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Native toSweden
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)
scy (retired ISO code)
Skåne in southern Sweden

Scanian (Swedish: skånska [ˈskɔ̂nːska] ; Danish: skånsk) is a Scandinavian speech variety spoken in the province of Scania in southern Sweden.

Broadly speaking, Scanian has been classified in three different ways:

  1. Older Scanian formed part of the old Scandinavian dialect continuum and are by most historical linguists considered to be an East Danish dialect group.[2]
  2. Due to the modern-era influence from Standard Swedish in the region, and because traditional dialectology in the Scandinavian countries normally has not considered isoglosses that cut across state borders, the Scanian dialects have normally been treated as part of the South Swedish dialects by Swedish dialectologists.[3]
  3. Many of the early Scandinavian linguists, including Adolf Noreen[4] and G. Sjöstedt,[5] classified it as "South Scandinavian", and some linguists, such as Elias Wessén, also considered Old Scanian a separate language, classified apart from both Old Danish and Old Swedish.[6]


There has been active campaigning from local Scanian interest groups to promote Scanian as a separate language on par with the official minority languages, though this has been rejected by Swedish authorities. Swedish linguists generally view Scanian as just one of many local or regional Swedish (or Scandinavian) dialects, some of which differ considerably from Standard Swedish but don't meet the criteria of a separate language.[7]

Scanian was originally classified as a separate language in ISO 639-3, but was declassified as a language in 2009. A request for reinstatement was submitted during the 2009 annual review process, but rejected on the grounds of mutual intelligibility; it is listed in ISO 639-6 with code scyr.[8]

As of 2021, the official stance of the Swedish government, as relayed through the Institute for language and folklore, has been that all languages and dialects which have developed from "a Nordic proto-language", regardless of how independent their development has been from Swedish itself, are de facto Swedish dialects by virtue of being spoken on the territory where Swedish is the national or official language.[9]


Swedish and Danish are considered to have once been part of the same dialect, Old East Norse, up until the 12th century. However, some scholars speculate that there might have been certain dialect differences within the Nordic language area as early as the Proto-Nordic period.[10] The term Swedish is not mentioned specifically in any source until the first half of the 14th century,[10] and no standard spoken language had developed in either Sweden or Denmark before 1500, although some scholars argue that there may have been tendencies towards a more formal "courteous" language among the aristocracy.[11]

Anders Sunesøn's 13th century version of the Scanian Law and Church Law, containing a comment in the margin called the "Skaaningestrof": "Hauí that skanunga ærliki mææn toco vithar oræt aldrigh æn." (Let it be known that Scanians are honorable men who have never tolerated injustice.)

Scanian appeared in writing before 1200,[12] at a time when Swedish and Danish had yet to be codified, and the long struggle between Sweden and Denmark over the right to claim the Old Scanian manuscripts as an early form of either of the two national state languages has led to some odd twists and turns. Two Scanian fragments dated to around 1325 were initially claimed to be (younger) Old Swedish, but further research in modern times has claimed that the language was not Swedish, but Scanian. During the 20th century the fragments were thus relabeled early Old Danish by Scandinavian linguists, and as explained by Danish linguist Britta Olrik Frederiksen, the fragments are now thought to "represent as such a newly claimed territory for the history of the Danish language".[13] Like the Scanian Law, one of the fragments, a six-leaf fragment (catalogued as SKB A 120), is written in the runic alphabet. The place of writing, according to Frederiksen, has been tentatively identified as the Cistercian monastery at Herrevad Abbey in Scania. The fragment contains a translation of Mary's lament at the cross. The other fragment (catalogued as SKB *A 115) is a bifolium with just over a hundred metrical lines of knittelvers, a translation from Latin of the apocryphal gospel Evangelium Nicodemi about Christ's descent into hell and resurrection.[13]

In modern Scandinavian linguistic research, the assertion that Old Scanian was a Swedish dialect before the Swedish acquisition of most of old Skåneland is now seldom argued by linguistic scholars, although the comparative and historical research efforts continue.[14]

One of the artifacts sometimes referred to as support for the view of Scanian as separate from both the Swedish and Danish language is a letter from the 16th century, where the Danish Bible translators were advised not to employ Scanian translators since their language was not "proper Danish".[15]

