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Wessish †
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Swedish (Swenska)

The roots of the conflict

With the establishment of Riksmål as the official written language of the Scandinavian Realm in 1889, the Swedish written language of Högswenska lost its official status. The king even discontinued the Swedish Academy, incorporating its members into the new Kongelige Akademie for Språk og Litteratur (Royal Academy for Language and Literature).

The main factions

While most civil servants and businessmen in Sweden made the changeover to the new written norm peacefully there was strong opposition among writers and in particular poets, and among large segments of the clergy. Some of the swenskifrare (zealots for the Swedish language) even established Nya akademien för swenska språket (The new swedish language academy), which included many members of the old Swedish Academy, notably the poet Esaias Tegnér. The clerical faction founded Swenska Bibelsällskapet (The Swedish Bible Society) dedicated to clinging to the Swedish Bible translation, book of hymns and liturgy. While "Nya Akademien" essentially went on where the old Academy left off Bibelsällskapet was extremely conservative, advocating the perpetualization of the language of Karl XII's Bible from the year 1703, which had been strongly archaizing even then. Thus the Swedish language movement was internally split from its inception.

Opposition to Riksmål stalling modernization

While "Swenskakademikerna" were in principle in favor of a modern language they could seldom agree on how this should be achieved. The most problematic issue was that while they advocated a written language based on the spoken language of educated Swedes they at the same time opposed any influence that Riksmål (or as they invariably called it: Danish) exerted on that spoken language.

Preserving archaizing traits

Beside the issue of neologisms drawn from "Danish" the two most hotly debated topics were the orthography and the plural forms of verbs. While everybody agreed that these were archaizing features that made it harder to learn and master written Swedish there was always a faction who opposed any modernization on the grounds that any simplification would also bring the language closer to Riksmål. Thus the Riksmål spelling reform and the abolition of plural verb forms from Riksmål had the effect of stalling progress in the Swedish norm of Nya Akademien, the sixth edition of whose Wordlist of 1889 left the plural forms of verbs in place and deviated from the orthography established by Leopold in 1801 only in the spelling of foreign words, which were even more radically respelled -- a move that could be agreed upon only because Riksmål did not respell foreign words! --, and in sharpening the insistence on not to capitalize nouns, again in direct contrariness to Riksmål norms.

Swenska Landsmålsföreningarna

Further fragmentation of the Swedish language movement was caused in the 1890s by the founding of Swenska Landsmålsföreningarna (The Swedish Popular Language Societies), who inspired by the activities of Ivar Aasen in Norway advocated a written norm based on the popular dialects of Sweden. While Landsmålsmännen (The Popular Speech Men) were generally in favor of a radically "phonetic" orthography they also advocated the inclusion into written Swedish not only of dialect words, but also of various -- often mutually opposing -- dialectal grammatical features. It was not uncommon for such words and grammatical features to be overtly claimed desirable on the grounds that they differed from the vocabulary and grammar of Riksmål.

The current situation

The practical result is that almost every writer or poet among Swenskifrarna has his own orthographical and grammatical norm, while drawing freely on dialect vocabulary -- a situation which is generally regarded as problematic by prose writers but as desirable by poets. Yet there is some general tendencies that can be discerned, notably that difference from Riksmål is regarded as desirable for its own sake. The result is sometimes paradoxical, as when the letter-forms w, ä, ö are generally preferred over v, æ, ø at the same time as some print their works in Antiqua whenever possible, in spite of the fact that the 19th century norm was to use w in Fraktur but v in Antiqua.