Along with other North Germanic languages, it derives from Old Norse and is currently the most widely spoken North Germanic language. It is composed of the Roman alphabet in addition to a handful of other letters.
The standard word order in Swedish follows that of most Germanic languages, that is, the finite verb always appears in second position in a declarative main clause. Morphologically Swedish is similar to English. Swedish has masculine and femenine gender, though. Again, just as it happens in English, adjectives are compared in the same way, but they are inflected depending on gender, number and definiteness.
Swedish is also spoken in Norway, Brazil (where between 800,000 to 1 million people claim Scandinavian ancestry – the first sea line between the two countries was initiated in 1909), Argentina, Estonia and the USA. In fact, the US alone accounts for approximately 300,000 Scandinavian speakers. Out of the 9.5 million Swedish-speaking people, there are over 7.9 million who access the Internet worldwide in Swedish.
Short history of the Swedish language
Around the 8th century, the common Germanic language of Scandinavia known as Proto-Norse had experienced some changes and it had evolved into Old Norse. Through Viking invasions, Old Norse was a powerful influence on some English dialects and Lowland Scots.
By the 16th century, we find a more recognizable language to modern eyes: case and gender systems in colloquial spoken Swedish and profane Swedish literature had been virtually reduced to the two cases and two genders present in modern Swedish.
It can be considered that modern Swedish starts with the introduction of the printing press. After assuming power, King Gustav Vasa ordered a Swedish translation of the Bible, which took shape as “The New Testament”, published in the year 1526. A full translation into Swedish of the Bible followed in 1541. During the early decades of the 20th century, Swedish became standardized and Swedish is now spoken and written uniformly.
Like most modern nations, Sweden became industrialised during the 19th century. Population doubled in size, with the typical pattern of immigration from the countryside to towns and cities. This, together with generalised education and mass media, forced traditional dialects to give way for the standard language (Standard Swedish). The United States became a favorite destination for Swedish emigration and through it, Swedes came in contact with a not-so-distant cousing, the English language. Since then, English has grown as an important foreign language in Sweden, taught in primary schools and kindergartens from the age of 5 to 7 according to EU data. Sweden has one of the highest levels of second-language English speakers in the world.
If you would like to find out more about Swedish language and culture, visit our Knowledge section.