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|Region||Elfdalia (Dalecarlia County)|
|Around 3,000 (date missing)|
|Latin (Elfdalian alphabet), Dalecarlian runes (until the 20th century)|
|Regulated by||Swedish Language Council|
|ISO 639-3||None (
Elfdalian or Övdalian (Övdalsk or Övdalską in Elfdalian, Älvdalska or Älvdalsmål in Swedish) is a variety of the Scandinavian languages spoken by 3,000 people in the old parish of Övdaln, which is located in the south-eastern part of Älvdalen Municipality in Northern Dalarna, Sweden.
Elfdalian developed from the ancient original Scandinavian language, Old Norse, a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300. It developed in relative isolation since the Middle Ages and is considered to have remained closer to Old Norse than the other Dalecarlian dialects.
Elfdalian belongs to the Northern branch/Upper Siljan branch of the Dalecarlian dialects or vernaculars, which, in their turn evolved from Old Norse, from which Dalecarlian vernaculars might have split as early as in the 8th or 9th century AD, i.e. approximately when the North Germanic languages split into Western and Eastern branches.
In common with some other Dalecarlian vernaculars spoken north of the Lake Siljan, Elfdalian retains numerous old grammatical and phonological features that have not changed considerably since Old Norse and is considered to be the most conservative and best preserved vernacular within the Dalecarlian branch. Having developed in relative isolation since the Middle Ages, quite a few linguistic innovations are also present in the language.
Elfdalian has a highly complex morphological structure, partially inherited from its Old Norse ancestor. Thus, it has personal conjugations on the verb and three genders and makes case distinctions. As in other Scandinavian languages, nouns have definite (def.) and indefinite (indef.) forms. The length of the root syllable plays a major role in the Elfdalian declensional and conjugational system. The declension of warg 'wolf' (long-syllabic, strong masculine noun) was as follows in what is sometimes called "Classic Elfdalian" (as described by Levander 1909):
Today the distinction between nominative and accusative may have been lost in full nouns, and the genitive has generally been replaced by -es forms (see Dahl & Koptjevskaja-Tamm 2005); but many speakers retain the distinct dative case, used especially after prepositions and also certain verbs (such as jåpa, 'help'). Elfdalian maintains three grammatical genders.
Unlike other Swedish vernaculars, the syntax of Elfdalian was investigated in the early 20th century (Levander 1909). However, although Elfdalian syntax attracts increased attention, a majority of the syntactic phenomena is still uncharted. In May/June 2007 a group of linguists from the pan-Scandinavian NORMS network conducted a fieldwork in Älvdalen especially aimed at investigating the syntactic properties of the language.
Presented with the help of generative syntax, the following interesting Elfdalian features can be pointed out:
Only 1st and 2nd person plural pronouns (Rosenkvist 2006, 2010) can be dropped grammatically; 1st person plural pronouns may be dropped only if they appear directly in front of the finite verb. Verb raising occurs, although there is variation between generations (Garbacz 2006, 2010). Especially intriguing are the multiple subjects (Levander 1909:109), which seem to occur in clauses with the adverbial sakta ('actually') or the verb lär ('is possible'):
- Du ir sakt du uvendes duktin dalsk.
- you are ADVL you very good speak-Övdalian
- ’you are actually very good at speaking Övdalian’
This has recently been studied more closely from a generative perspective in Rosenkvist (2007).
Other interesting syntactic properties are (from a Germanic perspective) negative concord, stylistic inversion, long distance reflexives, verb controlled datives, agent-verb word order in coordinated clauses with deleted subjects, etc. Some of these properties are archaisms (they also appeared in Old Swedish), whereas others are innovations, but none of them have been studied in any detail.
It appears that Elfdalian displays a number of syntactic features that make it one of the most interesting Germanic languages. It is also one whose syntax has been the least studied.
Elfdalian is comparable to Swedish and Norwegian in number and quality of vowels, and in addition has a number of nasal vowels. Elfdalian has retained the Old Norse dental fricative. Alveolopalatal affricates occur in all Uvåsiljan dialects. Like the central and northern dialects of Norwegian and Swedish, all Dalecarlian dialects except Orsmol turn consonant combinations rt, rd, rs and rn into retroflexives and also use a retroflexive lateral approximant.
