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Swedish  

Erik M. Petzell

Swedish is a V2 language, like all Germanic except English, with a basic VO word order and a suffixed definite article, like all North Germanic. Swedish is the largest of the North Germanic languages, and the official language of both Sweden and Finland, in the latter case alongside the majority language Finnish. Worldwide, there are about 10.5 million first-language (L1) speakers. The extent of L2 Swedish speakers is unclear: In Sweden and Finland alone, there are at least 3 million L2 speakers. Genealogically, Swedish is closest to Danish. Together, they formed the eastern branch of North Germanic during the Viking age. Today, this unity of old is often obscured by later developments. Typologically, in the early 21st century, Swedish is closer to Norwegian than to Danish. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there was great dialectal variation across the Swedish-speaking area. Very few of the traditional dialects have survived into the present, however. In the early 21st century, there are only some isolated areas, where spoken standard Swedish has not completely taken over, for example, northwestern Dalecarlia. Spoken standard Swedish is quite close to the written language. This written-like speech was promoted by primary school teachers from the late 19th century onward. In the 21st century, it comes in various regional guises, which differ from each other prosodically and display some allophonic variation, for example, in the realization of /r/. During the late Middle Ages, Swedish was in close contact with Middle Low German. This had a massive impact on the lexicon, leading to loans in both the open and closed classes and even import of derivational morphology. Structurally, Swedish lost case and verbal agreement morphology, developed mandatory expletive subjects, and changed its word order in subordinate clauses. Swedish shares much of this development with Danish and Norwegian. In the course of the early modern era, Swedish and Norwegian converged further, developing very similar phonological systems. The more conspicuous of the shared traits include two different rounded high front vowels, front /y/ and front-central /ʉ/, palatalization of initial /k/ and /g/ before front vowels, and a preserved phonemic tonal distinction. As for morphosyntax, however, Swedish has sometimes gone its own way, distancing itself from both Norwegian and Danish. For instance, Swedish has a distinct non-agreeing active participle (supine), and it makes use of the morphological s-passive in a wider variety of contexts than Danish and Norwegian. Moreover, verbal particles always precede even light objects in Swedish, for example, ta upp den, literally ‘take up it’, while Danish and Norwegian patterns with, for example, English: tag den op/ta den opp, literally ‘take it up’. Furthermore, finite forms of auxiliary have may be deleted in subordinate clauses in Swedish but never in Danish/Norwegian.