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Swedish language

Swedish (svenska (help•info)) is a North Germanic language, spoken natively by about 9 million people predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland, where it has equal legal standing with Finnish. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Danish (see Classification). Along with the other North Germanic languages, Swedish is a descendant of Old Norse, the common language of the Germanic peoples living in Scandinavia during the Viking Era. It is currently the largest of the North Germanic languages by number of speakers. Classification Swedish is an Indo-European language belonging to the North Germanic branch of the Germanic languages. In the established classification, it belongs to the East Scandinavian languages together with Danish, separating it from the West Scandinavian languages, consisting of Faroese, Icelandic and Norwegian. However, more recent analyses divide the North Germanic languages into two groups: Insular Scandinavian (Faroese and Icelandic), and Continental Scandinavian (Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish), based on mutual intelligibility due to heavy influence of East Scandinavian (particularly Danish) on Norwegian during the last millennium and divergence from both Faroese and Iceland. Geographic distribution Swedish is the official national language of Sweden. As of 2006, it was the first or sole native language of 7.5 to 8 million Swedish residents. In 2007 around 5.5% (c. 290,000) of the population of Finland were native speakers of Swedish ,though the percentage has been declining steadily since Finland became part of Russia after the Finnish War 1808—1809.[20] The Finland Swedish minority is concentrated in the coastal areas and archipelagos of southern and western Finland. In some of these areas, Swedish is the predominant language; in 19 municipalities, 16 of which are located in a land, Swedish is the sole official language. Dialects The traditional definition of a Swedish dialect has been a local variant that has not been heavily influenced by the standard language and that can trace a separate development all the way back to Old Norse. Many of the genuine rural dialects, such as those of Orsa in Dalarna or Närpes in Österbotten, have very distinct phonetic and grammatical features, such as plural forms of verbs or archaic case inflections. These dialects can be near-incomprehensible to a majority of Swedes, and most of their speakers are also fluent in Standard Swedish. The different dialects are often so localized that they are limited to individual parishes and are referred to by Swedish linguists as sockenmål (lit. "parish speech").