A Scandinavian language

Sander   Mon Aug 22, 2005 4:54 pm GMT
Stefaniel Polyglotwannabe,

The Swiss German dialect,is not a language for a number of reasons,probably the most important reason is that it hasn't got a standard form.Just look at the variation on the name given to German Swiss by the speakers...


Most Swiss German dialects didn't participate in the second Germanic soundshift.And in some cases its closer to the continental low German languages. (ie. Dutch and Saxon)

Eg. (the Uri dialect of S.G)

(Uri) - (High German) - (Dutch)
bruin - braun - bruin

However, in most cases, Swiss German is intelligible with normal High German.
Stefaniel P Spanstermeste   Tue Aug 23, 2005 3:21 pm GMT
Ok, that sounds fair enough. Although is the criteria for a language as opposed to a dialect standardisation? Precluding languages with no written form?

Also, what about the leaving out Faroese and Icelandic bit? How did that work?
Sander   Tue Aug 23, 2005 4:19 pm GMT
Stefaniel P Spanstermeste,

=>Also, what about the leaving out Faroese and Icelandic bit? How did that work?<=

You asked if the relation between 'Icelandic,Faroese,Danish, Swedish and Norwegian' could be compared to the relation between 'English,German,Dutch,Frisian and Afrikaans'

Simple answer, no.


As you might know there are 3 main groups within the Germanic languages which all evolved from ProtoGermanic.

-North , (eg. Swedish,Danish,Norwegian)
-West , (eg. English,German, Dutch)
-East , (ALL EXTINCT, but a good eg. is Gothic)

For a long time the North Germanic group consisted of one language 'Old Norse' , the language of the Vikings.
(there was a West Old Norse and East Old Norse , but I wont bother you with that because the differences between those 2 are not worth mentioning.So I 'll just say Old Norse)

Now, Icelandic and Faroese have diverged the least from Old Norse and Swedish,Danish, and Norwegian have diverged the most.

Icelanders and Faroers can understand eatchother very good and Swedes,Danes and Norwegians can understand eachother very good as well (Without learning eatchothers language!).

But ,for example , an Icelander can barely understand a Swede and visa versa.

The West Germanic language have a different status towards eachother.
As opposed to the Scandanavians, none of the language are intellible* (*understandable for eachother without training) , except maybe Afrikaans and Dutch,because Afrikaans evolved from Dutch. (but that's really another story).

So now compare:

North Germanic:
-Swedish,Danish and Norwegian = intellible
-Icelandic and Faroese = intellible

West Germanic:
None are intellible. (except Afrikaans and Dutch when you look at vocabulary)

And that's the difference between North and West.That's why you can't really compare them.
RIko   Wed Aug 24, 2005 2:33 am GMT
When they were having the Eurovision contest some months ago there was a TV show on Sverige Television that had a guest from Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, and Finland, all speaking one language, which I guess was highly standard 'Stockholm' Swedish. I do not know any Scandinavian language but can clearly see how they all communicated with eachother, though the Dane sounded as if he had a potato in his mouth.

Part of the year I live in coastal Swedish (Helsingfors to Hango which are still highly Swedish) Finland and can tell you that in Finland at least it is a language in decline.

If all of the Nordic countries became one country and decided to merge all of their dialects they could be a great power.
The Swede   Wed Aug 24, 2005 9:00 am GMT
Riko, I think we have a very good situation now a days in the Nordic countries where you can use a Scandinavian language but I don´t think we need to reunite our languages. I think people want to keep their variants, dialects because it´s a part of their identity but my opinion is that we need to have a cultural cooperation, which we have today, to conserve that advantage we have with our colse related language so we still can have a stronge connection between our countries even in the future.
Stefaniel P Spaniel   Wed Aug 24, 2005 11:43 am GMT
Thanks Sander for that quite rigorous mashing of my suggested analogy. It was just when in a previous post you said something like "forgetting about Icelandic and Faroese" or something along those lines, and it seemed a bit of a cop out. You have now 'copped back in,' to suggest a phrasal verb.

Out of interest, how mutually comprehensible are Frisian and Dutch? And do you think that various 'dialects' of 'German' could now be considered languages, if history had turned out differently. Say, for instance, if German unification hadn't happened, or had been reversed? Then perhaps another analogy might be possible.

Anyway, why can't we just stop quibbling over what is a language or a dialect, and let the People decide. We could call them 'linguistic systems' or, my favourite 'tongues.' Like speakers of the english tongue once did.
Sander   Wed Aug 24, 2005 11:50 am GMT
Modern Dutch and Modern (West)Frisian are mostly mutually comprehensible.(But a bit of knowledge about English helps)

I think that none of the German dialects deserves to be called a language.
If the German unification hadn't happened?Hmm well I think that wouldn't have made much of a difference,you see there was already a great amount of cooperation before the unification.
Stefaniel P Spentapenny   Wed Aug 24, 2005 11:59 am GMT
So could the relationship between Dutch and West Frisian be compared to that of Icelandic and Faroese? Or High and Low German? Or maybe High German and Swiss Deutsch?

