Standard Swedish, which is derived mainly from the dialects spoken in the capital region around Stockholm, is the language used by virtually all Swedes and most Swedish-speaking Finns. It is called rikssvenska or standardsvenska (“Standard Swedish”) in Sweden. In Finland högsvenska (“High Swedish”) is used for the Finnish variant of standard Swedish and rikssvenska refers to Swedish as spoken in Sweden in general. The word högsvenska is seldom used in Sweden.

There are many regional varieties of the standard language that are specific to geographical areas of varying size (regions, historical provinces, cities, towns, etc.). While these varieties are often influenced by the genuine dialects, their grammatical and phonological structure adheres closely to those of the Central Swedish dialects. In mass media it is no longer uncommon for journalists to speak with a distinct regional accent, but the most common pronunciation and the one perceived as the most formal is still Central Standard Swedish.

Though this terminology and its definitions have long been established among linguists, most Swedes are unaware of the distinction and its historical background, and often refer to the regional varieties as “dialects”. In a poll that was conducted in 2005 by the Swedish Retail Institute (Handelns Utredningsinstitut), the attitudes of Swedes to the use of certain dialects by salesmen revealed that 54% believed that rikssvenska was the variety they would prefer to hear when speaking with salesmen over the phone, even though several dialects such as gotländska or skånska were provided as alternatives in the poll.

Finland was a part of Sweden from the 13th century until the loss of the Finnish territories to Russia in 1809. Swedish was the sole administrative language until 1902 as well as the dominant language of culture and education until Finnish independence in 1917. The percentage of Swedish speakers in Finland has steadily decreased since then. The Swedish-speaking population is mainly concentrated in the coastal areas of Ostrobothnia, Finland Proper, Nyland and Åland where the percentage of Finland Swedes partly is fairly high. Swedish is still an official language in Finland, sharing the same rights as Finnish. The country’s public broadcaster, YLE, provides two Swedish-language radio stations, Radio Vega and YLE X3M, as well a TV channel, FST5.


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