Rinkeby Swedish

Rinkeby Swedish (Rinkebysvenska) is any of a number of varieties of Swedish spoken mainly in urban districts with a high proportion of immigrant residents which emerged as a linguistic phenomenon in the 1980s. Rinkeby in Stockholm is one such suburb, but the term Rinkeby Swedish may sometimes be used for similar varieties in other Swedish cities as well. A similar term is Rosengårdssvenska ("Rosengård Swedish") after the district Rosengård in Malmö. The Swedish Language Council recommends[1] the term shobresvenska ("Sho Bre Swedish", from its expression "Sho bre!", meaning "Hey bro!"). The one magazine in Sweden published in these varieties, Gringo, proposes 'miljonsvenska' ("Million Swedish") based on the Million Programme.[2] Swedish Language Council recommends "förortssvenska" (suburban Swedish).

Different varieties of Rinkeby Swedish exist which are based on the regional dialects, especially in the major urban centers of Stockholm (Svealand dialects), Malmö (Scanian) and Gothenburg (western Götaland dialects).


Opinions among linguists differ on whether to regard Rinkeby Swedish as a sociolect, dialect, ethnolect, or maybe a "multiethnolect". Since the number of influencing languages involved is rather large, and extremely few speakers are likely to be fluent in more than a few of these, the definition of pidgin language may appear more accurate than that of mixed language. The varieties may also be characterized as a register for informal communication between peers, since the speakers often use them only in specific social contexts and switch to other varieties where appropriate.


Professor Ulla-Britt Kotsinas, a scholar frequently cited on Rinkeby Swedish, argues that these varieties primarily are spoken by teenagers from suburbs where immigrants and immigrant descendants are concentrated, and can be interpreted as expressions of youth culture: The language is a marker of belonging to a certain subculture and at the same time opposition to a perceived mainstream non-immigrant culture that seems not to value the immigrant descendants.

Rinkeby Swedish and similar varieties thus express belonging to the rather large group of youths with roots in other countries that have grown up in immigrant neighborhoods in a post-industrial society and with a disproportionately high unemployment rate for youths with immigrant background. Except for the fact that the linguistic distance is greater, Kotsinas sees in principle no difference from the suburban and urban working class varieties that followed industrial revolution and urbanization a century ago.

Many words from Rinkeby Swedish have now been incorporated into all kinds of other Swedish youth slang and are used by many young people without immigrant heritage as a marker of group solidarity and identity.[3]

Distinctive traits

Variants of Rinkeby Swedish are reported from suburbs of Stockholm, Uppsala, Malmö, and Gothenburg with a predominantly immigrant population. These variants tend to be based on the local town accents, or on the variety of Standard Swedish taught in school. These varieties can be described as having a somewhat simplified version of the Swedish grammar and a richness of loanwords from the languages of the countries the speakers' parents or grandparents originated in: mainly Turkish, with traces of Kurdish, Arabic, Greek, Persian, Serbo-Croatian, Syriac, and to some extent Latin American Spanish. Many English words and some English grammar are also used, due to a fairly widespread identification with African Americans and the appreciation of rap and hip hop music and culture.

Especially among younger speakers, the different varieties show a considerable variation in vocabulary and to some extent in grammar and syntax. However, they all share some grammatical similarities, such as discarding the Verb-second word order of Standard Swedish, instead using subject–verb–object word order after an adverb or adverbial phrase (as in English, compare Idag jag tog bussen ("Today I took the bus") to Standard Swedish Idag tog jag bussen ("Today took I the bus").

Sample vocabulary

aina police (singular and plural) Turkish aynasız (meaning mirrorless)
axa go, leave Swedish accelerera, "to accelerate"
baxa steal (Stockholm)
chilla (also softa) (to) chill; take it easy; to be calm both variants from English
fet (adjective)
fett (adverb)
cool; nice; very Literally Swedish for "fat" Used to emphasize a subsequent word. (noun)
flos money Arabic
gitta go; get going Turkish (gitmek) git (go, imperative)
guzz / guss , gäri girl Turkish kız
-ish/-isch common word ending
jalla hurry; get moving Arabic (abbreviation of "ya Allah")
keff bad, negative
knatch small piece of cannabis possibly from dialectal Swedish knerts, "small piece (of matter)"
len friend; mate Turkish lan
loco crazy Spanish
mannen familiar addressing, "hey, man; my man; friend" Swedish, possibly an English calque
para money Serbo-Croatian para or Kurdish pere < Turkish paralar
sho greeting, can be used as "hello" or "goodbye" (means "what" in arabic). Arabic or Italian (cf. ciao), Swedish slang tjo pronounced "sho"
shuno, shunne, shurda guy; dude; bloke From the Swedish word person
soft (adj.) / softa (verb) cool, good, nice (or calm down if used as a verb) English
tagga get away synonymous with gitta
wallah I swear to God Arabic

Literary use

Novels written partially or completely in Rinkeby Swedish include

  • Till vår ära by Alejandro Leiva Wenger; ("To our honour")
  • Ett öga rött by Jonas Hassen Khemiri; ("One eye red")
  • Shoo Bre by Douglas Foley
  • Kalla det vad fan du vill by Marjaneh Bakhtiari. ("Call it whatever the hell you want")

See also


  1. "Veckans språkråd". Spraknamnden.se. Retrieved 2010-08-08.
  2. Anastasia Nylund, "'Our local dialect' or 'the slang of suburban boys'? Public discourses of sociolinguistic authenticity, community and place in multicultural Sweden" Archived 2011-07-27 at the Wayback Machine, Texas Linguistic Forum 53 (2009), 121-30, p. 121 (pdf)
  3. Ellen Bijvoet and Kari Fraurud,"Svenska med något utländskt", Språkvård 2006/3 pp. 4-10, p. 5 (pdf) (in Swedish)
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