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Autoglottonym: Svenska
Pronunciation: [svɛnska]
Ethnologue name: Swedish
OLAC name: {{{OLACname}}}
Location point: Sweden: 62 00 N, 15 00 E,

Finland: 64 00 N, 26 00 E

Family: Indo-European
Genus: Germanic
Country: Sweden, Finland
Official in: Sweden


European Union

Speakers: approximately 9,000,000:

~8,700,000 in Sweden (=95%)[1] and 300,000 in Finland (=5,5%)[1]

Writing system: {{{WritingSyst}}}
ISO 639-3: {{{ISO3}}}

Swedish is a North Germanic language.

Location and Speakers

Swedish is used by approximately 9,000,000 people as a native language and is mainly spoken in Sweden and Finland. Sweden entered the European Union in 1995[2] and since that time Swedish has been an official EU language. About 95% among a population of 9,100,000[3] were born with Swedish as their mother tongue. Besides Swedish there are no further official languages in the country. The second largest part of Swedish speakers exists in Finland. Ca. 300,000 Finland-Swedes are registered in Finland and most of them reside on the Åland islands, on the west and the south coast. Finland-Swedes make up 5.5% of the 5,300,000[3] citizens of Finland. In contrast to Sweden, Finland has two official languages: Finnish and Swedish. Until 1944 a minority of around 8,000 speakers of Swedish lived in Estonia. During WWII many of them had to escape to Sweden due to various reasons. Between 1840 and 1930 around 1,300,000 Swedes migrated to the U.S. particularly to the Midwest, e.g. Minnesota and Illinois. At the beginning of the 20th century one fifth of all speakers of Swedish lived there. Even today there are still some people of Swedish descent who practise their culture. Furthermore there are also some small communities in the Ukraine, Canada and some countries in northern, central and western Europe left.


There are two different kinds of linguistic classifications: the synchronical and the historical.

From a synchronical point of view, Swedish belongs to the mainland Scandinavian languages besides Danish, Bokmål and to some parts also Nynorsk. Considering its historical background, Swedish is classified as an East Nordic language among Danish and Bokmål.


  • Norrländska mål: evolved from Sveamål dialects; Jämtland, coast line between northern Hälsingland and Kalix
  • Sveamål: Uppland, Gästrikland, eastern Västmanland, southern Hälsingland, Södermanland, Närke, Östergötland, northeastern Småland, Örland
  • Gotländska mål: Gotland
  • Götamål: Bohuslän, Halland (except for the southern part), Västergötland, Dalsland, Småland, Värmland
  • Sydsvenska mål: was under Danish rule until 1658; spoken in Skåne, Blekinge, boarderlands of Halland and southern Småland
  • Östsvenska mål: spoken in Finland (Åland), [Estland]
  • Saltvik: spoken in Finland


Semi-communication in Scandinavia can be practised between Swedish, Danish and Norwegian. For reasons of similarity, those three languages are not treated as foreign but as neighbouring languages. Compared to Danish, Swedish speakers understand Norwegian more easily with respect to its pronunciation.

Standard Swedish

Standard Swedish, or also called Rikssvenska, is a standardised form of Swedish which is relatively neutral compared to the different dialects. The term describes written and spoken Swedish, however, there is barely a pure spoken standard due to regional variations. Rikssvenska evolved from the dialects spoken around the Stockholm region. It is used in Sweden only and differs from Finland and Estonian Swedish, i.a. for reasons of its phonology.


Only about one third of all Finland-Swedes live in monolingual territories.

Bilingual with Swedish minorities:

  • Uusimaa (Nyland)
  • Itä-Uusimaa (Öster-Nyland)
  • Kymenlaakso (Kymmenedalen)
  • Varsinais-Suomi (Egentliga Finland)

Bilingual with Swedish majority:

  • Österbrotten

Unilingual Swedish:

  • Åland

Many members of the Finnish speaking majority have a good command of Swedish.


  1. 1.0 1.1 European Mission: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_243_en.pdf (published Feb. 2006)
  2. European Union: http://europa.eu/about-eu/countries/member-countries/sweden/ (Web. Aug. 2013)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Central Intelligence Agency: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/ (published July 2013)

see also