Swedish beyond the land of Ikea

This week’s post for a thing I like continues with the same “language geek” theme I established on my last post.🤓 Again it’s about what a language, namely Swedish, sounds like. But I’m not discussing just any kind of Swedish on this post, but the Swedish native to Finland, aka finlandssvenska.

What really made me more aware of the differences between Swedish spoken in Sweden and that of Finland was my exchange year in Stockholm. Every time I opened my mouth, people would immediately start to smile and say: “you are from Finland”. That’s just how visible the difference is between these two language varieties. It was rather cool as well to have my “own” dialect that reflected my ethnicity. I started to identify myself through a dialect of a language that wasn’t even my mother tongue! Though strange, I quite liked the feeling.

During my exchange, I listened to a Swedish speaking Finnish radio channel and watched my favorite Finnish TV show, Efter Nio (After Nine), which also is in Swedish. This way, I started to identify the main differences between the Swedish of Sweden and that of Finland. And there are two of them I really like. The first is the easiest to explain: in Finland, there’s a tendency of dropping the last [t] sounds of words. So instead of pronouncing bordet (the table) as [‘bu:rdet], we pronounce it as [‘bu:rde].

Now the second difference, the one I like the most, has something to do with the most fundamental rule of the Swedish phonetics: the quantity rule. According to this rule, the only syllable that can have a long speech sound is the one with the primary stress. In addition to that, the stressed syllable must have a long speech sound. So in a word like göra (to make/to do) the first syllable is stressed and it has a long vowel in the Swedish of Sweden [‘jøːra]. Now what makes me love this feature in (some dialects of) the Swedish of Finland, is that as though the linguistic community had realized the redundancy of marking stressed syllables with two different kinds of prosodic elements, i.e. length and stress, and together decided to make their daily lives a little bit easier by getting rid of one of the prosodic elements – the length. So, in our Swedish, there’s a tendency of pronouncing stressed syllables short [‘jøra].

Of course, there is a plethora of other characteristics that make the two varieties of Swedish sound different. But these two were the ones I happen to like the most.😊