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UN body designates Swedish dialect a 'threatened language'

Charlotte Webb · 29 Sep 2009, 14:33

Published: 29 Sep 2009 14:33 GMT+02:00

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“There are neither linguistic nor practical reasons why Scanian should be counted as a language,” Carl-Einar Lundbladh, head of the Dialect and Place-Names Archive (Dialekt- och ortnamnsarkivet, DAL) in Lund, told the Expressen newspaper.

But members of the Scania Future Foundation (Stiftelsen Skånsk Framtid), are thrilled with the Unesco designation, which adds support for their contention that the the Scanian dialect is a language, and an endangered one at that.

They want to see 'Skånska' added to the list of Sweden's protected minority languages.

Yet no one knows exactly why, “Scanian”, which scholars consider a Swedish dialect, is now clearly listed on Unesco's interactive homepage as “unsafe”.

Lundbladh and Ulf Teleman, Professor Emeritus at the Institute of Nordic Languages, are in agreement as to why Scanian may not be considered a language.

Every language should have a written equivalent, which Scanian lacks. Additionally, a language should be sufficiently distinguished from other languages – in this case, Swedish.

Lundbladh insists that he has never seen any material which would even facilitate a qualified comparison between Scanian and Swedish.

It is unclear, for instance, which of the Scanian variants could be considered as norms for the language.

“People don't see the use in it. So that work seems fruitless and surprising because I just can't see any reason to waste effort on it,” Lundbladh told the newspaper.

Story continues below…

Professor Teleman agrees, however, that Scanian and other dialects are worth preserving.

“Part of a person's identity is in the way they speak. People think its charming when they meet other people from different parts of the country,” he told Expressen.

Charlotte Webb (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:31 September 29, 2009 by Marc the Texan
"Every language should have a written equivalent"

Well that's just plain false, isn't it. That disqualifies the majority of languages that have ever existed.
15:37 September 29, 2009 by absolut
Yes!!!!! Not a day too late!
17:05 September 29, 2009 by Rick Methven
I think Skånska must be a separate language, most difficult to understand of all the dialects in Sweden. Even my wife who comes from neighboring Småland has difficulty with Skånska.
17:35 September 29, 2009 by Gwrhyr
The professors are surprisingly unlinguistic on this... a written form is not needed for a language to be called a language. The map already has Gutnish and Dalecarlian on it... so Scanian would actually make sense.
17:35 September 29, 2009 by Beynch

There are other significantly more, deviating from normal Swedish, dialects than scanian. The Blekingska for example is a completely incomprehensible gibberish to the uninitiated. Try to visit the `Gnällbältet` around Örebro and you will hear an absolutely sickening `rotvälska`. We will not even mention the gotländska, or the värmländska. A true Ada from Gothenburg might as well speak greek. It's just as meaningless. - Hence where do you draw the lines between a `dialect`, `accent`, and 'language`?
18:37 September 29, 2009 by Nemesis
If Scanian is not a seperate language, please start teaching Swedish in SFI in Scania. It appears to be a mixture of Swedish, a bit of Danish and a hint of Dutch at present.

Seriously I know people attending SFI in Scania, who even though they are being told there Swedish is good, no one understands them in Stockholm, at all.

The Swedish language needs to be standardised, otherwise it will die.
19:47 September 29, 2009 by BCR
boo hoo!

what a loss to the world if no-one spoke skanska/skankska again!
21:07 September 29, 2009 by Kaethar
It's been on the list for a while now it's definitely ridiculous. Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish barely qualify as separate languages - skånska definitely does not. For one, it's exactly the same as Swedish just with a different pronunciation. I understand skånska perfectly whilst there are other Swedish dialects I have more trouble with.
22:56 September 29, 2009 by Tobugrynbak
Skansk is to Swedish as Scottish is to English.

Despite my 30 odd years in Orstraylia (Australia) and I speak English as a native Aussie, but when I speak in my mothers tongue, I speak with a Skansk brogue.

When I drove a taxi a while back I'd surprise unsuspecting Swedish backpackers with a line from an old Taube song "Jag ar en liten pag fran Skane". They could not believe that I'd been in Oz for so long yet kept my "perfect" Skansk.

