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the official language of Sweden, belonging to the North Germanic branch of the Indo-European family: one of the two official languages of Finland
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the language of the Swedes; the official language of Sweden and one of the two official languages of Finland. According to a 1975 estimate, Swedish is spoken in Sweden, Finland, the USA, and Canada by 10 million people. It belongs to the Scandinavian group of the Germanic languages.

Swedish, which emerged as an independent language from the Common Scandinavian parent language between the ninth and 11th centuries, has six dialect groups: the South Swedish dialects of the Skåne region, the Göta dialects of southwestern Sweden, the Svea dialects of central Sweden, the Norrland dialects of northern Sweden, the East Swedish dialects of the eastern coast of the Gulf of Bothnia, and the Gutnish (Gotlandish) dialect of the island of Gotland. The modern literary language evolved in the 16th and 17th centuries as a result of a complex interaction of several dialects (the Svea dialects playing a major role) with the Old Swedish written language, which had developed in the 14th century from the Göta dialects.

In Swedish, sounds are distinguished as short or long; there are no diphthongs. Other phonological features include a musical word accent and a phonemic balance within syllables. Nouns, which are divided into six classes, are marked for gender (common or neuter), number (singular or plural), and case (common or genitive). The definite article may be added, in the form of a suffix, to the noun. Verbs, which are generally not inflected for person and number, fall into four conjugational paradigms. The verb system includes several forms of the infinitive and an uninflected form—the supine.

The earliest written texts in Swedish are runic inscriptions on stone and date from the ninth to the early 12th century. The oldest surviving manuscripts are a fragment from the legal code known as the Västgötalagen (The Law of West Gotland; mid-13th century), a manuscript of the code (1280), and 14th-century legal, religious, and poetic texts. The Swedish writing system uses the Latin alphabet with four additional letters. In Swedish, the spelling of a word is not a precise guide to its pronunciation.


Wessén, E. Skandinavskie iazyki. Moscow, 1949. (Translated from Swedish.)
Maslova-Lashanskaia, S. S. Shvedskii iazyk, part 1. Leningrad, 1953.
Steblin-Kamenskii, M. I. Istoriia skandinavskikh iazykov. Moscow-Leningrad, 1953.
Milanova, D. E. Shvedsko-russkiislovar’, 4th ed. Moscow, 1973.
Wellander, E. Riktig Svenska, 3rd ed. Stockholm, 1965.
Beckman, N. Svensk språklära. Stockholm, 1964.
Svenska akademiens ordbok (SAOB). Lund, 1893—.
Östergren, O. Nusvensk ordbok. Stockholm, 1919—.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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