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for judging of the dialectical varieties exists in the Norwegian charters, carefully and accurately edited by the Norwegian scholars C. Lange (d. 1861), C. R. Unger (d. 1897) and H. J. Huitfeldt-Kaas.[1]

III. Swedish.—The Pre-Reformation language is called Old Swedish.

1. Old Swedish.—The territory of the Old Swedish comprehended—(1) Sweden, except the most northerly part, where Lappish (and Old Swedish. Finnish?) was spoken, the most southerly (Skåne, Halland and Blekinge) and certain parts of western Sweden; (2) extensive maritime tracts of Finland, Esthonia and Livonia, with their surrounding islands; and (3) certain places in Russia, where Swedish was spoken for a considerable time. The oldest but also the most meagre sources of our knowledge of Old Swedish are those words, almost exclusively personal names (nearly one hundred), which were introduced into the Russian language at the foundation of the Russian realm by Swedes (in 862), and which are for the most part somewhat influenced by Russian phonetic laws, preserved in two Russian documents of the years 911 and 944—as Igor (O. Sw. Ingvar), Rurik (Hrørikr), Oleg (Hialge, secondary form of Helge), Olga (Hialga, Helga). Of about the same date, but of an infinitely greater importance, are the runic inscriptions, amounting in number to about two thousand, which have been found cut on stones (rarely wood, metal or other materials) almost all over Sweden, though they occur most frequently (about half of the total number) in the province of Uppland, next to which come Södermanland, with nearly three hundred inscriptions, then Ostergötland, and Gotland, with more than two hundred each. For the most part they occur on tombstones or monuments in memory of deceased relatives; rarely they are public notices. Their form is often metrical, in part at least. Most of them are anonymous, in so far that we do not know the name of the engraver, though, as a rule, the name of the man who ordered them is recorded. Of the engravers named, about seventy in number, the three most productive are Ubir, Bali and Asmundr Karasun, all three principally working in Upland; the first-mentioned name is signed on nearly eighty, the others on about thirty and forty stones respectively. These inscriptions vary very much in age, belonging to all centuries of Old Swedish, but by far the greatest number of them date from the 11th and 12th centuries. From heathen times—as well as from the last two centuries of the middle ages—we have comparatively few. The oldest are perhaps the Ingelstad inscription in Östergötland, the Sparlösa inscription in Våstergötland, and the Gursten one found in the north of Småland, all probably from the end of the 9th century. The rune-stone from Rök in Östergötland probably dates from about A.D. 900. Its inscription surpasses all the others both in length (more than 750 runes) and in the importance of its contents, which are equally interesting as regards philology and the history of culture; it is a fragment (partly in metrical form) of an Old Swedish heroic tale. From about the year 1040 we possess the inscriptions of Asmundr Karasun, and the so-called Ingvar monuments (more than twenty in number), erected most of them in Södermanland, in honour of the men who fell in a great war in eastern Europe under the command of a certain Ingvar; the stones cut by Bali belong to the time c. 1060. Somewhat later are the inscriptions cut by Ubir, and from the beginning of the 12th century is the remarkable inscription on the door-ring of the church of Forsa in Helsingland, containing the oldest Scandinavian statute now preserved, as well as other inscriptions from the same province, written in a particular variety of the common runic alphabet, the so-called “staflösa” (staffless, without the perpendicular staff) runes, as the long genealogical inscription on the Malstad-stone. The inscriptions of the following centuries are of far less philological interest, because after the 13th century there exists another and more fruitful source for Old Swedish, viz. a literature in the proper sense of the word. Of runic literature nothing has been preserved to our days. The literature in the Latin letters is both in quality and extent incomparably inferior to Old Icelandic, though it, at least in quantity, considerably surpasses Old Norwegian. In age, however, it is inferior to both of them, beginning only in the 13th century. The oldest of the extant manuscripts is a fragment of the Older Västgötalaw, written about the year 1250. A complete codex (Cod. Holm. B 59) of the same law dates from about 1285, and is philologically of the greatest importance. Of other works of value from a philological point of view we only mention a codex of the Södermannalaw (Cod. Holm. B 53) of about 1325, a codex of the Upplandslaw (Cod. Ups. 12), the two manuscripts containing a collection of legends generally named Cod. Bureanus (written a little after 1350) and Cod. Bildstenianus (between 1420 and 1450), and the great Oxenstiernian manuscript, which consists chiefly of collection of legends written for the most part in 1385. The very numerous Old Swedish charters, from 1343 downwards, are also of great importance.[2]

