complicated gladlynt (cheerful), slöjd (handicraft) long sentences, Swedish prefers short and tryta (run short). sentences with simple subordinate In the 18th century, the provocative clauses. Of course, it is possible to pro- writer and scholar Olof von Dalin laid In 1733 Olof von Dalin started the weekly Then Swänska Argus. duce incredibly complex sentences in the foundations of informal journalistic Swedish, and they are produced, but the language and influenced his pupil, the Latin influence on Swedish legal style future King Gustav III (who still mostly has always been counterbalanced by spoke French), to work for a purer the Nordic heritage from the provincial Swedish. The result was the Swedish law-rolls, with their oral narrative style. Academy (1786), which is behind the Some users of foreign languages find major Swedish Academy Dictionary this Swedish syntax rather basic, at least and still issues the standardising for argumentation, while others love its Swedish Academy Glossary. In 1999,
PHOTO: NORSTEDTS FÖRLAG directness and simplicity. the Swedish Academy Grammar was The Swedish word formation system, published. With the Dictionary, it makes with its wealth of potential compounds, Swedish one of the best described creates long words that are sometimes languages in the world. hard to understand and may replace en- The Language Council of Sweden (at tire sentences or phrases. Words such the Institute for Language and Folklore) as resursallokering (resource allocation), is responsible for planning the standard ståndpunktstagande (standpoint), kvitt- language. The Language Council of blivningsproblematik (problems getting Sweden publishes style manuals, dic- The fourteenth edition of rid of something), känsloidentifikation tionaries and guides and provides the the Swedish Academy Glossary (emotional identification) are favoured in general public with extensive advice contains about 126,000 entries. official and specialist language. free of charge. The Council also works
7 | FACTS ABOUT SWEDEN / THE SWEDISH LANGUAGE sharingsweden.se SOURCE: EXTRACT FROM LIST OF NEOLOGISMSSOURCE: 2015 PHOTO: ULLA MONTAN
LIST OF NEOLOGISMS
faktaresistens (resistance to facts) An attitude that involves not permitting yourself to be affected by facts that contradict your own opinion, which is based instead on conspiracy theories, for example (2001).
klickokrati (clickocracy) A society in which journal- ism and politics are con- The Swedish Academy has eighteen members. Membership is for life. trolled by what internet users prefer; for example, with its sister organisations in the other call domain loss, which entails one by clicking on like and share Nordic countries. The Language Council language losing terrain to another. The buttons online (2007). of Sweden also has the task of monitor- other language is, of course, English, ing how well the Swedish Language Act and the domains at risk are primarily svajpa (swipe) (see right column) is complied with. scientifi c language and some other areas Control a device such as Technical terminology is managed of specialist language. Many companies a computer or mobile by by TNC, the Swedish Centre for Termi- with subsidiaries abroad now have Eng- swiping a fi nger across the nology, which is also responsible for lish as their corporate language. Most screen (2010). Sweden’s so-called term banks, above scientifi c dissertations are now written all Rikstermbanken, Sweden’s national in English. Some university teaching term bank. Other terminology bodies are even takes place in English as part of Every year, the Language Council of Svenska datatermgruppen (Swedish IT globalisation. Sweden and the magazine Språk- term group) and Svenska läkare sällskapets However, the situation is serious if tidningen compile a list of Swedish kommitté för medicinsk språkvård those who are in charge of the develop- neologisms. (Swedish Society of Medicine’s commit- ment of society are unable to take part tee for medical language planning). in public debate in their mother tongue The complex Swedish used by public because they lack Swedish words. This agencies is currently opposed by the presents a risk to the Swedish language, PHOTO: ALINE LESSNER/IMAGEBANK.SWEDEN.SE Plain Swedish Offi ce at the Language which is not universally fi t for purpose, Council of Sweden. Sweden is a pio- and it presents a risk to democracy. neering country in this regard. The This risk has been taken seriously Swedish methods have spread to and resulted in 2009 in a Language Act several other countries and to the EU establishing that Swedish is the primary administration, with