From Academic Kids

Finland-Swedish is a variety of Swedish spoken in Finland. From the 1600s until 1863 Swedish, not Finnish, was the main language of jurisdiction and administration in Finland. In 1902 Finnish and Swedish became official languages with equal status, and at Finland's independence in 1917 Finnish clearly dominated in government and society.

Missing image
map with distribution of Finland-Swedes

Finland has since then been a bilingual country with a Swedish-speaking minority (5.55% of total population on 2003), speaking Finland-Swedish, living mostly in the coastal areas of southern, south-western, and western Finland. During the 20th century, post-Industrial Revolution urbanization and the equal education between Finnish and Swedish speakers have led to large majorities of Finnish speakers in all major cities. The capital Helsingfors became the predominantly Finnish-speaking city Helsinki as early as around year [1900]. A large and important part of the Finland-Swedes nevertheless live in the capital.

The autonomous island-province of Åland is an exception, being monolingually Swedish-speaking according to international treaties. It is a matter of definition whether the Swedish spoken on Åland is to be considered Finland-Swedish or not.

Finland-Swedish differs from Swedish in prosody and pronunciation. The difference, however, is not more significant than differences between regional varieties of Standard Swedish. In spoken language, especially among young people in Finnish-dominated areas, Finnish loanwords, as well as calques, are frequently incorporated.


Language regulation

The Finland-Swedish language is regulated by the "Swedish Department" at the "Research Institute for the Languages of Finland" in Finland. There is an officially stated aim that the Finland-Swedish dialect should remain close to the Swedish spoken in Sweden, thus the Swedish Department strongly advises against loanwords and calques from Finnish, which would often be incomprehensible to Swedes from Sweden.


1610 17.5%
1749 16.3%
1815 14.6%
1880 14.3%
1900 12.9%
1920 11.0%
1940 9.5%
1960 7.4%
1980 6.3%
2003 5.6%

Swedish is the mother tongue for about 265,000 persons in Mainland Finland and 25,000 on Åland, or 5.55% of the total population according to official statistics for 2003 [1] ( The proportion has been steadily diminishing since the 18th century when approximately 15% of the population had Swedish as the mother tongue (estimation for 1815 [2] (

The Swedish-speaking minority of Finland descends chiefly:

  1. from settlers who arrived particularly to some coastlines and archipelagos with the Viking raids and trade connections towards East (so-called Austway) (9001200, and even before that period, during which period also towns in present-day Russia had Scandinavian colonies).
  2. from the settlers who arrived with the Christian missionaries, crusaders and administrators in the early middle ages of Finland (1200-1400).
  3. from socially ambitious Finnish families. The Swedish mother tongue was a great social advantage, particularly during the 17th19th centuries. Therefore socially ambitious families often raised their children in Swedish, ultimately leading to a situation where the administrative elite had a limited knowledge of the majority language, Finnish.
  4. from foreign immigrants. Plenty of non-Finnic immigrants, particularly townspeople and elite, chose to join Swedish speakers rather than Finnish. For example, children of Mr Marhein, a Dutch merchant, chose to learn Swedish. Later some descendants succeeded in climbing into civil servant nobility, which entitled them to gloss their surname a bit. Thus, a person named C.G.E.Mannerheim, a Swedish-speaker, having become a leading military and a president in Finland, is correctly listed below as Finland-Swede.
  5. from Swedish settlers throughout the period of close connections, c 1400-1800.


The minority speaking Finland-Swedish can, according to standard definitions, be considered an ethnic minority. Some of the Finland-Swedes consider themselves to be ethnic Swedes, some do not. However, many Finnish speakers dislike the idea of Finland-Swedes being ethnic Swedes. Today, it is often stated by the Finnish speakers that Finland-Swedes are not Swedes in any other sense than that of language, and that history (from 1714 and on) gives them no reason to feel any obligation or allegiance to Sweden.

They call themselves finlandssvenskar, "Finland-Swedes". Other translations to English are often favored by the Finnish speking majority, such as "Swedish-speaking Finns". One reason given for this is to circumvent the confusion regarding nationality, citizenship and ethnicity, but many Finland-Swedes object to this term, especially those considering themselves ethnically Swedish.

The 19th century rise of Fennomani (ethnic Nationalism in the Finnish language) led to the establishment of Finnish as a language of culture, science and administration in Finland. One important aspect is that many families of the Swedish-speaking elite learned Finnish and, championning a total switch of language, made Finnish the mother tongue of their children. Tensions between the Finnish speaking majority and the Swedish speaking minority were inevitable, dubbed Finland's language strife. The minority identified themselves as the vector of Western culture, the link to the Western world. In the light of gradual loss of importance and influence of Finland-Swedish in Finland, it was natural for the minority to identify Sweden as the mother country capable of intervening against anti-Swedish policies by the government of Finland. The tensions diminished from the mid-1930s thereafter, and the Winter War had a unifying effect on Finland. Nevertheless, some tension remains between a part of the Finnish speaking majority and the Swedish speaking minority. Today, parts of the Finland-Swedish minority feel closer affiliated to Sweden than to Finland, but the vast majority does not.


Finland being a bilingual country, according to its constitution, means that citizens of the Finland-Swedish minority have the right to communicate with authorities in their mother tongue.

After an educational reform in the 1970s, both Swedish and Finnish are compulsory school subjects, mandatory in the final examinations: education in the pupil's own language is officially called mother tongue (modersmål in Swedish or äidinkieli in Finnish) and education in the other language is referred to as the other domestic language (andra inhemska språket in Swedish, toinen kotimainen kieli in Finnish). The introduction of mandatory education in Swedish was chiefly intended as a step to avoid further finlandization.

In an international context, and compared to the neighbouring countries Sweden, Norway and Estonia, the mandatory education and examination in the 5%-minority's language must be noted as an unusually strong means to support the governmental bilingualism, and is currently (2005) being laxed. In the matriculation examination, Swedish has been introduced as an optional, not mandatory subject. It has been noticed that only a small minority does not choose to take the Swedish exam, as the Swedish courses themselves are still mandatory.

Being a small minority leads necessarily to a functional bilingualism. Although it might be possible to live your life entirely on Swedish in some towns and municipalities, Finnish is the dominant language in most towns, at most employers and in the main part of Finland. Many find it more convenient to use Finnish when interacting with strangers and known Finnish-speakers. There exists a widely established tacit agreement on using Finnish as discussion language in a group as soon as at least one of the participating persons begin to use Finnish, even if all or all but one of the group is known to be Swedish or to be in sufficient command of Swedish language.


  • 9% of the Swedish-speaking population of Finland live on Åland
  • 6% live in purely Swedish-speaking towns and municipalities of Continental Finland
  • 35% live in bilingual towns and municipalities where Swedish dominates
  • 44% live in bilingual towns and municipalities where Finnish dominates
  • 6% live in purely Finnish-speaking towns and municipalities

In addition, about 60,000 Swedish-speaking Finns are estimated to have emigrated to Sweden during the second half of the 20th century.

List of notable Finland-Swedes and Swedish-speaking Finns

See also

External links

fr:Suédois en Finlande fi:Suomenruotsi sv:Finlandssvenska


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools