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Modern as in "spoken by Gotlanders today"?[edit]

As a Swede who spends a lot of time on Gotland I can for sure say this is NOT the way people on Gotland speak.

The article should clearly specify exactly what it is describing...if it is supposed to describer some kind of ancient dialect then perhaps it is correct, but as I interpreted it, the article tries to describe the dialect/accent? spoken on Gotland should be clear what is described in the article. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:00, 27 May 2014 (UTC)


This page needs to decide whether it thinks Gutnish is still spoken (as per introduction) or extinct (as per infobox). Orcoteuthis (talk) 15:38, 3 January 2008 (UTC)

I removed the claim it is extinct. It's a fact though that Gutnish was heavily swedified in the 19th century. That's when Gutnish turned from an own branch of Northern Germanic to become a mere dialect of Swedish. Thus, this is when gutniska (lit. 'Gutnish') turned into gutamål (lit. 'Got[lander] Speech'), using Swedish terminology. An even more swedified form of Gutnish is gotländska (lit. 'Gotlandic') and is Standard Swedish with a thick Gutnish accent, i.e. a Swedish regiolect.
Here we use the term 'Modern Gutnish' instead of "Got[lander] Speech" to denote what in Swedish is called gutamål.
JiPe ( (talk) 22:43, 29 July 2009 (UTC))

Extinct languages of Europe[edit]

Is there any objection to removing Modern Gutnish from Category:Extinct languages of Europe (is there any category to which it should be added?) — Robert Greer (talk) 16:04, 18 October 2011 (UTC)


I would like to address two independent, but not unrelated issues concerning the classification of Gutnish here that are perpetual sources of confusion.

First, on the connection of Gotland and Gutnish with the Goths and the Gothic language. There is no question that from the viewpoint of genetic relationship, Gutnish is a direct descendant of Proto-Norse or Proto-Scandinavian, specifically East Scandinavian, and therefore North Germanic. The relationship between Old Swedish and Old Gutnish is close and unmistakable. (One characteristic innovation is the raising of a to e under certain conditions, such as the pronoun þat becoming thet, although this seems to be generally East Scandinavian, that is, including Danish. The earliest East Scandinavian innovation - and isogloss with West Scandinavian - seems to be the raising of ū to ō under certain conditions, such as in the word for "cow".)

However, as the entry on Gutnish in Fortson, Benjamin W., Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction (2006, 2nd ed.) shows, the suggestive connection of Gutnish with Gothic that generations of scholars have been wondering about cannot be discarded as a thing of the past. The question is still open. There are two main reasons that make people suspect that there is a connection somehow.

First, the names Gotland and Gutnish. The native name of the Goths appears to have originally been an n-stem *gutan-, but there is also evidence for an a-stem *guta- from foreign renditions of their name and the Gothic evidence itself: gutþiudai, and this stem is identical with the old name of the Gutlanders' own name for themselves, gutar.

There is also the name of the Gautar, also known as Geats in English, the Scandinavian tribe inhabiting Southern Sweden in the Middle Ages, which goes back to an a-stem *gauta-. We see this name in Götaland, Göta älv ("the river of the Geats") and Göteborg, better known as Gothenburg in English. The name Gapt, mentioned by Jordanes, has also been connected with this. It is understandable that scholars have suspected a connection with Gotland here, since it lies off Southern Sweden and may have been colonised from there originally.

However, it is not guaranteed that all these names are really connected with each other, especially *gauta- with *guta-, and even if they are linguistically connected, there need not be a direct historical connection between the bearers of these ethnonyms. It is considered very likely, or even presupposed, that the name still had a meaning in Early Germanic, and while it is not clear what it was, it seems to be derived from the verb *geute- "to pour".

One suggestion that has been made is that the term refers to a pourer of semen, i. e. a male - not necessarily human only. In fact, this could be very well have been a term that primarily referred to animals, such as cattle or horses. The practice of referring to human families with the terms proper to bovine or equid families was very commonly used in ancient Indo-European societies, especially as a poetic metaphor (though not necessarily only that). In German, young men (especially boyfriends) are commonly referred to as Hengst ("stallion") colloquially, in order to underline their virility. The sexual connotation is obvious. If this is true, *gauta- or *guta- would simply have meant "men" (or more specifically, "warriors") originally. The animalic connection recalls totemistic practices among ancient Indo-European societies: especially young warriors liked to compare or even identify themselves with strong and impulsive (especially when threatened) male animals such as wild boars, bulls, or stallions, but also wolves (this last practice in particular referred to the status of the war-bands as being outside civil society, roaming the countryside and the wilderness). The article Gaut interestingly mentions that Gautr was a common byname of Odin, which could make the motivation for the name clearer.

