Dalecarlian languages

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Native toSweden
RegionDalarna County
EthnicityDalecarlians (Swedes)
Early form
Latin (Dalecarlian alphabet)
Dalecarlian runes
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)
Individual code:
ovd – Elfdalian
Dalecarlian is classified as Definitely Endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger (2010)

Dalecarlian (Swedish: dalmål) is a group of North Germanic languages and dialects spoken in Dalarna County, Sweden. Some Dalecarlian varieties can be regarded as part of the Swedish dialect group in Gästrikland, Uppland, and northern and eastern Västmanland. Others represent a variety characteristic of a midpoint between West and East Scandinavian languages, significantly divergent from Standard Swedish. In the northernmost part of the county (i.e., the originally Norwegian parishes of Särna and Idre), a characteristic dialect reminiscent of eastern Norwegian is spoken. One usually distinguishes between the Dalecarlian Bergslagen dialects, which are spoken in south-eastern Dalarna, and Dalecarlian proper.[4] The dialects are traditionally regarded as part of the Svealand dialect group.

Some Dalecarlian dialects are characterized by features that place them somewhere between East and West Scandinavian languages, the former including Standard Swedish. Linguistics Professor Guus Kroonen cites a number of features that Elfdalian, one of the most prominent languages within the Dalecarlian group, shares with those languages traditionally regarded as West Scandinavian. He writes: "In many aspects, Elfdalian takes up a middle position between East and West Nordic. However, it shares some innovations with West Nordic, but none with East Nordic. This invalidates the claim that Elfdalian split off from Old Swedish."[1] Indeed, the official position of the Swedish Government is that all Swedish dialects have developed "freely and independently" from a Nordic proto-language, and that their "swedishness" is derived from the fact that they are spoken in regions where Swedish is an official language today, regardless of linguistic characteristics.[5]

In everyday speech, many also refer to Dalarna regional variants of Standard Swedish as part of the Dalecarlian dialect. Linguistically speaking, however, they are more accurately described as a lexically and morphologically "national" Swedish with characteristic Dalarna intonation and prosody. In linguistics, one distinguishes between regionally different national languages and genuine dialects, and Dalecarlian as a term is used exclusively for dialects in the latter sense.

Geographical distribution[edit]

Varieties of Dalecarlian are generally classified geographically as follows:[6]

Floda and Mockfjärd dialects can be considered a separate group, but are typically listed as subdialects.

Dalecarlian proper (especially in Älvdalen, Mora and Orsa, to some extent also in Ore, Rättvik and Leksand), as well as western Dalecarlian varieties are markedly different from Swedish, and are considered to be distinct language varieties by linguists, despite their lack of recognition as such. Elfdalian is the one of the Dalecarlian languages that best kept their older features. It attracted interest from researchers early on, as it is labeled a dialect by the Swedish authorities despite that it developed independently from Swedish or Old Swedish. In many ways, it is very archaic. In other ways, it has distinguished itself from the ancient language and developed special features that are rare in other languages. A characteristic of the varieties are a pronunciation split in a number of easily distinguishable local dialects, which often only cover a single village or even part of a village.

For strangers, Dalecarlian varieties are virtually incomprehensible without special studies. However, this does not apply to the same extent with the Rättvik and Leksand dialects. They are more easily understood and can be considered to form a transitional stage between the Dalecarlian languages, and a dialect of Swedish with Dalecarlian remnants. Such transition tongues are also the tongues of Ål, Bjursås and Gagnef. The Gagnef dialect approaches the western Dalecarlian varieties, which to some extent can also be regarded as transitional dialects, but which in many respects take on a more independent position, especially in the upper parishes. They may show similarities with neighbouring Norwegian dialects.

There is a quite large difference between Gagnef and the Stora Tuna dialect, which belongs to the Dalecarlian Bergslagen dialects, a relatively uniform and fairly normal Swedish dialect complex that covers the entire southern Dalarna (Stora Kopparberg, Hedemora and Västerbergslagen). The most unique within this complex are the dialects of Svärdsjö and western Bergslagen, which are approaching Hälsingemål and Western Dalecarlian proper, respectively (via Grangärde and Floda). Dalecarlian Bergslagen dialects are also spoken in the northern part of Västmanland. The Dalecarlian Bergslagen dialects are quite closely connected with the neighbouring Svealand Swedish, perhaps most with the dialects of eastern Västmanland.


As with most dialects in northern and central Sweden, the Dalecarlian dialects have retroflex consonants, which are most commonly allophones of consonants with a preceding supradental /r/ or /l/.[7] For example, rs often becomes ss (compare Dalecarlian koss, Swedish kors, English cross), while the combination rn becomes r in southern Dalarna, up to and including Rättvik, Leksand and Västerdalarna (compare Dalecarlian bar to Swedish barn, English bairn, or Dalecarlian björ to Swedish björn, English bear).

In Dalecarlian proper, north of Gagnef, the combinations nn, rt and rd are often preserved without assimilation. The /l/ sound is not usually supradental after /i/ and /e/ except in Dalecarlian proper, where /l/ has developed in its own direction and where it can even appear as partially supradental at the beginning of words, as in, e.g. låta.

