A Region in Europe 


A paper on the history of the Scanian language prepared by the Skånska Akademin (Scanian Literary Academy) dated 15 January 1995.

Before the present Scandinavian countries were established, the Nordic region - around the year 1000 a.d. - consisted of a number of smaller nations or peoples. The languages spoken by the inhabitants of these nations derived from a common Nordic language stock.

In the Danish-speaking territory the following regions had their distinct languages:

1. the islands of Sjælland, where the mainland of Sjælland was the central part.
2. in the west the language of the Jutlanders and,
3. in the east, the language of Scania. Scania is today sometimes referred to as the southern part of Sweden.

Scania was for a considerable part of its history the richest nation in the Nordic region. This was partly contributed to the important herring fishery at the southwestern part of Scania, at the town of Skanör. The fishing industry attracted merchants from all over Europe. The first part of the word Scandinavia derives from the name Scania and Skanör - Skaaney and Scaaneyrr.

The record of the language of the Scanians can be traced back to the earliest part of history. The texts of the Scanian runes from the 10th and 11th century evidences the existence of a specific community language which, even at these early ages, differs from its linguistic neighbours both as regards to grammatical forms and vocabulary. The Scanian language has greatly contributed to the development of the Danish language since Scania, and its metropolis Lund, was the cultural centre of the Danish state until the turn of the 16th century and up to the time of the invasion by Sweden in 1658.

The language used by the legal profession is often considered to be the first civil language (normative language). Scanian Law, in the 12th century transferred from runes , is the oldest of the provincial laws in the Danish realm. The Scanian Law also governed Sjælland at a time when both Sjælland and Jutland was without their own legal texts. The first Bible and Book of Hymns were printed in the Danish language in the City of Malmö, but the authors were mainly Scanians. This occurred during the Lutheran Reformation in the 1530's and it is clearly an evidence of the influence of the Scanian language in Denmark.

The Danish Government, situated in Copenhagen and Roskilde, developed some kind of national Danish language but parallel to this the Scanian language continued to persist and develop in its specific characteristics. Danish language purists warned against the influence of the Scanian language on exemplary Danish as late as in the 17th century.

The Scanian Law continued, as a consequence of the various peace treaties, to be in force after the Swedish invasion. After the peace treaty in Roskilde in 1658, Sweden agreed to allow the Scanians to continue to follow its ancient laws and privileges. The Swedish Government manipulated the treaty fraudulently.

After the Swedish conquest of Scania in 1658 Sweden commenced a "swedenisation" policy, which also the Scanian language was subjected to. The use of the Scanian language, as well as the Danish, was forbidden to be used in both profane and religious contexts. Scanian priests, judges and civil servants were replaced by Swedes. The Swedish language was thus introduced in all official contexts but contrary to all the oppressive efforts to eradicate the Scanian language, it has been kept very much alive up until today.

Nowadays the Scanian language has been influenced and diluted by Swedish. Many Scanian idioms and intonations are used, with a number of different local dialects. Although dialectal variations exists, the common Scanian language melody is unique and contains a number of phonetic characteristics. This makes the Scanian language markedly different from the languages of the inhabitants of both Sweden and Denmark.

The absence of an established written Scanian language, i.e. Standard Scanian, has contributed to the fact that the Scanian language of today consists of many local dialects. Journals and books are published every year containing Scanian dialectal prose and poetry.

The Scanian Academy has commissioned a project group to assemble a Scanian-Swedish-Danish dictionary, i.e. a dictionary of common Scanian words and their correlatives in Swedish and Danish. The dictionary is being assembled by Ass. Professor Docent Helmer Lång (who is also the project leader) and Ph. Dr. Sten Bertil Vide (who has written his doctoral thesis on the names of flowers in Scanian). Professor Birger Bergh has been the general linguistics consultant and the two researchers in Danish dialects, Professor Inger Elkjær and Dr. Inge Lise Pedersen, have given their specialist assistance to the project by determining Danish equivalents and related words in various Danish dialects.

The project has been going on since 1983 and the dictionary, which presently has the form of a preliminary catalogue, shows very clearly that there still exist a great number of common words and grammatical forms that are typically Scanian and that the vocabulary is distinguishable from both Swedish and Danish. It is therefore only natural that Scanian is defined as a language in its own right. Nowadays it can be observed that people in Scania are using their Scanian tongue as a protest against, or as an exchange for, Standard Swedish.

Several contemporary young Scanian writers have followed their predecessors from the end of the 19th century, and are again writing in the Scanian language. What is urgently needed now, to preserve and to develop the Scanian language, is political, ideological and financial support.