If this is the real background of the name(s) *guta(n)-/gauta-, the name need not be very specific ethnically (though it is not excluded that it is), since it is quite generic.

There are legends of the origin of the Goths that are difficult to interpret in detail but have generally been interpreted to the effect that the Goths ultimately came from beyond the Baltic Sea, from Scandinavia. Given how our first secure evidence for Goths (or East Germanic peoples in general) is from the southern shore of the Baltic (around the mouth of the Vistula), it is conceivable that originally, this culture (called the Wielbark culture) was a colonial extension from Southern Sweden or perhaps Gotland itself. Poland is not thought to have formed part of the original domain of the Germanic people, and according to Oksywie culture, archaeologists are now comfortable with the suggestion that the Wielbark culture was indeed established by newcomers from Scandinavia (even though they were skeptical in the decades before as I recall).

Second, there are a few linguistic features of Gutnish that form striking differences with Swedish (and also Proto-Scandinavian), unique innovations or divergencies, that are thought to be suggestively similar to Gothic or East Germanic in general. Most of these are of a phonetic nature (in fact, Gutnish seems to squarely go in the opposite direction of some of the trends of the mainland, similarly as Icelandic), but one feature that is continually pointed out is the fact that unlike all other known Germanic languages, lamb in Gutnish as well as in Gothic means "sheep", not "lamb". (It is interesting to note that Finnish lammas, or more precisely proto-Balto-Finnic *lampas-, a loan from proto-Germanic *lambaz, also means "sheep", not "lamb". Balto-Finnic has many early loans from early Germanic and later, North Germanic, and Gotland is geographically close to Finland and Estonia, so it could have been the route through which Germanic loanwords reached Balto-Finnic.) I am not sure about the importance of this detail myself, but it is striking.

The runic inscriptions from Gotland found in Krause, Wolfgang, Die Sprache der urnordischen Runeninschriften (1971) offer a fascinating phenomenon: In some of them, features that are specifically East Germanic can be observed, more precisely speaking, the inscriptions look East Germanic.

The obvious way to explain this state of affairs, in the face of the fact that Gutnish is clearly North Germanic at its core, is that there was an East Germanic substrate on Gotland that was eventually replaced by a North Germanic dialect. It is plausible or even likely that Gutnish acquired its distinctivity (at least partly) through the influence of this substrate.

It is not inconceivable that East Germanic dialects were spoken in other areas of Southern Sweden or Denmark as well and later replaced by North Germanic, but this assumption is more speculative.

The second issue is usually stated in the form of the question "Isn't Gutnish simply a Swedish dialect?". First off, let us make clear that Gotlandic (Gotländska, as opposed to Gutniska or Gutamål), which is indeed clearly a Swedish dialect, as it is simply derived from Standard Swedish, is not meant. Also, it should be clear in this regard that traditional Swedish dialects are not "corrupted" versions of the standard language but independently developped, if closely related historically.

The first difficulty in answering this question is that in most fields of linguistics, the question as stated does not make sense, as there is no useful distinction between language and dialect, and the phrase dialect of XY (especially when XY is a standard language) is not used, at least when talking about traditional dialects that have no direct historical connection with a standard language. (Objectively speaking, an entity such as "the Swedish language" simply does not exist - or at least cannot sensibly be defined linguistically, as opposed to politically -: languages in the usual sense are either standard languages - or, rather, dialects that have been arbitrarily declared standard for a certain domain, group of dialects, group of people, or collection of ethnic groups -, or dialect continua limited by linguistic boundaries. Swedish, however, lacks clearly identifiable linguistic boundaries to its linguistic neighbours, or adjacent speech-forms, such as Danish or Norwegian, so any definition of its boundaries must by necessity be arbitrary, to some degree at least.) There are only two possible ways to ask that question in a sensible way that I know, and they give contradicting answers.

First, is Gutnish historically a Swedish dialect? If we define Swedish in a more general way (i. e., not referring to the standard language alone), the answer is, plain and simple, yes. The reason is that Gutnish is historically derived from the Swedish of the High Middle Ages.