Dalecarlian has, in the usual way, lost -n and, as a rule, -t in unstressed endings, for example, Dalecarlian sola or sole, Swedish solen, English sun, Dalecarlian gâtu, Swedish gatan, English street, Dalecarlian biti, Swedish bitit, English bitten. Like other Upper Swedish dialects, they often have i in endings for the national languages e, for example Dalecarlian funnin, Swedish funnen, English found, Dalecarlian muli, Swedish mulet, English cloudy, Dalecarlian härvil, Swedish härvel, English härvel (winding yarn on), has g-sounds, not j, in rg and lg, for example Dalecarlian and Swedish varg, English wolf, long vowel in front of m in many words, where the national language has short, for example Dalecarlian tima, Swedish timme, English hour, Dalecarlian töm, Swedish tom, English empty. jhas not disappeared without trace after k, g in words such as Dalecarlian äntja, Swedish änka, English widow, Dalecarlian bryddja, Swedish brygga, English bridge. As in the northern Swedes and in the northern dialects, g, k have also been softened to tj, (d) j, for example Dalecarlian sättjin or sättjen, Swedish säcken, English bag, Dalecarlian botja or botje Swedish boken, English book, Dalecarlian nyttjil, Swedish nyckel, English key. These traits characterise all Dalecarlian dialects.

Characteristic of the vocal system in especially Upper Dalarna, with the exception of Dalecarlian proper, is the use of open and end a, which is used in a completely different way than in the national language: the open can occur as far and the closed as short, for example hara hare with open a in first, end in second syllable, katt, bakka, vagn with end, skabb, kalv with open a; open å sound (o) is often replaced by a sound between å and ö; The u sound has a sound similar to the Norwegian u; ä and e are well separated; the low-pitched vocals often have a sound of ä. Among the most interesting features of the dialects in Älvdalen, Mora and Orsa is that they still largely retain the nasal vocal sounds that were previously found in all Nordic dialects. Furthermore, it is noticed that the long i, y, u diphthongs, usually to ai, åy, au, for example Dalecarlian ais, Swedish is English ice, Dalecarlian knåyta, Swedish knyta, English tie, Dalecarlian aute, Swedish ute, English out. v has the Old Norse pronunciation w (like w in English)[3], l is usually omitted in front of g, k, p, v, for example, Dalecarlian kåv, Swedish kalf, English calf, Dalecarlian fok and such Swedish folk, English people. h is omitted, for example, Dalecarlian and, Swedish and English hand (in the Älvdals-, Orsa- and Mora dialects, as well as in Rättvik and parts of Leksand). In the same way, many words have been added as h:n such as häven, hälsklig, hägde. These features have the common Dalecarlian in common with the older Uppland dialects. A pair of ancient Nordic diphthongs remain in the western Dalecarlian dialects in Lima and Transtrand. The diphthong au, which in the Swedish state has pronounced ö, has in these areas a slightly changed form, ôu, for example dôu (Swedish död, English death). The ancient Swedish diphthongs ei and öy (which in Swedish became e and ö respectively) have been pronounced äi, for example skäi (Swedish sked, English Spoon) and here (Swedish hö, English hay), respectively.



  1. ^ a b Kroonen, Guus. "On the origins of the Elfdalian nasal vowels from the perspective of diachronic dialectology and Germanic etymology" (PDF). Department of Nordic Studies and Linguistics. University of Copenhagen. Retrieved 27 January 2016. In many aspects, Elfdalian, takes up a middle position between East and West Nordic. However, it shares some innovations with West Nordic, but none with East Nordic. This invalidates the claim that Elfdalian split off from Old Swedish.
  2. ^ "Glottolog 4.8 - Moramål". glottolog.org. Retrieved 2023-12-31.
  3. ^ "Glottolog 4.8 - Orsamål". glottolog.org. Retrieved 2023-12-31.
  4. ^ Bengt Pamp, Svenska dialekter, Lund 1978, sid. 111
  5. ^ "Vad är skillnaden mellan språk och dialekt?". www.isof.se (in Swedish). Retrieved 2023-12-31.
  6. ^ "Glottolog 4.8 - Dalecarlian". glottolog.org. Retrieved 2023-12-31.
  7. ^ Petzell, Erik M. (2023-04-19), "Swedish", Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Linguistics, doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780199384655.001.0001/acrefore-9780199384655-e-945, ISBN 978-0-19-938465-5, retrieved 2023-12-31


  • Adolf Noreen "Dalmålet. I. Inledning till dalmålet. II. Ordlista öfver dalmålet i Ofvansiljans fögderi" ur Svenska landsmålen IV, Stockholm 1881 + 1882
  • Carl Säve "Dalmålet" 1903
  • Lars Levander "Dalmålet: beskrivning och historia I-II", Uppsala 1925-28
  • Bengt Pamp, "Svenska dialekter", Lund 1978

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]