The language

Gotlandish goes back to Old Gotlandish (Forngutniska), which, compared Old Danish and Swedish, is considered as a separate language. Genuine Gotlandish is nowadays spoken only in some parts on southeastern Gotland.

The reason for the survival of the language is possibly due to some historical facts. Until the Danish conquest 1361 the island was politically independent which meant that the ancient language was spoken without much influence from the outside. However, contacts with northern parts of Germany resulted in some Low German influence.

Under Danish rule the language was strongly influenced by Danish. Country people of the island were living rather isolated so the old language was to a large extent conserved. After the Swedish conquest 1645 there has been a heavy influence from Swedish, particularly after the introduction of compulsory schooling, modern media such as newspapers, radio and TV. The result is that old langue is now almost extinct. The language spoken is Swedish with influence from the old language which can be considered as a Swedish dialect with heavy accent.

Dialect or language?   Top of page

It has been questioned whether Gotlandic is a dialect or a language. It has for instance been called, Gutamål (Gutic tongue) Gutiska (Gutic), or Gutniska (Gutnish). Sometimes it has also been called Gammal Gotländska (Old Gutlandish). The ancient language is called Forngutniska (Old Gotlandic), which  among linguists is considered to be a separate language. Nowadays one usually says Gutniska or Gutamål. Here we call it Gotlandish.

Gotlandic is today spoken in the southeastern parts of Gotland. Short texts are sporadically written. The most comprehensive text material written in modern Gotlandic a collection of letters written by Jakob Karlsson (also known as “Fäi-Jaken” o “Fäi-Jakå”), a farmer from Fie in Lau parish on Gotland. An edited version of 20 letters has been issued in a book “Fäi-Jakås fyst brevi” (Ödins Förlag AB, Tranhusgatan 29, S-621 55 Visby). The complete material consists of 262 letters on about 4000 folio pages. In addition there are articles and poetry written over the years and published in newspapers on Gotland.

Nowadays most gotlander speak a language called Gotländska. It is a dialect which has developed by adaption to standard Swedish.

Interest   Top of page

The interest for Gotlandic goes back to the 17th century, and many wordlists have been compiled over the years and also other mateial has been put together at verios points in time.


The most wellknown wordbook is Gotländsk Ordbok and Ordbok över Laumålet på Gotland.


Gotländsk Ordbok compiled from material going back to the 17th century. It was completed in the 1940ies.


Ordbok över Laumålet på Gotland is bsed on the language spoken on the southeastern part of Gotland and was completed during the 1970ies and 80ies.


Both of the works are real goldmines for anyone who wants to study Gotlandic. It is also of great  value for etnographic, etnologic, history and studies of culture and Gotland in past times.


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Last updated: 06/07/04.