Stress is generally on the first syllable of the word. The Dalecarlian dialects in general are recognised by their characteristic high amplexity of phrase tonality, which differs by parish.
In Älvdalen the Germanic Runes have survived the longest. The last record of the Elfdalian Runes is from 1900; these runes are a variant of the Dalecarlian runes. Älvdalen can be said to have had its own alphabet during the 17th and 18th century.
Due to the great phonetic differences between Swedish and Elfdalian, the use of Swedish orthography for Elfdalian has been unpredictable and individual, e.g. as applied in Prytz' theatre piece from 1622, containing long passages in Elfdalian, or in the Elfdalian material published in the periodical Skansvakten.
A first attempt to create a separate Elfdalian orthography was made in 1999 by Bengt Åkerberg. Åkerberg's orthography was applied in some books and used in language courses. This orthography is based on Loka dialect and is highly phonetic, involving a great deal of diacritics (Sapir 2006).
In March 2005, a uniform standard orthography for Elfdalian presented by Råðdjärum (lit. "Let us confer"), The Elfdalian Language Council, and accepted by Ulum Dalska (lit. 'Let us speak Dalecarlian'), The Organization for the Preservation of Elfdalian. The new orthography has already been applied by Björn Rehnström in his book Trair byönner frą̊ Övdalim 'Three Bears from Älvdalen' published in 2007. Råðdjärum's orthography was also used in Bo Westling's translation of Saint-Exupéry's Le petit prince, Lisslprinsn.
The Elfdalian Alphabet
The Elfdalian alphabet consists of the following letters:
Aa Ąą Bb Cc Dd Đð Ee Ęę Ff Gg Hh Ii Įį Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu Ųų Vv Ww Xx Yy Y̨y̨ Zz Åå Ą̊ą̊ Ää Öö
Besides letters occurring in the Swedish alphabet, Elfdalian has letters with ogonek, denoting nasal vowels: Ąą, Ęę, Įį, Ųų, Y̨y̨ and Ą̊ą̊. Additionally, it contains the letter Ðð for the voiced dental fricative.
Since Elfdalian has around 3,000 speakers, its existence is severely threatened. However, it is possible that it will receive an official status as a minority language in Sweden, which would entail numerous protections and encourage its use in schools and by writers and artists. The Swedish Parliament was due to address this issue in 2007, but apparently has not yet done so. The Council of Europe has urged the Swedish government to reconsider the status of Elfdalian on four different occasions, most recently in October 2011. The Committee of Experts now encourages the Swedish authorities to investigate the status of Elfdalian through an independent scientific study.
Preservation and standardization
Ulum Dalska, The Organization for the Preservation of Elfdalian, was established in 1984 with the aim to preserve and document the Elfdalian language. In 2005, Ulum Dalska launched a process aiming to bring about an official recognition of Elfdalian as a language by the Swedish authorities.
Råðdjärum, The Elfdalian Language Committee was established in August 2004 within Ulum Dalska, its first task being to create a new standard orthography for Elfdalian. In March 2005 the new orthography created by Råðdjärum was accepted by the Ulum Dalska at their annual meeting. Råðdjärum consists of five permanent members: Prof. Östen Dahl (linguist), Mr. Gunnar Nyström (dialectologist), Mrs. Inga-Britt Petersson (teacher), Dr. Yair Sapir (the Committee's Coordinator, linguist), Prof. Lars Steensland (linguist).
As an initiative from Ulum Dalska to encourage children to speak Elfdalian, all school children in Älvdalen who finish the ninth grade and can prove that they can speak Elfdalian receive a 6,000 SEK stipend.