Would you call West Frisian a language then, but not confer the same 'honour' on Bavarian?

Also, have you ever played Koehandel?
Sander   Wed Aug 24, 2005 12:29 pm GMT
No,you can't compare those... I think you could compare Icelandic and Faroese as ,hmm RP English and American English.

Well, Frisian (west or east) is a language.Bavarian isn't.

And no, I never played 'Koehandel' ;)
Travis   Thu Aug 25, 2005 1:29 am GMT
From everything I've read, West Frisian is *not* comprehensible, for the most part, for most Dutch speakers, and besides loans and like, is probably further from Dutch than, say, Low Saxon. And for starters, they are from two different main branches of the West Germanic languages, Dutch being from the branch which also includes Low Saxon and High German, and West Frisian being from the Anglo-Frisian branch, which also includes East and North Frisian, as well as English and Scots.

Second, the thing about High German dialects is that there is one common literary/formal spoken language, known as standard Hochdeutsch (note that this is used as an acrolect in Low Saxon-speaking areas, even though Low Saxon itself is probably closer to Dutch than to German). However, within the range of High German dialects, there are various sections which are often quite unintelligible to other sections of such, in particular Upper Allemannic and Austro-Bavarian dialects. The best known of this, and probably the most widely thought of being a separate language from "German" (that is, Middle German dialects, including standard Hochdeutsch) is Swiss German, which is effectively a wide range of Upper Allemanic dialects, which in practice exist in a diglossic relationship with standard Hochdeutsch. Austro-Bavarian dialects are not as widely thought of as a "language", but they similarly can very often have quite limited crossintelligibility for Middle German dialect-speakers.

One interesting note about the continental North Germanic languages is that while all the standard languages used in Scandinavia are for all practical intents and purposes crossintelligible, and could be called a single language were it not for politics, there exists dialects in Scandinavia which are sufficiently different from said standard languages to be called separate languages from such a common Scandinavian language. In particular, one dialect that sticks out in my mind as such is Dalecarlian (Dalska, Dalmål in Swedish), which from looking over a general grammar overview of it, seems in many places to have more in common with Icelandic or Faroese than Swedish, Norwegian, or Danish, grammatically, even though genetically it is closest to Swedish. It preserves the case system of Old Norse for all nouns (and not in the way that German has a four-case system, as nouns themselves actually are marked for all cases in it), as well as conjugating verbs for person, number, tense, mood, and voice (verbs in standard Swedish today do not inflect for person or number, and lack the subjunctive mood (unlike Dalecarlian)). Note that such marking is not marginal, unlike, say, marking verbs in English for person and number, which is rather marginal in nature, as opposed to marking such in German today, which is not marginal. While its inflection system is still quite simplified when compared with that of Old Norse, its grammar is still far more heavily inflecting in nature than that of standard Swedish, or, for nouns, even German. Anyways, for more information on Dalecarlian, go to: http://home.unilang.org/main/wiki2/index.php/Dalecarlian
Travis   Thu Aug 25, 2005 1:40 am GMT
Crap, all numbers up to and including four agree with their referents in gender in Dalecarlian - now that is something that I haven't seen outside of an "old" Germanic language.
american nic   Thu Aug 25, 2005 2:39 am GMT
Kinda off topic, but how is it that as time goes on, the major European languages become simpler and simpler case-wise? How is it that Latin and Proto-Germanic were so much more complicated than the majority of their child languages? And I think Proto-Indo-European was even more complicated than those...
Travis   Thu Aug 25, 2005 2:45 am GMT
I know that in the Germanic languages, one of the primary things which has caused a very significant amount of loss of inflection in practically all of them, save Icelandic and Faroese, is that historically all of the Germanic languages had a strong fixed forestress in words, and this strong fixed forestress resulted in inflections, which were word-final, to become unstressed, and in turn neutralized towards being schwas, or being simply dropped. Hence, over time, vowels in word endings often became schwas, and endings were often simply elided. As a result, the old case, mood, and other endings were often lost, and thus new analytic constructs were often created to create them, whether by fixing word ordering, or by using modal constructions to replace the use of subjunctive mood, or by using auxiliary constructions to replace the use of a synthetic passive mood, and so on.
Sander   Thu Aug 25, 2005 10:40 am GMT
=>From everything I've read, West Frisian is *not* comprehensible, for the most part, for most Dutch speakers, and besides loans and like, is probably further from Dutch than, say, Low Saxon.<=

I disagree, when I listen to Frisian Radio, or watch Frisian television , I can understand I'd say 75 to 85 % of whats being said.
Sander   Thu Aug 25, 2005 10:43 am GMT
I'm talking about West Frisian of course ...