Finland Swedish

Finland Swedish or Fenno-Swedish[1] (Swedish: finlandssvenska, Finnish: suomenruotsi) is a general term for the variety of Standard Swedish and a closely related group of Swedish dialects spoken in Finland by the Swedish-speaking population as their first language. Swedish in both its native and Finnish form are North Germanic, although pronunciations vary greatly from other Germanic languages due to the influence of Finnish phonology. As a result, while it shares almost full mutual intelligibility in the written language with Danish and Norwegian, the spoken Swedish language in Finland is further apart from the Scandinavian neighbours than the forms and dialects spoken in Sweden.

For the most part, these dialects and the dialects spoken in Sweden are mutually intelligible, although some archaic Swedish dialects in Ostrobothnia are practically unintelligible to Swedish-speaking people in southern Finland (and in Sweden). Most Swedish-speaking Finns emphasize that Finland Swedish is not a language separate from the Swedish of Sweden. The Swedish dialects in Finland are considered varieties of Swedish, and the norm for written Standard Swedish is completely applicable also for Finland Swedish. Today, Swedish dialects are spoken in four different regions in Finland: Ostrobothnia, Åland Islands, Southwest Finland and Uusimaa.

Swedish as spoken in Finland is regulated by the Swedish Department of the Institute for the Languages of Finland. This regulation includes the officially stated aim of keeping Finland Swedish close to the Swedish as spoken in Sweden and strongly phrased advice against loanwords and calques from Finnish, which are usually incomprehensible to Swedes.

An often repeated factoid is that the municipality with the highest proportion of Swedish speakers in the world, Larsmo (93% as of 2017), is located in Finland. Korsnäs has also held this title and is often cited as such. However, as there are no official statistics on the mother tongue of inhabitants of Sweden, this is hard or impossible to verify. In addition bilingualism is very common for immigrants in Sweden, so the term Swedish-speaking may be diffuse in that sense.

In the spoken vernacular, especially among young people in Finnish-dominated areas, Finnish loanwords as well as calques from Finnish are frequently incorporated into Finland Swedish. There are also some words in Finland Swedish that would be considered slightly archaic in Sweden. Some government and public service terms that have been created in recent centuries also differ. The same is true of other new words, notably loanwords from English.

A common misconception among many Swedes is that Finland Swedish is simply Swedish spoken with a Finnish accent, something that can be a considerable source of frustration to most native Swedish-speakers in Finland. Any language adopts features, especially pronunciation habits, from dominant languages it comes in touch with, but many of the traits of Finland Swedish exist also in monolingual areas and some are in fact preserved features of old Swedish, as with Scots in comparison with English, Afrikaans in comparison with Dutch, or Galician and Brazilian and African dialects in comparison with modern mainland European Portuguese.


Archaic Finland Swedish
RegionSW Finland, Åland Islands
Language codes
ISO 639-3

From the 16th century, Swedish was the main language of jurisdiction, administration and higher education in Finland (which was then a part of Sweden), but the majority of the population in the Finnish inland spoke Finnish outside of these sectors of society, i.e. in normal, daily life. In 1809, when Finland was conquered by the Russian Empire and became an autonomous Grand Duchy, Swedish remained the only official language. In 1863, both Finnish and Swedish became official languages with equal status, and by the time of Finland's independence in 1917, after a Finnicization campaign by the Fennoman movement, Finnish clearly dominated in government and society. See further: Finland's language strife.

Finland has since then been a bilingual country with a Swedish-speaking minority (5.6% of mainland Finland's population in 2006) living mostly in the coastal areas of southern, south-western, and western Finland. During the 20th century, the urbanization following the Industrial Revolution has led to large majorities of Finnish speakers in all major cities. The capital Helsinki (in Swedish Helsingfors) became predominantly Finnish-speaking as recently as around 1900. A large and important part of the Swedish-speaking population nevertheless lives in the capital.

The autonomous island province of Åland is an exception, being monolingually Swedish-speaking according to international treaties. It is a matter of definition whether the Swedish dialects spoken on Åland are to be considered a kind of Finland Swedish or not. Most Swedish-speaking Finns and linguists consider them to be closer to some of the dialects spoken in nearby parts of Sweden.

Official status

Swedish is one of the two national languages of the republic of Finland, the other being Finnish. These two languages have formally equal status in nearly all legislation, though the status of Swedish in Finland has long been a subject of sociopolitical debate.[3][4] The other minority languages (such as Sami) are regulated separately.

