Norrland dialects (Swedish: norrländska mål) is one of the six major dialect groupings of the Swedish language. It comprises the dialects in most of Norrland, except those of Gästrikland and southern Hälsingland, where Svealand Swedish is spoken. Local dialects from Härjedalen and northwest Jämtland (specifically Frostviken in Strömsund Municipality), which traditionally are counted as variants of the Norwegian dialect of Trøndersk, are also excluded, while Jämtland dialects and other dialects of the region are considered to be true Norrland dialects.
The border between Norrland dialects and Svealand Swedish runs through Hälsingland, such that the northern Hälsingland dialects are regarded as Norrland dialects and the southern ones as Svealand Swedish; an alternative delineation follows the southern border of Medelpad.
The old northern border of the Swedish language in coastal Norrbotten largely followed the eastern and northern borders of Lower and Upper Kalix parishes in modern Kalix Municipality. From there, a vaguely defined linguistic border ran through Lappmarken from the northernmost point of Upper Kalix parish in an arc to the south of Porjus, then followed the Lule River to the border with Norway.
Norrland dialects arose from the combined influence of the Old West Norse spoken in Trøndelag to the west and the Old East Norse spoken to the south. The westerly influences were notably strong in the centuries leading up to the Viking Era. The shift to East Norse progressed through the Middle Ages. As Norrland gradually came to be more and more under Central Swedish influence in the Modern Era, many of the older West Norse characteristics disappeared. The strong West Norse influences can still be seen today in the toponymy of Norrland in placenames ending in -ånger (Swedish: vik, "harbour"). Parish names such Skön and Indal (both in Sundsvall Municipality) have West Nordic origins. The dialect of Norrbotten displays less West Nordic influence than other more westerly dialects. The greatest West Nordic/Norwegian—or, perhaps, least East Nordic/Swedish—influence is found in Jamtlandic.
As with other regiolects, it is difficult to clearly define a unique set of characteristics for the Norrland dialects. The distribution of different features of the dialect have differing boundaries (called isoglosses), which are described in the following summary of phenomena regarded as typical of Norrland dialects.
Just as it is difficult to precisely define unique linguistic traits for Norrland dialects, it is also difficult to split the group geographically into various subdialects; different traits are found in different areas. Nevertheless, the mediaeval parishes have played a large role in the subdivision of the Norrland dialects. Even those parishes that were organised later in the 1600s, such as Upper Kalix parish and Burträsk parish, have strong dialectal features.
The Swedish language came to Lappmark in the 18th and 19th centuries as ethnic Swedes began to settle the area. They came from many different regions, and some even spoke Finnish or a Sami language natively. This resulted in a blending of both dialects and languages. Most of the Lappmark dialects thus lack such archaic features as the dative case and diphthongs that the dialects of the coastal parishes have retained. Nevertheless, the differences between the various Lappmark dialects can be considerable, depending on the heritage of those who settled in a given area. A notable amount of Sami loanwords have found their way into the dialects of Lappmark and the areas just to the south. For instance, the Siberian jay is locally called koxik as opposed to the Standard Swedish lavskrika.
These dialects, known in Swedish as kalixmål, are spoken in the medieval Kalix parishes (present-day Kalix and Överkalix municipalities). Like other dialects in Norrbotten, the Kalix dialects retain numerous archaic features. Many Old Norse diphthongs have been preserved, as well as archaic consonant clusters such as sj, stj and lj. The dative case is also retained, including following a preposition. Additionally, verbs at least partially retain their old plural forms.
The Kalix dialect is further subdivided into
One difference between these two local variants is that the old consonant clusters mb, nd, and ng have been retained in Upper Kalix, but not in Lower Kalix. For example, the Standard Swedish kam ("comb" or "crest") is kemb in Upper Kalix, but kap in Lower Kalix. Furthermore, the Upper Kalix dialect has more influences from Sami languages and Meänkieli than other local dialects.
The Luleå dialects (Swedish: lulemål) are spoken in and around the mediaeval parish of Luleå (present-day Boden and Luleå municipalities). They are also spoken in the easternmost parts of Lule lappmark up to near Vuollerim.