Language is more than just words, it is encompassing the intellectual pursuits of the culture and the history of the people who speak it.

So yes, it is worth the effort to save it.

Pardon my English only keyboard
23:54 September 29, 2009 by Kaethar
What? Scottish is completely different to English. It's the difference between Swedish and Finnish. Those ARE different languages and there's no doubt about it. Unless you mean Scottish English of course? Which is a dialect and not a language. Of course dialects are worth protecting, but do you seriously believe skånska qualifies as a language?
00:25 September 30, 2009 by mlindau
To define a language by the written mode is nonsense. That would for example mean that hundreds of languages, for example in West Africa, are not "languages" just because they do not have written form yet. Duh! Believe me, they are languages.

The definition of what constitutes a language is arbitrary to a large extent. There is no reason why Norwegian is a different "language" from Swedish other than that some politicians decided so. Scanian is about as mutually intelligible to Stockholmers as Norwegian is.

But YESS! I am all in favor of "threatened language status" - it means a lot more money!!
01:06 September 30, 2009 by jag2009
Not worth saving it. It ill die out anyway. English is different in dialect to scottish. Yet you could say that about cockney compared to all counties. so this is aload of crap. If you learn swedish to Stockholm standards it doesnt matter. Or just talk english or german lol. This isnt a language its a change in dialect, no use in businness lol.
01:42 September 30, 2009 by Tobugrynbak
Scottish English can be as inpenetrable to understand to an Englishman as Swahili. Although a few drams of single malt whisky does help...

The "native " Scottish celtic language is different again but is shared by some Irish and Welsh people, ( a language unified by the interaction of several Scandinavian trade delegates known and feared as the Vikings.).

My point was with regards to comparing Scottish English/ English and Skansk/Swedish is that there is more to it than just understanding daily conversation but there is a great store of cultural works embodied in those languages. Both Scottish English and Skanska. It is these that need to be secured in enlightened understanding, rather than merely being consigned to the "Arcane Heritage" scrap pile.

Ignore your history and heritage and you will condemn you future to ignorance.
08:16 September 30, 2009 by thelionking
Historically - Latin...Gaelic...

More recently - Skånska, Afrikaans,some would argue Welsh...Languages are dynamic as the people that speak them and use them.

Its not the end of the world. People resist languages because they are not in line with themselves.

-Afrikaans - a Dutch/ English/Zulu/Xhosa mix was the language of choice by apartheid of yester year. one of the charges Mandela was in prison for rejecting the lessons of this language.

-Skånska - could it be its hard to understand? I believe cockney may go the same way then. I am from London and only have a broad understanding the dialect/regional slant or whatever wish to call it.

All the same I TOTALLY agree with "Tobugrynbak" some thing will be lost forever when the last speakers of these "dying" languages/regional slant/dialects kick it.

On a more worrying note...the rain forest has people who no one knew of or knew little of. I believe some of them are so remote Spanish did not enter their circles like with the rest of S America (minus Brazil).

Can you imagine the stuff they know about the most talked about place in "recentum".

Its sad but what is there to do.
09:03 September 30, 2009 by heresneezeduck
Hi you would be a brave man to say up here in Scotland that Scottish/English is the same or even close,We speak with different words and dialect and different meanings..you have highland,central,lowlands,plus Gaelic.. We are proud of the way we speak you should read rabbie burns see if you can understand it ?
09:44 September 30, 2009 by Kaethar
@mlindau: Oh, I agree that there's a fine line between a language and a dialect. Many would argue that Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish are the same language. But why aren't they? Because they're the official languages of different countries and are written differently. So the only way skånska could ever become a language is if Skåne gained independence from Sweden. You see what I'm saying? And as a Stockholmer I have to disagree. I can have a hard time with Norwegian and Danish (moreso Danish) but skånska is no problem.

