Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Language Profile: Swedish

In today's language profile, we're going to take a look at Swedish. A descendant of Old Norse, Swedish is a member of the Germanic language family that includes German, Dutch, and English. It is also very closely related to Norwegian and Danish. In fact, these languages are largely mutually intelligible, and are considered by some linguists to constitute a dialect continuum.

Sweden's Parliament House in Stockholm.
Swedish is the official language of Sweden. The standard dialect of the language is based on dialects spoken around Stockholm, the country's capital. Swedish is also regulated by the Swedish Language Council, known in Swedish as Språkrådet, which makes recommendations regarding the spelling and grammar of the language as well as publishing linguistic-based books. 

The Swedish language is also spoken in Finland, where it is a co-official language alongside Finnish. It is spoken as the primary language of just over 5% of the population. It is primarily spoken in coastal areas, especially the archipelago of Åland, an autonomous region of Finland that uses Swedish as its sole official language. In Finland, the language is regulated by the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland, which conducts various kinds of linguistic research. One of its primary objectives related to Swedish is to maintain mutual intelligibility between the varieties of Swedish spoken in Finland and Sweden. It also defines standard Finnish, in addition to studying the Sami languages, Romani, and Finnish Sign Language.

In terms of its lexicon, most of the terms in Swedish are of Germanic origin. However, the language does includes some loanwords for religious and scientific terminology from Latin, Greek, French, and English, as well as some slang terms from the Romani language. As with German, new words can be formed by compounding, so Swedish occasionally produces annoyingly long words like produktionsstymingssystemsprogramvaruuppdatering, meaning "production controller system software update", though words this long are usually technical terms. Swedish uses the Latin alphabet plus three additional letters: å, ä, and ö.