Facts About the Swedish Language

Swedish belongs to the North Germanic languages in the Germanic language branch of the Indo-European language family. It is related to Norwegian, Danish and Icelandic, being closest in resemblance to Danish and furthest from Norwegian.

This language is spoken by about 10 million people, and it is the official language in Sweden, the second official language in Finland, as well as one of the official languages of the European Union and the Nordic Council.

There are about 9.4 million speakers of Swedish in Sweden, 290,000 in Finland, 70,000 in the USA, 40,000 in Spain, 30,000 in the United Kingdom, and 20,000 in Canada. Sweden is the largest of Scandinavian languages by the number of speakers. As all Scandinavian languages have been historically influenced by the Low German language, Swedes, Finns and Norwegians can still understand each other. It is estimated that about 30–40% of Scandinavian words are loans from the Low German language, and these similarities manifest themselves both in vocabulary and grammar.

The Swedish language has grown out of Old Norse, which was used by Germanic tribes living in Scandinavia during the Viking Age. In around the 8th century, regional language forms started cleaving off, forming four distinct dialects by the 11th century that later developed into the modern-day North Germanic languages: Icelandic, Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish.

Swedish vocabulary is rich in loans, the oldest ones coming from Latin, Greek, Low German and High German, and the latest ones, from French and English.

The oldest Swedish form of writing was runes, which adorn historical monuments dating back as far as the 8th century.

Along with the spreading of Christianity and its religious literature in the 10th–11th century, Latin was also widely used in Sweden. More substantial written evidence has survived from the 13th century onward when Swedes started using the Latin alphabet.

The most notable written monuments, which date back to the early 14th century, are historical chronicles. The creation of the Swedish literary language was promoted by a Bible translation from Latin into Swedish published in the 16th century. The literary language evolved in the 17th century, developing two branches: rikssvenska (in Sweden) and finlandssvenska (in Finland). The literary language is based primarily on the Svea dialects.

The first printed book in Swedish was published in 1495, and the first Swedish grammar book, in 1684 (in Latin).

The main dialect groups are: South Swedish, Gotäland, Svealand, Norrland, Finland, and Gotland.

In addition to the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet: 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, which are at the basis of Swedish orthography, the Swedish alphabet also contains Å, Ä, and Ö, and more rarely Ü, À, and É.

Swedish is rather complicated both grammar-wise and phonetically. Sentences often end in a rising intonation. The unusual melodic effect is due to two types of accents, or pitches: acute and grave. The grave accent can be heard in words of two or more syllables, where one syllable receives primary accent and another, secondary.

In such words the intonation is falling, rising and then falling again, creating the characteristic musicality.

The stressed syllables are always long, while the unstressed are short. Not only can vowels be long, but also doubled consonants and strings of various consonants.

Swedish nouns have two genders, either common or neuter. Most of the words belong to the neuter gender. The indefinite article en signifies the neuter gender, while the definite article ett signifies the common gender. Swedish nouns can be either definite or indefinite.

Adjectives are inflected according to the gender and number of the noun – their endings depend on the noun they modify.

Swedish, just like Latvian, has two types of conjunctions: coordinating and subordinating.

Word order in sentences is strictly fixed.

Language code: ISO 639-1: sv

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Language combinations:

Latvian to Swedish; Swedish to Latvian; Estonian to Swedish; Swedish to Estonian; Lithuanian to Swedish; Swedish to Lithuanian; Russian to Swedish; Swedish to Russian; Polish to Swedish; Swedish to Polish; Ukrainian to Swedish; Swedish to Ukrainian; English to Swedish; Swedish to English; Swedish to Spanish; Spanish to Swedish; German to Swedish; Swedish to German; Italian to Swedish; Swedish to Italian; French to Swedish; Swedish to French; Danish to Swedish; Swedish to Danish; Norwegian to Swedish; Swedish to Norwegian; Czech to Swedish; Swedish to Czech; Finnish to Swedish; Swedish to Finnish and others.


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