Finland Swedish is regulated by the Institute for the Languages of Finland. Official Swedish is not supposed to be very different from Swedish as found in Sweden. There are however e.g. words regarded as archaic in Sweden, but commonly used in Finland, and terms that differ from their counterparts in Sweden, often because of slight differences in the related legislation.[5]

Bilingualism of municipalities is regulated by the Language Act of 2003.[6] If the minority has increased into at least 3,000 persons or 8% of inhabitants, then the municipality must become bilingual. If the minority has fallen below 3,000 persons and 6% of inhabitants, then the municipality must become monolingual, unless it decides to keep its bilingual status. At present, only one such municipality has done so, namely Lohja (Lojo in Swedish). The status is reviewed once in a decade, and enacted by a government decree issued by the Finnish Council of State.

The country's public broadcaster, Yle, provides two Swedish-language radio stations, Yle Vega and Yle X3M. The Swedish-speaking TV channel Yle Fem was merged to Yle Teema in 2017.


With the exception of the dialects spoken in Ostrobothnia along the west coast, close to the Gulf of Bothnia (example: the dialect spoken in Närpes), Finland Swedish is not particularly different from Central Swedish. The phoneme /ʉ/ is more centralized and pronounced like [ʉ], quite similar to how many American English speakers pronounce /u/ (as in moon). That should be compared to the Central Swedish [ʉ̟], which is very close to the short vowel [ʏ] and is more rounded.

The highly variable sj sound /ɧ/ varies between [ʂ] and [ɕ ~ ʃ] on the Finnish mainland, often close to sh in English shoe. In the Åland Islands, its realization is similar to the velar (and often labialized) pronunciations of nearby parts of Sweden. The historic k sound before front vowels and the tj sound, in modern Central Swedish a fricative /ɕ/, is an affricate [t͡ɕ] or [t͡ʃ] in all Finland Swedish dialects, close to ch in English chin, except for some[7] Åland Swedish, in which it is a simple fricative.[8][9]

The tonal word accent, which distinguishes some minimal pairs in most dialects of Swedish and Norwegian, is not present in Finland Swedish (except around the parish of Snappertuna, west of Helsinki). The so-called "accent 2", used mainly in words with a two-syllable root, is not used at all; instead, "accent 1" is used in all words. Hence, Sweden Swedish minimal pairs like /ˈandɛn/ ("the duck") – with stress on only the first syllable – and /ˌandˈɛn/ ("the spirit") – with both syllables stressed – are both pronounced [ˈandɛn] in Finland.

Finland Swedish lacks the aspirated stops present in Central Standard Swedish, making the contrast between "fortis" and "lenis" stops one of voicing only.[10] The retroflexion that occurs in many dialects when /r/ precedes a coronal consonant does not occur in certain pairs in Finland Swedish (e.g. /rt/, which is realized as [ʈ] in Standard Swedish but [rt] in Finland Swedish).[11]


Finland Swedish mostly has the same vocabulary as Swedish in Sweden, and there is a conscious effort to adopt neologisms from Sweden, to maintain cohesion between the two varieties. Nevertheless, there are differences, which generally fall into two categories: words now considered archaic in Sweden, and loanwords and calques from Finnish or independently borrowed from other languages (nowadays mostly English). There are also some terms differing because of differing legislation.

See also


  1. "Professor Catherine O. Ringen". The University of Iowa. May 11, 2011. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Archaic Finnish Swedish". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Hult, F.M., & Pietikäinen, S. (2014). Shaping discourses of multilingualism through a language ideological debate: The case of Swedish in Finland. Journal of Language and Politics, 13, 1-20.
  4. Kolu, J.,Kuronen, M. & Palviainen, Å. (Eds.) (2016) Svenskan i Finland 16. Jyväskylä Studies in Humanities 298.
  5. Hällström-Reijonen, Charlotta af; Reuter, Mikael (2008). Finlandssvensk ordbok (in Swedish). Helsingfors: Schildt & Forskningscentralen för de inhemska språken. ISBN 978-951-50-1749-9.
  6. Kielilaki 6.6.2003/423 [Language Act of 2003.]
  7. "Äldre man, Brändö: Har ätit sälkött". Retrieved 11 February 2014.
  8. "Yngre man, Brändö: Brandlarm på Nordsjön". Retrieved 11 February 2014.
  9. "snabbmeny". Retrieved 11 February 2014.
  10. Ringen, Catherine; Kari Suomi (2012). "The voicing contrast in Fenno-Swedish stops". Journal of Phonetics. 40 (3): 419–429. doi:10.1016/j.wocn.2012.02.010.
  11. Kuronen, Mikko. "Finns det supradentala konsonanter även i finlandssvenskan?" (PDF). Svenskans beskrivning. Hallgren & Fallgren. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  • SweDia – a collection of dialect samples of Swedish including Finland Swedish
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