campaigns like language of Sweden, and its offi cial ‘Plain language’ and ‘Fight the fog’. language in an international context. Sveriges Radio-TV (the Swedish Swedish is the language that it must be national public broadcasting service), possible to use in all areas of society. has its own language planners, and This means that everyone resident in several large daily newspapers in Sweden has a statutory opportunity Sweden and Swedish-speaking Finland to learn Swedish. Swedish must be the have language planning employees common language not only for Swedish responsible for linguistic guidelines. natives but also for the 20 percent of They all work with each other in residents who were born abroad. Mediespråksgruppen (the media lan- The Swedish Language Act also estab- guage group). lishes that Swedish must be a complete All the language planning bodies language that supports society; that is, confer with each other in Språkvårds- it must contain all that is required, in English is now used as a corporate gruppen (the language planning group), particular specialist terminology, for it and teaching language. where a consensus often prevails. to be possible for the various functions of society to be discussed in it. The Does Swedish have a future? language of public agencies, public The Nordic language planning bodies sector Swedish, must be cultivated, today express concern about what they simple and comprehensible. 8 | FACTS ABOUT SWEDEN / THE SWEDISH LANGUAGE sharingsweden.se
The Swedish Language Act also estab- live in a rich linguistic tradition, with lit- lishes the right of every individual to lan- erature on all levels and with stories and guage, to develop and acquire the Swedish songs, jokes and figures of speech. And language, to develop and use their own most of those born abroad do not come mother tongue and their own national from an English-speaking culture either. minority language and to have the oppor- Even if young people today intersperse tunity to learn foreign languages. their language with phrases and ex- However, whether you fear or hope that pressions in English, it is Swedish they English will one day replace Swedish, you speak and write in their daily lives. The will have to wait. Despite internationali influence of English is growing, but the sation, most Swedes have their roots in Swedish language will still continue to a society that English cannot cover. They exist in the foreseeable future.
TEN AUTHORS WHO HAVE TAKEN THEIR PLACE IN THE HEARTS OF THE SWEDISH PEOPLE THROUGH THEIR USE OF LANGUAGE
PHOTO: ULF STRÅHLE/SVT/TT Carl Michael Bellman (1740–1795). A vivid Sara Lidman (1923–2004). Opened 18th century poet. Most Swedes can sing people’s ears to the Västerbotten dialect something he wrote. in her novels Tjärdalen (The Tar Still) and Hjortronlandet (Cloudberry Land). August Strindberg (1849–1912). A linguistic Followed up with Järnbaneeposet pioneer in the 19th century and still modern (The Railway Epic). today. ‘My fire is the greatest in Sweden,’ he said, and the same can be said about his Tove Jansson (1914–2001), A Finland linguistic energy. Swede, creator of the words and images for the Moomins. Caused speakers of Hjalmar Söderberg (1869–1941). A turn of standard Swedish to embrace Finland the century author with a clear, minimalist Swedish pronunciation and Finland style and an undertone of melancholy. Swedish words such as ‘råddig’ (woolly). Stylistically ideal for many, but inimitable. Astrid Lindgren (1907–2002). Linguistic Selma Lagerlöf (1845–1940). No one can ingenuity with her own colloquial narrative tell a story like her. tone. Both very funny and very sad. Evert Taube (1890–1976). Troubadour and Lennart Hellsing (1921–2015). Rhymes, author. A romantic and a realist. He created jingles and wordplay. Read and sung by the summer in Swedish hearts. all ages. Creator of the characters 'Krakel Harry Martinson (1904–1978). A wordsmith Spektakel' and 'Kusin Vitamin'. Evert Taube – one of our most popular for both the barren countryside and the songwriters. spacecraft Aniara.
Author Catharina Grünbaum The author, Catharina Grünbaum, has been a Her books on language include Strövtåg i Translated by Stephen Croall language planner at Svenska språknämnden språket (A Ramble through the Language), (one of the predecessors of the Language I sällskap med språket (Accompanied by the Council of Sweden) and subsequently at the Language) and Språkbladet (The Language daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter. Sheet).
Copyright: The Swedish Institute, October 2016.
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