The much-discussed failure of Gutnish to monophthongise proto-Scandinavian *ęi, *ǫu and *øy, unlike Swedish and Danish, which is also emphasised by Noreen, Adolf, Altschwedische Grammatik. Mit Einschluss des Altgutnischen (1904), p. 22, fails to take the fact in account that the traditional dialects in the north of Sweden, in Finland, and (I think) Estonia, as well as, according to Swedish language#Old Norse, dialects to the north and east of Mälardalen, have retained some or (usually) all of the original diphthongs as well.

What has really happened is that in the 12th century, the southern part of East Scandinavian, i. e. Danish, had already monophthongised the proto-Scandinavian diphthongs, while the northern part of East Scandinavian, i. e. Swedish, lagged behind and still lacked the development. Like many other isoglosses, this one, too, spread from the southern tip of Sweden (whose dialects are historically Danish) to the north, but stopped at some point. When our first extensive documents in Swedish appear, the diphthongs were already gone in the dialects of the texts we have, but in Gutnish (just like in the dialects of Northern Sweden and Finland) they were still there, and have remained up to the present day.

There are other features that strikingly set Gutnish apart from the (mainstream) Swedish dialects, such as the lack of palatalisation of the velars, or the retention of the old ā that has become rounded to å elsewhere, these two features even being unique to Gutnish and setting it apart from all other Swedish dialects. Other features, such as the lack of supradentals and the "thick" l, are not exclusive to it, as can be gleaned from the table in Swedish dialects#Traditional dialects. The fact that the dialect of Fårö has partially retained the old inflection is also remarkable.

Historically oriented surveys such as Haugen, Einar, The Scandinavian Languages: An Introduction to their History (1976), consequently, simply treat Gutnish as a Swedish dialect.

However, while one could indeed say that Gutnish is a Swedish dialect from a historical perspective, it is a very deviant one and has a quite unique history with a different fate and different contacts from the mainland which have contributed to give Gutnish its idiosyncratic flavour. Let's not forget that Gotland became Swedish only in 1645 and Standard Swedish had not been the Dachsprache for Gutnish before that, but Danish.

Therefore, given that Modern Gutnish lacks a written standard of its own (though there is the Old Gutnish written tradition that sets Gutnish apart from many other traditional Swedish dialects), it is best thought of as an Abstandssprache to Standard Swedish. The situation is comparable to Elfdalian.

The pitfalls of confusing historically based classification and current matters are best demonstrated by pointing out that historically speaking (in fact, in the Early Middle Ages, this was still quite obvious), Icelandic and Faroese are Norwegian dialects (specifically West Norwegian dialects), too. (Another example of deviant, isolated outlier dialects are the Cimbrian dialects in the northeast of Italy, which have preserved a strikingly archaic character even compared to the most closely related German dialects, the conservative Southern Bavarian dialects of the Alps, but have also developped some unique innovative features of their own, under the influence of neighbouring Romance varieties.) Calling Modern Gutnish - or Elfdalian, for that matter - plainly a "Swedish dialect" is just as misleading as calling Modern Icelandic or Faroese simply "Norwegian dialects".

Sociolinguistically speaking, therefore, the question can only be answered with a clear, resounding No.

By the way, the "Swedification" of Gutnish (which in practice seems to mainly mean the flooding of Gutnish with Swedish loanwords) does not change its classification; at most, if the borrowing process is driven to extremes, the result might be technically considered a sort of mixed language, along the lines of Missingsch dialects in Germany. Only Gotlandic is a Swedish dialect in the narrow sense (i. e., based on Standard Swedish). Florian Blaschke (talk) 21:49, 23 November 2009 (UTC)

Native speakers[edit]

I got a folder from Region Gotland (the county) recently and it says the amount of native speakers of Gotlandic is 2500. However I didn't saved the folder. This means 500 is not accurate. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Isak Nygren (talkcontribs) 15:26, 16 July 2014 (UTC)

WP:V applies[edit]

This article has not cited a single relevant source for anything since it was first created in 2004. The last reminder of this was removed[1] back in 2006, but without any attempt to fix the problem.

There really is no valid reason to keep this up. As it stands, it's even questionable whether the status as a separate language is valid. The reference to the number of speakers is essentially useless as Ethnologue's only reference is "(1998 S. Håkansson)". As it stands, the article is ripe for an WP:AfD.