- Ekberg, Lena (2010). "The National Minority Languages in Sweden". In Gerhard Stickel. National, Regional and Minority Languages in Europe: Contributions to the Annual Conference 2009 of Efnil in Dublin. Peter Lang. pp. 87–92. ISBN 9783631603659. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
- Dahl, Östen; Dahlberg, Ingrid; Delsing, Lars-Olof; Halvarsson, Herbert; Larsson, Gösta; Nyström, Gunnar; Olsson, Rut; Sapir, Yair; Steensland, Lars; Williams, Henrik (08 Feb 2007). "Älvdalskan är ett språk – inte en svensk dialekt" [Elfdalian is a language – not a Swedish dialect]. Aftonbladet (in Swedish) (Stockholm). Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- Dahl, Östen (Dec 2008). "Älvdalska – eget språk eller värsting bland dialekter?" [Elfdalian – its own language or an outstanding dialect?]. Språktidningen (in Swedish). Retrieved 16 May 2013.
- Levander, Lars, Dalmålet, vol. 1, 1925, pp. 37–38.
- Dahl, Östen (2009). "Testing the Assumption of Complexity Invariance: The Case of Elfdalian and Swedish". In Geoffrey Sampson. Language Complexity as an Evolving Variable. Gil David, Peter Trudgill. Oxford UP. pp. 50–63. ISBN 9780191567667. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
- Nordic Center of Excellence in Microcomparative Syntax
- Uppsala University, Second Conference on Elfdalian, Älvdalen 12–14 June 2008
- Report of the Committee of Experts on Sweden, October 2011, p. 9. Retrieved May 16 2013
- Rehnström, Björn (25 April 2013). "Får 6000 för att prata älvdalska". Dalarnas Tidningar (in Swedish).
- Dahl, Östen and Maria Koptjevskaja-Tamm. 2005. The resilient dative and other remarkable cases in Scandinavian vernaculars. Ms. University of Stockholm.
- Nationalencyklopedin, entry älvdalsmål, subentry Dalarna
- Sapir, Yair. 2006. Elfdalian, the Vernacular of Övdaln (PDF)
- Garbacz, Piotr. 2006.Verb movement and negation in Övdalian. Working Papers in Scandinavian Syntax 78: 173-190. (PDF)
- Levander, Lars. 1909. Älvdalsmålet i Dalarna (Doctoral thesis published in Svenska landsmål, 1909, (105).)
- Rosenkvist, Henrik. 2006. Null Subjects in Övdalian. Working Papers in Scandinavian Syntax 78:141-171.
- Rosenkvist, Henrik. 2007. Subject Doubling in Oevdalian. Working Papers in Scandinavian Syntax 80:77-102.
- Rosenkvist, Henrik. 2010. Null referential subjects in Övdalian. Nordic Journal of Linguistics 33.3:231–267.
- Garbacz, Piotr. 2010. 2008a. Bisatsledföljden i älvdalska. In Jóhannesson, K. et al. (eds.) Nog ordat? Festskrift till Sven-Göran Malmgren den 25 april 2008. 105-112. Meijebergs institut för svensk etymologisk forskning.
- Garbacz, P. 2008b. Negationens syntax i älvdalskan. In Bukowski, P. et al. (eds.) Perspektiv på svenska språket och litteraturen 193-202. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego.
- Garbacz, Piotr. 2010. Word Order in Övdalian. A Study in Variation and Change. Lundastudier i nordisk språkvetenskap 70. Lund University. (PDF)
- Melerska, Dorota. 2010. Vem är ”en riktig älvdaling”? Identitetsmarkörer i dagens Älvdalen. Folia Scandinavica Posnaniensia, vol. 11, 2010, pp. 123-133 (PDF)
- Melerska, Dorota. 2011. Älvdalskan – mellan språkdöd och revitalisering. PhD-thesis. Adam Mickiewicz University (PDF)
- In the mists of Älvdalen, Article in the Financial Times
- Omniglot: Elfdalian alphabet
- Yair Sapir: Elfdalian, the Vernacular of Övdaln - an article with an outline of Elfdalian (history, background, linguistic features, present
- Förslag till en enhetlig stavning för älvdalska ("Project for a unified orthography for Elfdalian").
- Volume of The First Conference on Elfdalian/Fuost konferensn um övdalskų, with English summaries
- Volume of The Second Conference on Elfdalian/Oðer råðstemną um övdalskų, with English summaries
- Elfdalian keyboard