These dialects may be further subdivided as follows
The Luleå dialects are known for, among other things, a rich inventory of diphthongs. The Old Norse ai, au, and öy are preserved, as well as ei (e.g., stein for Standard Swedish sten, meaning "stone"), eo (e.g., heok for Standard Swedish hök, meaning hawk), and oi (e.g., hoi for Standard Swedish hö, meaning "hay"). These dialects also have a number of vowels that differ from Standard Swedish. For example, Standard Swedish i becomes öi (röis instead of Standard ris, meaning "rice"), while Standard u becomes eo or eu (heos instead of Standard hus, meaning "house").
The Piteå dialects (Swedish: pitemål) are spoken in the area of the mediaeval Piteå parish (present-day Piteå and Älvsbyn municipalities) as well as in the southernmost parts of Jokkmokk Municipality and in northern Arvidsjaur Municipality in Pite lappmark. These dialects also preserve a number of archaic features, such as conserved diphthongs in words like göuk (Standard Swedish: gök, "cuckoo bird") and stein (Standard Swedish: sten, "stone"). The consonant clusters mb, nd, and ng are often retained, for example in kamb (Standard Swedish: kam, "comb"). Unique to the Piteå dialects is that Old Swedish long "a" (modern "å") has become short "a" before "n", but nowhere else. Thus, lan (Standard Swedish: lån", "loan"), but båt (Standard Swedish: båt, "boat").
The so-called "settler dialects" (Swedish: nybyggarmål) comprise all the Swedish dialects in Lappland; Karl-Hampus Dahlstedt geographically defines this dialect to those inland parts of Norrbotten where the Swedish dialects do not fit in with any of the relatively more clearly defined dialects of the coastal regions, due to the patchwork ancestry of the Swedish-speaking settlers that populated the area. One typical "settler dialect" is found in Arjeplog, which arose from a blending of Standard Swedish with the Piteå and Umeå dialects. There is also Sami influence on these dialects, such as the absence of the "thick L", which is generally typical of Norrland dialects. Another area in which a "settler dialect" is spoken is Malmfälten.
North Westrobothnian (Swedish: nordvästerbottniska mål) is spoken in the northern parts of Västerbotten, primarily the mediaeval Skellefteå parish (including Norsjö), together with a part of Pite lappmark (Malå and Arvidsjaur). Just like the coastal dialects of Norrbotten, North Westrobothnian preserves numerous archaic features. The dative case is still used, not only after prepositions but also after certain adjectives and verbs. Old Norse diphthongs have been preserved in many local dialects, but have developed in different, unique ways. For instance, Standard Swedish öra ("ear") can be ööyr, ääyr, or aajr in various local dialects of North Westrobothnian.
South Westrobothnian (Swedish: sydvästerbottniska mål) is spoken along the Ume River from Umeå to Tärna and Sorsele, including Bygdeå and Holmön. A dialect is spoken in Lycksele lappmark which is highly reminiscent of dialects spoken in Umeå, Vännäs, and Degerfors (Vindeln). These influences become less apparent approaching the Norwegian border, but are still strong as far as Tärna, where an old Umeå substratum is evident. The local dialect of Sorsele is influenced by North Westrobothnian as well. South Westrobothnian also preserves archaic diphthongs, for instance in bein (Standard Swedish: ben, "leg") and ööys (Standard Swedish: ösa, "to scoop"). This is a characteristic that distinguishes South Westrobothnian from the Nordmaling and Bjurholm variants of the Ångermanland dialect to the south as well as a shared feature with North Westrobothnian. One difference between South and North Westrobothnian is that in South Westrobothnian, a "g" is often inserted between the old diphthong "au" and a following an "r" or "thick L". For example, South Westrobothnian ôger is aur in North Westrobothnian (Standard Swedish: ör, "gravelly ground").
These dialects, intermediate between South Westrobothnian and the Ångermanland dialect, are spoken in Nordmaling and Bjurholm as well as Örträsk. These dialects are similar to the dialect of nolaskogs, such as in the change of Old Norse hv- to gv- (gvit as opposed to Standard Swedish vit, meaning "white").
