ein_wunderkind (ein_wunderkind) wrote in linguaphiles,

I read an interesting article in the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet that appeared in its regular language column. In the wake of the 200th anniversary of Finland's separation from the Kingdom of Sweden (1809), it posits what would've happened to the Finnish and Swedish languages had Finland and Sweden never become separate countries.

I'm too lazy to translate the whole article but here are the main points:

- Finnish would've never become an official language, which occurred in the second half of the 18th century when Finland became independent. Yes, the Kalevala would've still been compiled and Aleksis Kivi would've still written Seven Brothers, but any Finnish language "movement" wouldn't have led to much more than something such as folklore and Skansen. Finnish would've become a large minority language and severely oppressed during the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th. Everyone would've spoke Swedish, even far away in Rovaniemi.

- Finnish would've gone the same way as Sami, Irish and Catalan. Like Sami it would've suffered strong pressure to survive as a vital and versatile language, like Irish it would've gone through about a 100 years of decline to be followed by relatively good stability, and similar to Catalan, Finnish would've been the mother language of a large minority within the greater Swedish-speaking state.

- The Finnish standard language would've had a greater amount of Swedish loan words and dialectal differences would've been much greater, as arises when there is no standard national language as a unifier.

- Meänkieli (a Finnish dialect spoken in northern Sweden and Finland) would've never arisen as a minority language in Sweden because it's a Finnish dialect distinguished by a great number of Swedish loan words, in a Greater Sweden a considerable amount of Finns would've spoken some sort of Meänkieli.

- Swedish would have the same position as it does today, but it wouldn't really be the same Swedish. A number of Finnish-Swedish words and expressions would've become common in standard Swedish, like "lift the cat on the table" (speak out, speak frankly) or "lay behind the ear" (keep something in mind). In addition, certain grammatical features possible in Finnish-Swedish but unacceptable in standard Swedish would've become normal. But more importantly, the spelling reform of 1906 would've never occurred. Regional language differences would've remained stronger and therefore it would've been unrealistic to force the written language to reflect a cohesive, standard pronunciation. In addition the distance between written and spoken language would've been greater because the old conditional form and plural verb conjugations probably wouldn't have disappeared in writing.

- In conclusion: Swedish would have a stronger position today, purely in terms of its number of speakers. But Swedish speakers would have to make due with a more difficult written language and Finnish speakers with language oppression.

What do you guys think?

The original article (på svenska) finns här: http://www.svd.se/kulturnoje/mer/sprakspalt/artikel_2401031.svd

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