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Swedish dialects are the various forms of the Swedish language, particularly those that differ considerably from Standard Swedish.

Traditional dialects

Map showing the Swedish dialects traditionally spoken. (Even the northernmost part of Sweden now speaks Swedish, and the Estonian dialects are almost extinct.)

The linguistic definition of a Swedish traditional dialect, in the literature merely called dialect, is a local variant that has not been heavily influenced by Standard Swedish and that can trace a separate development back to Old Norse. Many of the genuine rural dialects have very distinct phonetic and grammatical features, such as plural forms of verbs or archaic case inflections. These dialects can be nearly incomprehensible to most Swedes, and most of their speakers are also fluent in Standard Swedish.

The different dialects are often so localized that they are limited to individual parishes and are referred to by Swedish linguists as sockenmål (lit. "parish speech"). They are generally separated into the six traditional dialect groups, with common characteristics of prosody, grammar and vocabulary.[1] The color represents the core area and the samples are from Svenska Dagbladet's dialect project.

South Swedish dialects (dark blue); (Skåne, Perstorps socken, N. Åsbo härad).
Götaland dialects (red); (Västergötland, Korsberga socken, Vartofta härad, Skaraborgs län).
Svealand dialects (dark green); (Uppland, Håtuna socken, Håbo härad).
Norrland dialects (light blue); (Västerbotten, Skellefte socken, Löparnäs).
Finland Swedish and Estonian Swedish (orange); (Finland, Österbotten, Sideby socken).
Gotland dialects (light green); (Gotland, När Socken, Gotlands södra härad).

The areas with mixed colors as stripes are transitional areas.[2] The parts in yellow with coloured dots represent various distinct dialect areas which are not easily defined as belonging to any of the six major groups above.[2] The areas west of the core for Norrland dialects, west of Svealand dialects and north of Götaland dialects are related to each of these, respectively, indicated by the colour of the dots. Samples from these areas: Jämtland, Föllinge socken[3] (related to Norrland dialects), Dalarna, Älvdalens socken[4] (related to Svealand dialects) and Värmland, Nordmarks härad, Töcksmarks socken[5] (related to Götaland dialects). The dialects of this category have in common that they all show more or less strong Norwegian influences, especially the dialects in Härjedalen, Northwestern Jämtland and Northwestern Dalarna. Dialects often show similarities along traditional travelling routes such as the great rivers in Northern Sweden, which start in the mountains at the Norwegian border and then follow a South-Easterly path towards the Bothnian Sea. The grey area does not have any independently developed Swedish dialect.

Here is a summary of some of the most important differences between the major groups.[2]

Feature South Swedish dialects Götaland dialects Svealand dialects Norrland dialects Finland Swedish dialects Gotland dialects
Diphthongs Secondary in most of the area No No Primary everywhere, secondary in north Primary and secondary Primary and secondary
Long a > å Yes (secondary diphthong) Yes Yes Yes (changed back to long a in north) Only partially No
p, t, k > b, d, g In most of the area No No No No No
Intervocalic g > j or w In most of the area No No No No No
Ending vowel -a Remains Weakened in parts of the area Remains Vowel balance Vowel balance Weakened in most of the area
Dropping of -r in plur. Yes Yes No In north No No
Allophone of r Back Back and front Front Front Front Front
Postpos. poss. pron. No Only family words Only family words Yes Yes Only family words
Softening initial g, k, sk Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Dropping of -n No Yes Only in a small part of the area Yes No Yes
Dropping of -t No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
"Thick" l, also of rd No Yes Yes Yes restricted to some areas No
Supradentals No Yes Yes Yes restricted to some areas No
Dropping of -de in pret. In parts of the area In parts of the area Yes Yes Yes Only -e is dropped
Prolong. vowel in short stemmed words, also in front of p, t, k, s Yes Yes No Some of the system of short stemmed words preserved Some of the system of short stemmed words preserved No
Stem vowel i, y > e, ö, also in long stemmed words and in front of i, u Yes Yes No No No No
Vowel balance No No No Yes Yes No

Note that this table does not hold for the distinct (dotted) or transitional (striped) areas.

Götaland dialects are mostly used in Västergötland, Dalsland, northern Halland, northern Småland and Östergötland although they are also heard in Bohuslän, Värmland (a special case, in many ways), and Öland. Examples of Götaland dialect features are vowel reduction, vowel shortening in front of endings and loss of -r in suffixes (as in hästa' (hästar = horses)).

A characteristic of Svealand dialects is the coalescence of the alveolar trill with following dental and alveolar consonants — also over word-boundaries — that transforms them into retroflex consonants that in some cases reduces the distinction between words (as for instance vanavarna, i.e. "habit" — "warn"). This feature is also found in East Norwegian, North Swedish and in some dialects of Scottish Gaelic.


The following dialect groups are sometimes classified as "Swedish" in the broadest sense (North Scandinavian):[6]

Dalecarlian is intermediate in some respects between East and West Scandinavian. Scanian, a dialect of East Danish, is South Scandinavian, along with Danish, East Danish, and Jutish.

See also


  1. ^ Leinonen, Therese (2011). "Aggregate Analysis of Vowel Pronunciation in Swedish Dialects". Oslo Studies in Language. 3 (2): 75–95. doi:10.5617/osla.101.
  2. ^ a b c Pettersson (1996)
  3. ^ "Jämtland, Föllinge socken (Litsmålen)". Svenska Dagbladet. 10 January 2003. Archived from the original on 11 February 2003.
  4. ^ "Dalarna, Älvdalens socken: När luffaren kom till fäboden". Svenska Dagbladet. 9 January 2003. Archived from the original on 11 February 2003.
  5. ^ "Värmland, Nordmarks härad, Töcksmarks socken: Ett slagsmål mellan svenskar och norrmän". Svenska Dagbladet. 10 January 2003. Archived from the original on 11 February 2003.
  6. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian (2022-05-24). "North Scandinavian". Glottolog. Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Archived from the original on 2022-06-28. Retrieved 2022-11-13.


  • Pettersson, Gertrud (1996). Svenska språket under sjuhundra år: En historia om svenskan och dess utforskande (in Swedish). Lund: Studentlitteratur. ISBN 91-44-48221-3.