A comparison of the use of relativization in the Swedish regional dialects spoken in Burträsk and Ström  

Anders Eriksson, Fredrik Karlsson2 & Kirk P. H. Sullivan2

2 Dept. of Philosophy and Linguistics, Umeå University

Contribution to a conference Methods in Dialectology XI


The aim of the present study was to compare the use of relativizers in two Swedish dialects. The presentation above focused primarily on the differences between the two studied dialects, but to put the differences into perspective we must acknowledge that there are, of course, also many basic similarities. Speakers of both dialects only use the complementizer som in relative constructions. No examples of the use of constructions using a wh-word, such as vars or vilken/vilket were found in the data provided by any of the eight informants. This is in contrast to the situation found in Standard Swedish (as well as its neighbouring Germanic languages German, Dutch, English, Icelandic, Faeroese, Danish and Norwegian) where occurrences of a wh-word as a relative marker have been observed. Both dialects use realised relativizers more than unrealised ones and subject relativizers are more common than object relativizers.

But given these general similarities, there are also many quite striking, and rather unexpected, differences. When the use of relativizers is studied in closer detail, the dialects turn out to differ in all comparisons made. The Ström dialect speakers use relativisers to a greater extent. They also use three of the four the different types more frequently. One type, however, the unrealised subject relativizer, common in Old Swedish but no longer used in most dialects is still used in the Burträsk dialect, albeit not frequently, but is hardly found at all in Ström (only a single occurrence). Although both dialects use subjects relativizers more frequently than objects relativisers, the proportions of subject vs. object relativizers used differ significantly between the two dialects.

The most surprising finding, however, is perhaps the fact that none of the differences between the two dialects may be attributed to the age or gender of the speakers. Nor has the study revealed any intra-dialect differences with respect to age or gender. The conclusion that may be drawn from this finding is that the use of relativisers is extremely stable in both dialects and no change over time is apparent at least from the data analysed here. Given the rapid change in dialects in many other respects this finding is quite surprising.

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