Language politics

As pointed out by the Norwegian scholar Lars S. Vikør, professor, Nordic and Linguistics Studies, University of Oslo, in the 2001 book Language and Nationalism, the "animosity between the two countries [Sweden and Denmark], and the relative closeness of their standard languages (dialectal differences within each of the two countries were greater than [between] the two standards), made it imperative to stress the difference between them in the standardization process". According to Vikør, the "Swedish treatment of the Scanians perhaps shows [that] the most important element of the [linguistic nationalism] ideology is the desire to stress the difference from another linguistic entity that in some way may be considered threatening or challenging one's own autonomy."[16]

In Scania, the Swedish government officially limited the use of Scanian in 1683 by nullifying the self-rule granted in the Treaty of Roskilde and the Malmö Recess of 1662, where Scania had been granted the right to a certain degree of autonomy including preservation of its old laws[17] and customs.[18] Scania became fully integrated into the Swedish Kingdom in 1719, and the assimilation has accelerated during the 20th century, with the dominance of Standard Swedish-language radio and television, urbanization, and movement of people to and from the other regions of Sweden.

Bornholm was once part of Skåneland but rebelled and returned to Denmark in 1659. The Scanian dialect of Bornholm remained in use as a functioning transitional stage, but Standard Danish soon became dominant in official contexts, and the dialect is thought to be disappearing.[19]

Historic shifts

The gradual transition to Swedish has resulted in the introduction of many new Swedish characteristics into Scanian since the 18th century, especially when it comes to vocabulary and grammar. In spite of the shift, Scanian dialects have maintained a non-Swedish prosody, as well as details of grammar and vocabulary that in some aspects differ from Standard Swedish. The prosody, pronunciation of vowels and consonants in such qualities as length, stress and intonation has more in common with Danish, German and Dutch (and occasionally English) than with Swedish.[20]

However, as pointed out by the researchers involved in the project Comparative Semantics for Nordic Languages,[21] it is difficult to quantify and analyze the fine degrees of semantic differences that exist between the Scandinavian languages in general, even between the national languages Danish, Swedish and Norwegian: "[S]ome of the Nordic languages [..] are historically, lexically and structurally very similar. [...] Are there systematic semantic differences between these languages? If so, are the formal semantic analytic tools that have been developed mainly for English and German sufficiently fine-grained to account for the differences among the Scandinavian languages?"[22]

Research that provides a cross-border overview of the spectrum of modern dialects in the Nordic region has recently been initiated through the Scandinavian Dialect Syntax Project, based at the University of Tromsø, in Norway, in which nine Scandinavian research groups collaborate for the systematic mapping and studying of the syntactic variation across the Scandinavian dialect continuum.[23]

Historic preservation

Scanian once had many unique words which do not exist in either Swedish or Danish. In attempts to preserve the unique aspects of Scanian,[failed verification] the words have been recorded and documented by the Institute for Dialectology, Onomastics and Folklore Research in Sweden.[24] Preservation is also accomplished by comparative studies such as the Scanian-Swedish-Danish dictionary project, commissioned by the Scanian Academy. This project is led by Helmer Lång and involves a group of scholars from different fields, including Birger Bergh, linguistics, Inger Elkjær and Inge Lise Pedersen, researcher of Danish dialects.

Several Scanian dictionaries have been published over the years, including one by Sten Bertil Vide, who wrote his doctoral thesis on the names of plants in South Swedish dialects.[25] This publication and a variety of other Scanian dictionaries are available through the Department of Dialectology and Onomastics in Lund.[26]


See also: Swedish phonology

Scanian realizes the phoneme /r/ as a uvular trill [ʀ] in clear articulation, but everyday speech has more commonly a voiceless [χ] or a voiced uvular fricative [ʁ], depending on phonetic context. That is in contrast to the alveolar articulations and retroflex assimilations in most Swedish dialects north of Småland.

The realizations of the highly variable and uniquely Swedish fricative /ɧ/ also tend to be more velar and less labialized than in other dialects. The phonemes of Scanian correspond to those of Standard Swedish and most other Swedish dialects, but long vowels have developed into diphthongs that are unique to the region (such as /ʉː/ and /ɑː/ being realized [eʉ] and [aɑ], respectively). In the southern parts of Skåne, many diphthongs also have a pharyngeal quality, similar to Danish vowels.