Peter Isotalo 12:05, 24 May 2015 (UTC)

You probably have better possibilities of finding sources than anyone else. It is not ripe for Afd as long as it has an Ethnologue entry.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 16:18, 24 May 2015 (UTC)
Riad (2014) gave some hints to follow up, so thanks for that. I didn't note that it had an English-language phonology of Swedish had been published. But there isn't exactly an abundance of sources referring to "gutniska" in Swedish literature. I strongly suspect that it has long since been assimilated with Swedish and no longer exists as a modern, living language. Organizations like Gutamålsgillet tend to disagree, but they tend to focus quite strictly on heritage and history. And they are never considered reliable sources for these things.
Where is the Ethnologue entry, btw? It seems to be mentioned only under Swedish and Glottolog classifies it as a dialect of Swedish.
Peter Isotalo 20:15, 24 May 2015 (UTC)
I didnt actually check if there was an ethnologue entry, but you referred to it as having an unreliable source? I don't see why Gutamålsgillet should be considered unreliable? I agree that the population figure is clearly exaggerated, but also the fact that Modern Gutnish has been influenced by Standard Swedish doesnt necessarily mean that it has been "assimilated" it seems clear that some people on Gotland are using a revived version of traditional Gutnish. I think the situation is similar to the Danish and English traditional dialects with it being restricted to older speakers - except that apparently there are active efforts to revive the traditional dialect, which is interesting in itself since that lacks in Denmark.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 20:21, 24 May 2015 (UTC)
Ethnologue has an incomplete reference[2] which is extremely difficult to follow up. Libris[3] doesn't return any hits, for example. When searching for "gutniska" or "gutamål", these[4][5][6] seem to be the only reasonably relevant titles.
Gutnamålsgillet could be used as a source for study of the language among laypersons, but what I'm getting at is that there seems to be few or no native speakers left.
Peter Isotalo 21:17, 24 May 2015 (UTC)
I think the question of "native speakers" is kind of problematic in this kind of case where basically it is a continuum between registers. For what it is worth Gutamålsgillet give no figures for number of speakers. ·maunus · snunɐɯ· 21:20, 24 May 2015 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Hi Peter, I'm just back from a bit of a Wiki-break and I saw this discussion. The problem with this, as with so many other tings related to Gotland, is that even if things exist, no one (or very few) has bothered to write anything about it. It is not a tradition on the island to record or write down things about everyday life. So it's very hard to get any good sources for anything, trust me... Anyway, the language is very much in use today, but there are very few who speak it "straight up", mostly the words are used mixed up with ordinary Swedish. A sort of 50/50 mix with the Gutnish intonation on everything is the most common. (That is the way I speak it) Cheers, w.carter-Talk 19:00, 28 May 2015 (UTC)

I'd compare the situation of Gutnish to that of Scots or the extinct Yola – whether Scots should be considered a "dialect of English" is really a matter of definition, and there is a continuum from Standard Scottish English to "broad" Scots, the traditional dialects, so it is not always easy to tell whether a specific person should really count as a speaker as their idiolect may be ambiguous or at least difficult to classify, or not obviously either Scottish English or Scots for a layperson. Historically, Scots is just as much a dialect of English as Geordie, as it descends directly from the Northumbrian dialect of Old English. (Similarly, Yola descends from Old West Saxon.) However, Scots is generally not considered a part of English anymore. (Moreover, it has numerous dialects and subdialects of its own.) The situation of Gutnish is analogous in that it is just as much a "dialect of Swedish" as some traditional dialects in Finland, northern Sweden and some other remote parts of the country, many of which are highly distinctive or divergent and not readily intelligible to monodialectal speakers of Standard Swedish; pure historical contingency is the main reason that some varieties are considered separate languages and others not. Really, do make yourself familiar with the AusbauspracheAbstandspracheDachsprache framework. So, my conclusion is that there is no satisfying solution to the questions "is Gutnish a separate language?" and "how many native speakers does Gutnish have?" because they are too vague and depend on what you mean by "Gutnish", "separate language" and "native speaker" (do revivalists and their children count?). --Florian Blaschke (talk) 12:52, 25 August 2015 (UTC)

5000 speakers - counted by whom?[edit]

In recent times the number of speakers of Scanian has been discussed. The number 80,000 has been challenged. Now I find, that also this dialect has a controversial number in the infobox, "5,000". The source here is also "Ethologue". Their source is one S Håkansson and it is dated 1998. Who is/was S. Håkansson and is this a reliable source? --Vedum (talk) 10:57, 2 September 2015 (UTC)