If you don't understand this you do not speak fluent Swedish:



As opposed to Danish, which I hardly understand at all without lyrics:


Any Swedish-speakers to back me up?
10:41 September 30, 2009 by Luke35711
yes, it's a political issue. It's part of the local versus central government tug of war..
10:58 September 30, 2009 by Kaethar
Here's an even better example of skånska (since they're speaking and not singing)


I'm all for protecting dialects as long as they're recognised as dialects. Each province in Sweden has a different dialect, after all. Cities within provinces also have distinct dialects. It's a bit insulting to the Sweden and Swedish to basically say a dialect which deviates too much from rikssvenska (which few people speak) is its own language. It's like declaring cockney a separate language because it's too different from the Queens English. What is UNESCO thinking?!
13:30 September 30, 2009 by bravedave
''Hi you would be a brave man to say up here in Scotland that Scottish/English is the same or even close,We speak with different words and dialect and different meanings..you have highland,central,lowlands,plus Gaelic.. We are proud of the way we speak you should read rabbie burns see if you can understand it ?''

Scottish is a dielect of English, sorry but thats just how it is, you speak english, nothing more to be said. Americans speak american english and they have a dictionary for American-English, therefore it can be reconised.

There is no Scottish-English dictionary and there is no Skånska dictionary, these are dialects no languages.
20:03 September 30, 2009 by vindigod
Im a Skanian (Skåning) in swedish. We had a so called "professor" who thought that our dialect is terrible. His parents were from Skane but moved to Stockholm. Now when he is old and tirrerd he dont like our dialect no more. Its not hard to understand "Skanish" if you talk with me. But if you talk to my grandfather or someone elses i think you will have the same problem all over the world.....

The people from Skane are very proud of Skane and Sweden.

I love Skåne and Sweden be careful with your dialect people
13:05 October 1, 2009 by Gwrhyr
It's interesting how many people here talk about Scots English without realizing that Scots English is also on the UNESCO list as an endangered language and that it also has its own written form. You can visit the wikipedia in Scots English here: http://sco.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

Also on the list are Dalecarlian (Dalmål, a group of dialects spoken in Dalarna) and Gutnish (Gutniska, the traditional language of Gotland). What makes these their own language is a mixture of two things:

1. The people who use these linguistic varieties have come together and agreed that they share a special linguistic variety and that it ought to be respected and passed down within their own community as a language.

2. These particular dialects began to diverge from Old East Norse at the same time as modern Swedish did, making them equal contenders to language status as regular Swedish. What many people here are confusing is simply Scanian-accented Swedish or Gotlandic-accented Swedish with the actual languages themselves which are truly endangered and only spoken by the elderly in the countryside these days. All three of these languages have been giving way to standard Swedish for a long time now, but now people want to do something to save them while they are still around. Nothing wrong with that.

And people can stop saying that Scots English is some other type of situation - it is also it's own language and is also recognized as endangered, and receives a lot of money from the UK government every year. More money in fact than Cornish, a language from a different language family than English and Scots.

Something does not get language status just because some random poster to the Local says it should or shouldn't. It's a mixture of community and linguistic community recognition, as it always has been, even for English, which itself was once considered the worthless, unwritten vernacular drivel of the peasants.
16:28 October 1, 2009 by jag2009

Nice comments but I have to disagree a little. In scotland the accent is different to england. But nevertheless when spelling words, and not talking slang, it bores down to the good old Oxford Dictionairy. Cockney is not a language. Its an accent with people from London. Scoussor Liverpool etc.... these are dialects not languages.
19:15 October 1, 2009 by lolly
According to http://www.scania.org/facts/pages/index.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scanian_dialects ; Skanish (I only have an english keyboard) used to be it's own language and possibly had it's own written form.

If that's the case, and the information is true, then it's only right that it is recognised as an endangered language.

I certainly met a few Skanish speakers whilst I've been hanging out in that part of the world. :-)
15:03 December 15, 2010 by Hanen
Scanian is a language of course even though it is more or less not being spoken any longer. Many people speak a little tiny bit of the scanian language and together it becomes a language even though it nowdays allready can be considered a dead language. But it is dead because of political reasons and can easily be rediscovered and put into use if the scanian people decide so.

Swedes: Let the scanians be alone.

Scanians: Don`t cry (feel pity for yourselves), speak your own language even if you have to "learn" it more or less from scratch. The future of the language is up to you, speak it or loose it (and accept it then).
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