Old Swedish, during its earliest pre-literary period (800-1225), Form of the language. retains quite as original a character as contemporary Old Icelandic and Old Norwegian. The first part of the inscription of the Rökstone running thus—


and probably pronounced—

aft Wāmōð stąnda rūnaR þāR; en Warinn fāði faðiR aft fæighiąn sunu,

would, no doubt, have had the same form in contemporary Icelandic, except the last word, which would probably have had the less original form sun. The formal changes of the Swedish language during this period are, generally speaking, such as appear about the same time in all the members of the group—as the change of soft R into common r (the Rök-stone runaR, later runar, runes; this appeared earliest after dental consonants, later after an accented vowel), and the change of into st (in the 10th century raisþi, later ræisti, raised); or they are, at least, common to it with Norwegian—as the dropping of h before l, n and r (in the 10th century hrauR, younger, rør, cairn), and the changing of nasal vowels (the long ones latest) into non-nasalized. But the case is altogether different during what we may call the classical period of Old Swedish (1225-1375), the time of the later runic inscriptions and the oldest literature. During this period the language is already distinctly separate from the (literary) Icelandic-Norwegian (though not yet very much from Danish). The words of the Older Västgötalaw


would in contemporary Icelandic be—

felir klukka niðr i hǫfuð mauni, bǽti sókn mǫrkum þrim, ef hann fǽr bana af.

These few words exhibit instances of the following innovations in Swedish:—d is inserted between ll (nn) and a following r (as b between m and l, r, and p between m and t, n—as hambrar, Icel. hamrar, hammers, sampt, Icel. samt, together with); an auxiliary vowel is inserted between final r and a preceding consonant; a in terminations is often changed into æ; a u in the final syllable causes no change of a preceding a; the present tense takes the vowel of the infinitive (and the preterit subjunctive that of preterit indicative plural). Other important changes, appearing at the same time, but probably, partly at least, of a somewhat older date, are the following:—all diphthongs are contracted (as ø̄gha, Icel. auga, eye; drø̄ma, Icel. dreyma, to dream; stēn, Icel. steinn, stone—traces of which we find as early as the 12th century); é has passed into ǣ (as knǣ, Icel. kné, knee); ia into , as in Eastern Norwegian (as hiærta, Icel. hiarta, heart); iu into ȳ after r, and a consonant +l (as flȳgha, Icel. fliúga, to fly); the forms of the three persons singular of verbs have assimilated (except in the so-called strong preterit); the 2nd person plural ends in -in for -, -. The transition to the 14th century is marked by important changes:—short y, e.g., passed into ø in many positions (as dør for dyr, door, &c.); there appeared a so-called law of vowel balance, according to which the vowels i and u are always found in terminations after a short root syllable, and—at least when no consonant follows—e and o after a long one (as Guþi, to God, til salu, for sale, but i garþe, in the court, for visso, assuredly), and the forms of the dative and the accusative of pronouns gradually became the same. The number of borrowed words is as yet very limited, and is chiefly confined to ecclesiastical words of Latin and Greek origin, introduced along with Christianity (as kors, cross, brēf, epistle, skōle, school, præster, priest, almōsa, alms). At the middle of the 14th century the literary language undergoes a remarkable reform, developing at the same time to a “riksspråk,” a uniform language, common to a certain degree to the whole country. The chief characteristics of this later Old Swedish (1375-1526) are the following:—the long a has passed into å (that is, an open o), and io (except before g, k, rdh, rt) into (as siø, sea, lake), g and k (sk) before palatal vowels are softened into dj and tj (stj); k and t in unaccented syllables often pass into gh, dh (as Swērighe for Swērike, Sweden, lītedh for lītit, a little); the articles thæn (or hin), the, and (a little later) en, a, come into use; the dual pronouns vanish; the relative ær, that, is changed with sum; the present participle takes a secondary form in -s (as gangandis, beside gangande, going). A little later the following changes appear:—a short vowel is lengthened before a single consonant, first when the consonant belongs to the same syllable (as hat, hate), afterwards also when it belongs to the following one (as hata, to hate); an auxiliary vowel is inserted between l or n and a preceding consonant (as gavel, gable, øken, desert); short i often passes into e (as leva, to live); th passes into t; a new conjugation is formed which has no infinitive termination, but doubles the sign of the preterit (as , bōdde, bōtt, to dwell, dwelt, dwelt). Owing to the political and commercial state of the country the language at this period is deluged with borrowed words of Low German origin, mostly social and industrial terms, such as the great number of verbs in -ēra (e.g. hantēra, to

  1. Diplomatarium Norvegicum (1847, sqq.), 16 vols. have appeared.
  2. The Old Swedish monuments are for the most part published in the following collections:—Svenska fornskriftsällskapets samlingar, 132 parts (1844-1907); C. J. Schlyter, Samling af Sveriges gamla lagar, vols. i.-vii. and x.-xii. (1827-1869); Svenskt Diplomatarium (6 vols., 1829-1878, new series, 4 vols., 1875-1904).
  3. In memory of Wámód these runes stand; and Warinn, his father, wrote them in memory of his son (by destiny) condemned to death.
  4. If the bell fall down on anybody's head, the parish pays a fine of three marks should he die from it.