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Swedish is the most widely spoken of the Scandinavian languages, which constitute a branch of the Germanic languages, in turn a part of the Indo-European family. In addition to the 9 million people of Sweden, about 300,000 speakers live on the southwestern and southern coasts of Finland and on the Åland Islands in the Baltic Sea, which belong to Finland.
Swedish is closely related to Norwegian and Danish. Historically it is closer to Danish, but the years of Swedish hegemony over Norway (1814–1905) brought the two languages closer together. A Swedish person today has more difficulty understanding Danish than Norwegian.
The Swedish alphabet consists of 29 letters, the regular 26 of the English alphabet, plus å, ä, and ö at the end. The ä and ö distinguish it from Norwegian and Danish, which use œ and ø.
During the Middle Ages Swedish borrowed many words from German, while the 18th and 19th centuries witnessed a large infusion of words from French. In the 20th and 21st centuries English has become by far the largest source of foreign borrowings.
The English words smorgasbord and tungsten are of Swedish origin. The former is a combination of smörgås (sandwich) and bord (table). The latter is a combination of tung (heavy) and sten (stone).
Authorized from the original edition of The Languages of the World 3rd edition by Keneth Katzner published by Routledge, a member of the Taylor & Francis Group.
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