The Ångermanland dialects (Standard Swedish: ångermanländska mål) are spoken in Ångermanland (with the exception of Nordmaling and Bjurholm) and Åsele lappmark. The dialects of Åsele and Vilhelmina have largely retained their Ångermanland character while still developing into their own. One exception is Fredrika parish, which developed a speech closer to Standard Swedish as a result of lying near major immigration routes from Ångermanland. The dialect of Dikanäs in Vilhelmina municipality is a transitional dialect between Ångermanland and the dialects of Lycksele lappmark.
The Ångermanland dialects may be further subdivided as follows:
The Medelpad dialects (Swedish: medelpadsmål) are spoken in Medelpad, with the exception of the westernmost parish of Haverö, where the Hogdal dialects are spoken. In comparison to other Norrland dialects, the Medelpad dialects are relatively uniform. The most important outer isogloss is the one with the Hälsing dialects to the south, which defines the limits of the "vowel balance" characteristic of Norrland dialects. One characteristic that distinguishes the Medelpad dialects (for example, Indal–Liden) from other nearby dialects is the pronunciation of both short and long i and y as the same, the so-called "Viby I". In Borgsjö and Torp, y is pronounced as i, while ö is pronounced closer to e. This trait is also found in the Hälsing dialects and in parts of Härjedalen. Other traits are shared with the Ångermanländ dialects, like the "thick n" sound after long vowels in words such as van ("experienced", "habituated to") and måne ("moon"). In the northernmost pars of Medelpad, the dialects show notable Jamtlandic influence. A characteristic typical for dialects of coastal Medelpad is short u in place of standard ö.
The Jamtlandic dialects (Swedish: jämtmål, jämtska) comprise the dialects of Jämtland, with the exception of upper Frostviken, where the so-called Lid dialect (Lidmålet) is spoken. These dialects are to a greater extent than other Norrland dialects caught between easterly (i.e., Swedish) and westerly (i.e., Norwegian) linguistic influences. Centuries-old cultural and linguistic (and later political) ties to Norway mean that many westerly linguistic traits that have long since disappeared in the coastal dialects are preserved in Jamtlandic. For example, the vowel u in words such as bu (Standard Swedish: bod, "hut"; cf. Norwegian: bu) and ku (Standard Swedish: ko, "cow"; cf. Norwegian: ku). Jamtlandic, like other Norrland dialects, also retains the archaic diphthongs of Old Norse.
The commonly accepted isogloss between Norrland dialects and Svealand Swedish runs through Hälsingland. This area, however, is a typical transition region. From A Svealand standpoint, there are reasons to define the isogloss as coinciding with the southern border of Hälsingland (through Ödmården). From a Norrland standpoint, there are alternative reasons to define it as coinciding with the southern border of Medelpad, which would fit with the southern limit of vowel balance.
As modern society has grown increasingly more fluid and interconnected, genuine local dialects are on the decline, in Norrland as in many other parts of the world. Nevertheless, there often remains an unmistakable local character of the language, both among those who speak the pure dialect and among those who speak the regional standardised language. But aside from characteristic peculiarities in intonation, there are certain grammatical traits that seem likely to survive: e.g., the infinitive måsta (Standard Swedish: måste), present tense forms such as han gå (Standard Swedish: han går, "he goes") and han ropa (Standard Swedish: han ropar, "he calls"), and the uninflected predicative in a statement such as dom ä trött (Standard Swedish: de är trötta, "they are tired").
Nearly every small community traditionally has its own distinct dialect, while the larger towns have had, for obvious reasons, greater linguistic influence. How well-documented various dialects are these days is largely dependent on the work of a host of local enthusiasts, as well as some academic research in the area of Nordic languages, such as the series "Svenska Landsmål och svenskt folkliv" ("Swedish Dialects and Folk Traditions"), by professor J. A. Lundell at Uppsala universitet, where the Swedish Dialect Alphabet was used beginning in 1910 for the writing of various local dialects of Swedish. In many areas, the genuine dialects are nearly extinct, but a few others have achieved near-official status. One such example is Jamtlandic, which is taught in a relatively well developed written language to schoolchildren as has a wide variety of literature both in written and audio format.
<ref>tag; name "Norrländsk uppslagsbok: Norrland/språk" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).