New Netherland and Beyond
New Netherland
Delaware River
Colonial New York
New York State

Swedish Dialect and Language

The Swedish language was divided into several dialects, well defined within certain geographical areas. The Swedish colonists on the Delaware came largely from Upland and the Northern Provinces, and hence they spoke the dialects of these districts. The language of the peasants was purely Germanic; but the soldiers of the Thirty Years' War and foreign merchants and warriors brought in many new words, which gradually found their way even into the vocabulary of everyday speech.

The nation language was not taught in the schools and there was no standard of authority. Hence literary monuments present great variations in spelling and other respects.

The dentals d, t, and th are often indiscriminately used to spell the same word, often by the same man.

Ch is often used instead of ck, especially before t, probably with no difference of sound,

and before t (sometimes h) we find g in some cases, where it has been entirely replaced by its corresponding tenues in the modern speech.

In many instances the old Swedish symbol ð (pronounced much like th in father) is retained, indicated by dh : (medh, gudh, dherhos, etc.)

H combined with g formed a spirant, but sometimes h seems to have served no purpose in a work (unless to lengthen the vowel).

I and j were often interchanged (sporja, sporia, etc.) and an i is found where it has dropped out in modern Swedish (laggia, lagga; sokia, soka, etc.)

P and b were often silent.

Z and s were used to represent the same sound,

and sometimes p was replaced by its corresponding medial (Ubsala, etc).

Consonants were often doubled to express length, but there was no uniformity.

The vowels had different values in different dialects and a variety of uses can be observed in the same document. The vowels ä and e are used to indicate the same sound. The word silver is written "sölfver," and "silfwer" due to phonetic spelling, and å is often replaced by o.

Long vowels were sometimes indicated by doubling, but there again no uniformity is observed (weet, skeep, etc.)

The letters, documents and books of the period contain a large number of foreign words, such as river, voagie, compagnie, ungefar, etc. Long and unwieldy sentences, often loosely and illogically constructed, are almost the rule and the inverted and transposed sentence-order, dut to German influence, often predominates. Punctuation and capitalization follow no rules; they are sometimes entirely wanting.

Swedish Settlements on the Delaware, Amandus Johnson, (c)1911, pg 24-5.

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