is the most widely spoken of the Scandinavian languages, which
constitute a branch of the Germanic languages, in turn a part
of the Indo-European family. There are approximately 9 million
speakers of Swedish. In addition to the 8 million people of
Sweden, about 300,000 speakers live on the southwestern and
southern coasts of Finland.
is closely related to Norwegian and Danish. Historically it
is closer to Danish, but the years of Swedish hegemony over
Norway (l8l4-1905) brought the two languages closer together.
A Swedish person today has more difficulty understanding Danish
than Norwegian. The Swedish alphabet consists of twenty-nine
letters, the regular twenty-six of the English alphabet, plus
å, ä, and ö at the end. The ä and ö
distinguish it from Norwegian and Danish, which use æ
the Middle Ages Swedish borrowed many words from German, while
the 18th century witnessed a large infusion of words from the
French. In the 19th and 20th centuries English has become by
far the largest source of foreign borrowings. The English words
smorgasbord and tungsten are of Swedish origin. The former is
a combination of smörgås (sandwich) and bord (table).
The latter is a combination of tung (heavy) and sten (stone).