So you’ve become quite fluent in Swedish. Maybe it’s time to read Vicky Taylor’s guide to mastering the basics of norrländska. Illustration by Jessica Kwan.
Do you speak norrländska? After relocating to Sweden, you might’ve learned some Swedish, but what about the Swedish of Norrland?
Norrland dialects (norrländska mål in Swedish) are spoken in most of Norrland. This beautiful region has many different dialects with some distinct differences, as well as some common traits.
You’ll undoubtedly come across some norrländska words and expressions in your day-to-day life in Norrland. Learn some of the most often used words and expressions and practise them with your Norrlander friends.
But remember that the guidelines that follow cover a very large area of Sweden.
So many dialects!
Some words and expressions might be used across the regions, but others, such as ’no plural adjectives’, which is rarely heard in Skellefteå for instance, do not but are used widely in other areas. Norrländska isn’t just one monolithic dialect, it’s fractured into many local versions, and we don’t have the space to cover them all in detail, even our local dialect, Burträskiska, with its idiosyncractic way of saying ’goodbye’ – ’Hoj, hoj!’
But first – let’s take a quick look at some characteristics of this iconic dialect grouping.
Characteristics of norrländska
As norrländska isn’t one dialect but a dialect grouping, defining its characteristics is easier said than done. However, there are some traits that are distinct in Norrland dialects.
For example, many Norlanders will pronounce their l’s far back in their mouths, creating a thick l. Many also pronounce the Swedish sj-sound in the front of their mouths, compared to many other Swedes. To these ears, the Norrland way is less harsh.
The viral inhaled “yes”
One of the more viral “words” in Norrland is the Norlander way to say “yes.” Most Swedes use the word “ja,” but Norlanders often inhale their “yes.” “Yes” is simply a sharp inhale with a barely opened mouth. Ask a Norrland friend to demonstrate – it’s a very economical way to say “yes.”
Omitting the –er
One characteristic of norrländska is that –er is often omitted from verbs in their present tense. Swedish verbs in their present form generally end in –er but these two letters are often skipped in Norrland.
Han tycker -> Han tyck (He thinks)
De springer -> De spring (They run)
Jag biter -> Jag bit (I bite)
Hon sitter -> Hon sitt (She sits)
Omitting final vowels
In norrländska, it’s also common for final vowels to be omitted or cut short. This can vary from one Norrland dialect to another, but it is a trait that occurs in many parts of Norrland. In our part of the north this results in Luleå, Piteå, and Skellefteå all losing their last letters.
Inte -> Int (Not)
Kasta -> Kaast (Throw)
Backe -> Baack (Slope)
Skellefteå -> Skellefte (Skellefteå)
No plural adjectives
Swedish adjectives are conjugated when describing nouns in plural,
often by adding an “a.” For example, “fin” (pretty) would be “fina.” This is, however, ignored in some norrländska dialects, as you simply stick to the singular version of the adjective.
Ni är fina -> De ä fin (They’re pretty)
Vi är trötta -> Vi ä trött (We’re tired)
Variations in Norrland
The Norrland dialect grouping has quite a few subgroups, all of which in turn consist of many local dialects with a multitude of variations. This comes as no surprise, when you consider the immense size of Norrland, and the fact that certain regions have been influenced by other languages, such as Finnish or Sami.
You can encounter these 11 subgroups of norrländska in Norrland:
· Kalixmål (Kalix dialects)
· Nybyggarmål (Settler dialects)
· Lulemål (Luleå dialects)
· Pitemål (Piteå dialects)
· Nordvästerbottniska mål (Northern Västerbotten dialects)
· Sydvästerbottniska mål (Southern Västerbotten dialects)
· Ångermanländska mål (Ångermanland dialects)
· Jämtmål (Jämtland dialects)
· Medelpadsmål (Medelpad dialects)
· Hogdalsmål (Hogdal dialects)
· Hälsingemål (Hälsingland dialects)
There are a few areas that geographically, at least, belong to Norrland, but where the dialects spoken aren’t necessarily considered norrländska. For example, the dialects of Gästrikland and Södra Hälsingland count as Svealand Swedish.
List of 24 useful words
Here are 24 common words in norrländska you might hear around town. Learn them by heart to secretly check if any of your Norrlander colleagues are talking behind your back. Or simply find out what they’re up to this evening.
We’ll offer you the Swedish and English translations, so you can learn norrländska and Swedish at the same time!
1. Bakanför: Bakom (Behind)
2. Fördan: Förrgår (The day before yesterday)
3. Gatt: Var tvungen (Had to)
4. Gitt: Är tvungen/måste (Have to)
5. Hajna/Hojna: Han/Hon (He/she)
6. Harta: Hälften (Half)
7. He: Lägga, ställa, sätta (Put)
8. Hurven: Att rysa på grund av kyla eller obehag (To shiver because of cold or discomfort)
9. Huvvaligen: Usch (Ew. Also, a common exclamation, like saying “Oh my God!”)
10. Hänna: Här (Here)
11. Ids: Orka (To bother/have the energy to do something)
12. Karra: Godis (Candy)
13. Kuse: Insekt (Insect)
14. Lengräddad: Inte intelligent (Not intelligent)
15. Misslagom: Att vara lite “fel” (To be a bit “wrong”)
16. Nalta: Lite grann (A little bit)
17. Ofarit: Inte åkt än (Not gone yet)
18. Oslög: Klantig (Clumsy)
19. Paltkoma/paltschvimmen: Proppmätt (Stuffed/be in a food coma)
20. Pjöller: Dumt eller onödigt prat (Silly or unnecessary talk)
21. Pärer: Potatis (Potato)
22. Sekig: Långsam (Slow)
23. Sno: Vända (Turn)
24. Stinta: Flicka (Girl)
List of 12 useful expressions
Impress your Norrland friends with these useful everyday expressions.
1. Fjöl av: Håll käften (Shut up)
2. Henan o danan: Här och där (Here and there)
3. Hon har ofare: Hon har inte åkt än (She hasn’t gone yet)
4. Jag ids int: Jag orkar inte (I don’t have the energy to/I can’t be bothered to)
5. Jo, men huvva, no kan ja de no: Ja, det kan jag väl göra (Yes, I suppose I could do that)
6. Jo, varsbakom: Det kan du inbilla dig (In your dreams)
7. Leva om: Vara högljudd (Be noisy)
8. Men nanting: Ja verkligen (Yes, really)
9. Ska jag måsta?: Måste jag? (Do I have to?)
10. Tjå sig: Lugna ner sig (To calm down)
11. Vara lämmen: Ha träningsvärk (Have exercise soreness)
12. Varsch har du hett den: Var har du lagt den? (Where have you put it?)
Make a neighbor happy today!
Sadly, the traditional local dialects of Norrland are on the decline, just like many other local dialects around the world. But there are still many Norlanders who speak these dialects, and areas which are encouraging them. And by learning a few norrländska expressions, you’ll win the hearts of your friendly Norrlander neighbors.