Scanian used to have many words which differed from standard Swedish. In 1995 Skånska Akademien released Skånsk-svensk-dansk ordbok, a dictionary with 2,711 Scanian words and expressions. It should be mentioned however that not all of these words are in wide use today. While the general vocabulary in modern Scanian does not differ considerably from Standard Swedish, a few specifically Scanian words still exist which are known in all of Scania, occurring frequently among a majority of the speakers. These are some examples:[27][28][29][30]

See also


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forke, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2020). "Skånska". Glottolog 4.3.
  2. ^ Perridon, Harry (2003). "Dialects and written language in Old Nordic II: Old Danish and Old Swedish". p. 1018. Old Nordic III: The ecology of language, in The Nordic Languages: An International Handbook of the History of the North Germanic Languages. Volume 1. Eds. Oskar Bandle, Kurt Braunmuller, Ernst Hakon Jahr, Allan Karker, Hans-Peter Naumann and Ulf Teleman. Walter De Gruyter: 2003. ISBN 3-11-014876-5. See also: Ingers, Ingemar (1939). Studier över det sydvästskånska dialektområdet. Lund: Gleerupska Univ. bokhandeln. (In Swedish) and Nordisk Familjebok Archived 2006-06-26 at the Wayback Machine: "Scanian is one of the three main dialects into which the Danish branch of Old Norse was split". (In Swedish).
  3. ^ Ringgaard, Kristian (2003). "General history of Nordic dialectology". In Nordic Languages: An International Handbook of the History of the North Germanic Languages, p. 280: "[Dialectologists] don't cross the national borders. The Danes say Scanian is an East Danish dialect, and then leave it to the Swedes. The Swedes say the inhabitants of Bornholm speak a South Swedish dialect, and then leave it to the Danes. In Jämtland, [...] they may speak Norwegian dialects, but no dialectologist has crossed the border since J. Reitan in 1930. Luckily this situation is changing."
  4. ^ Noreen, Adolf (1887). De nordiska språken. Noreen was a Professor of Nordic Languages at Uppsala university 1887–1919, an internationally recognized linguist, known through his publications in German about Nordic languages.
  5. ^ Sjöstedt, G. (1936). "Studier över r-ljuden i sydskandinaviska mål". Dissertation, Lund University. The title translates to: 'Studies of r-sounds in South-Scandinavian Dialects.' (Published in Swedish).
  6. ^ Holmbäck, Åke and Elias Wessén (1933). Svenska landskapslagar, 4th ed.: Skåne och Gutalagen. Awe Gebers: Uppsala, 1979.
  7. ^ Spolsky, Bernard (2004). Language Policy. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-01175-2; p. 123. For a recent study on the attitudes and the controversy surrounding Scanian, see Göran Hallberg's 2003 paper "Kampen om skånskan", Språkvård (3/2003).[1] Archived 2016-05-13 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Registration Authority decision on Change Request no. 2009-049: to create a new code element [scy] "Scanian" Archived 2011-09-25 at the Wayback Machine. "The appropriate part within the ISO 639 body of standards to have an identifier for the language variety Scanian is within the recently adopted ISO 639-6 standard."
  9. ^ "Vad är skillnaden mellan språk och dialekt?". (in Swedish). Retrieved 7 January 2024.
  10. ^ a b Ottosson, Kjartan (2003). "Old Nordic: A definition and delimitation of the period". In The Nordic Languages: An International Handbook of the History of the North Germanic Languages. Volume 1. Eds. Oskar Bandle et al., p. 798.
  11. ^ Bandle, Oscar. "Diachrony and synchrony in Nordic language history". In The Nordic Languages: An International Handbook of the History of the North Germanic Languages. Volume 1. Eds. Oskar Bandle et al., p. 30.
  12. ^ Nielsen, Herluf (2003). "The development of Latin Script IV: In Denmark". The Nordic Languages: An International Handbook of the History of the North Germanic Languages. Volume 1. Eds. Oskar Bandle et al., p. 851: The Scanian Law was written before 1200.
