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Swedish dialects in Finland

The Swedish dialects of Finland belong to the East Swedish family of dialects. Their origins trace back to Old Swedish, which spread to Finland from Central Sweden with Swedish settlers from the 12th century onwards. Swedish dialects are spoken in four regions of Finland: Ostrobothnia, the autonomous island province of Åland, Åboland and Nyland (Uusimaa). (Contrary to standard recommendations for English usage, in this context we have used the Swedish names of Finnish regions and municipalities.)

Swedish-speaking Ostrobothnia extends down the western coast from Karleby (Kokkola) to Sideby. Swedish dialects were formerly also spoken in parts of North Satakunta. Ostrobothnian dialects are divided into three groups: Northern, Central and Southern. The province of Åland comprises mainland Åland and its island municipalities. Two distinct groups of Åland dialects are recognised: Western and Eastern. The province of Åboland, located south of Åbo (Turku) and comprising the southwestern Åbo Archipelago, is divided into two regions: Western and Eastern Åboland. In the province of Nyland, Swedish dialects are spoken along the southern coastal strip extending eastward from Hangö (Hanko) to Pyttis (Pyhtää). Nyland is divided into three dialect groups: Western, Central and Eastern. (See dialect distribution map.)

Having evolved in the periphery of other Swedish-speaking areas, Finland-Swedish dialects preserve numerous archaisms, yet they also feature many linguistic innovations, coined either independently or through contact with dialects spoken in Sweden. The dialects spoken in Åland are related to the dialects of Uppland and Sörmland in Sweden. Contact also exists across the Gulf of Bothnia: the dialects spoken on the west coast of Finland are related to the Swedish dialects of Norrland. Neighbouring Swedish and Finland-Swedish dialects have exerted a two-way influence through regular contact, especially in the form of loan words.

The Swedish dialects of Finland can be considered conservative. They retain many features encountered only in peripheral, mainly northern, Swedish dialects. For instance, they preserve many Old Swedish diphthongs, such as in stein (sten) ‘stone’, höi () ‘hay’ and bröut (bröt) ‘broke’ (see map). In many Finland-Swedish dialects, the consonants g, k, sk are pronounced ‘hard’ when preceding a frontal vowel, such as in gära or göra (göra) ‘do/make’, kärrå (kärra) ‘cart/barrow’ and skära ‘cut’, but in other dialects they may alternatively be pronounced djära, tjärrå, stjära or as affricates or fricatives as in Standard Swedish (see map). Many Finland-Swedish dialects preserve the segmental durations of Old Swedish, e.g. in the words fara ‘go’ and viku or viko (vecka) ‘week’, where the first vowel is pronounced short; in drööm (dröm) ‘dream’ and toom (tom) ‘empty’, where the vowel is long; and in blåått (blått) ‘blue’ and föödd (född) ‘born/fed’, where both the vowel and the following consonant are pronounced long (see map).


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