Old Swedish

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Old Swedish evolved from Old East Norse and was the medieval language spoken in Sweden (13th - 16th century AD).

During this period the Catholic Church introduced new Greek and Latin loanwords into Old Swedish. The Middle Low German language also influenced Old Swedish. That was because of the economic and political power of the Hanseatic League during the 13th and 14th centuries. So many words related to administration, trade, crafts and bureaucracy were introduced from Low German. A lot of words related to seafaring were borrowed from Dutch.

When Sweden became part of the Kalmar Union in 1397, many Danish scribes brought Danicisms into the written language as well.

During the Old Swedish period the pronunciation of some vowels changed:

  • [aː] became [oː] (blā [blaː] -> blå [bloː], 'blue')
  • [uː] became [ʉː] (hūs [huːs] -> hus [hʉːs], 'house')
  • [oː] became [uː] (bōk [boːk] -> bok [buːk], 'book')

The grammar was still more complex than the modern Swedish grammar. In Old Swedish nouns, adjectives, pronouns and certain numerals were inflected in four cases (nominative, genitive, dative and accusative). Modern Swedish only has a common form and a genitive form left.

There were three grammatical genders in Old Swedish (masculine, feminine and neuter), while in the modern Swedish language the masculine and feminine forms have merged.

Old Swedish Names