  13. ^ a b Frederiksen, Britta Olrik (2003). "The history of Old Nordic manuscripts IV: Old Danish". The history of Old Nordic Manuscripts VI: Old Danish, In The Nordic Languages: An International Handbook of the History of the North Germanic Languages. Volume 1, Eds. Oskar Bandle et al., p. 823.
  14. ^ Oskar Bandle, Kurt Braunmüller, Ernst Hakon Jahr, Allan Karker, Hans-Peter Naumann, and Ulf Teleman, eds. (2002–2003) The Nordic Languages: An international handbook of the history of the North Germanic languages. In cooperation with Gun Widmark and Lennart Elmevik. Description of the content is available at The Linguist List Archived 2005-04-13 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ Johs Brøndum-Nielsen (1914). "Sproglig Forfatterbestemmelse" (a Professor of Nordic Philology, Copenhagen).
  16. ^ Barbour, Stephen and Cathie Carmichael ed. (2001). Language and Nationalism in Europe. Oxford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-19-823671-9, p. 109-110.
  17. ^ Ditlev Tamm, Helle Vogt, 2016, The Danish Medieval Laws: The Laws of Scania, Zealand and Jutland, p. 49-50. ISBN 9781317294825.
  18. ^ David Kirby, 2014, Northern Europe in the Early Modern Period: The Baltic World 1492–1772, p. 282-283. ISBN 9781317902157.
  19. ^ Statsbiblioteket, Denmark Archived 2006-06-29 at the Wayback Machine, L. Wimmer & V. Thomsen et al. (1991). Danske talesprog, Dialekter, Regionalsprog, Sociolekter. For the development of Modern Danish, see also: Hans Basbøll's "Prosody, productivity and word structure: the stød pattern of Modern Danish" and John D. Sundquist's "The Rich Agreement Hypothesis and Early Modern Danish embedded-clause word order" in Nordic Journal of Linguistics (26, 2003).
  20. ^ Gårding, Eva et al. (1973). "Talar skåningarna svenska", (Do Scanians speak Swedish), p 107, 112. In Svenskans beskrivning. Ed. Christer Platzack. Lund: Institutionen för nordiska språk. p. 107, 112). (In Swedish). See also Yip, Moira J. (1980). "Why Scanian is not a case for multi-valued features". Linguistic Inquiry 11.2: 432–6: "[T]his temporal pattern is not typical of Southern (Scanian) Swedish. Gårding et al. (1974) have shown that Scanian Swedish does not have long consonants following short stressed vowels. There, the duration of the singleton following a short stressed vowel is only 13% longer than when following a long stressed vowel. Thus, Scanian Swedish behaves like the other Germanic languages that have vowel quantity, e.g. German, Dutch and Danish."
  21. ^ For current research in comparative semantics, see the special issue of Nordic Journal of Linguistics (2004), 27, devoted to the research project Comparative Semantics for Nordic Languages (NORDSEM), which was funded by the Joint Committee of the Nordic Research Councils for the Humanities in 1998–2001 and involved researchers at the Copenhagen Business School, Göteborg University and the University of Oslo.
  22. ^ Elisabet Engdahl and Robin Cooper (2004). "Introduction." Nordic Journal of Linguistics (2004), 27.
  23. ^ Scandinavian Dialect Syntax Archived 2006-04-26 at the Wayback Machine. Official site. Retrieved 27 January 2007.
  24. ^ Institute for Dialectology, Onomastics and Folklore Research Archived 2007-05-27 at the Wayback Machine. Official site. Retrieved 27 January 2007.
  25. ^ Vide, S.-B. (1966). Sydsvenska växtnamn. Published by Department of Dialectology and Onomastics in Lund.
  26. ^ Department of Dialectology and Onomastics, Lund Archived 2006-06-26 at the Wayback Machine. Official site. Retrieved 27 January 2007.
  27. ^ Lång and Vide (1995). Skånsk-svensk-dansk ordbok. Litteraturtjänst. ISBN 91-85998-39-7.
  28. ^ Svenska Akademiens ordbok on the Internet Archived 2011-11-14 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ Helmer Lång "Skånska språket", ISBN 91 85998 80 X, Litteraturtjänst
  30. ^ "DDO -Den Danske Ordbog". Den Danske Ordbog. Retrieved 20 August 2020.


Further reading