What Is Gutnish? Where Is Gutnish Spoken? Why Learn Gutnish?

Written by Dyami Millarson

Gutnish (pronounced GOOT-nish) is not a single language, but a language family, which means a group of related languages descended from a common ancestor. Gutnish, which consists of Lau Gutnish and Fårö Gutnish, is namely descended from Old Gutnish, which was spoken between the 10th and 16th centuries and belongs to neither East Scandinavian nor West Scandinavian but forms its own branch of North Germanic. Old Norse split off into three branches: Old West Norse, Old East Norse, and Old Gutnish. The Gutnish language family is indigenous to mainland Gotland (57.4684° N, 18.4867° E) and the isle of Fårö (57.9442° N, 19.1425° E), which are both located in the Baltic Sea and are administered by Sweden since the 17th century. Rauks, which is a term loaned from Gutnish for natural rock formations found on Gotland and Fårö, are powerful cultural and linguistic symbols of the Gutnish world.

The continued existence of Gutnish is a boon to natural conservation efforts. The 19th-century Gutnish brothers Pehr Arvid Säve and Carl Fredrik Säve, who are the personifications of the positive interrelationship between nature conservation and Gutnish conservation, have shown us the way to contribute to Gotland’s environment. It is no exaggeration to say that Gutnish is an indispensable part of the ecosystem of Gotland. The speakers of the Gutnish languages have a special connection with the natural environment through their languages, and the decline of Gutnish would therefore be a negative for natural conservation. Influenced by de små undar jårdi the little ones under the earth which are the nature spirits of Gotland akin to those of Schiermonnikoog and Wangerooge, Gutnish people traditionally treat nature with profound respect. This inclination towards environmental conservation based on respect for the ancient forces of nature fostered by the Gutnish languages extends to historic buildings: natural, linguistic, and architectural conservation go hand in hand. 

Table of Contents

Gutnish as a Language Family

A language family is a group of related languages descended from a common ancestor. Gutnish is descended from Old Gutnish, which is one of the three branches of Old Norse. Namely, Old Norse split off into Old West Norse, Old East Norse, and Old Gutnish. Gutnish as a modern language family consists of Lau Gutnish and Fårö Gutnish. Lau Gutnish is spoken on mainland Gotland which is a large island located in the Baltic Sea, hence Lau Gutnish may also be called Mainland Gutnish. Fårö Gutnish is spoken on the isle of Fårö, hence it may also be called Insular Gutnish. Speakers of Lau Gutnish can be found in Lau and När on mainland Gotland.

Gotland and Fårö

Gotland has been inhabited since the 8th millenium BCE (see here). Gotland and Fårö are located in the Baltic Sea. The coordinates of Gotland are 57.4684° N, 18.4867° E and those of Fårö are 57.9442° N, 19.1425° E. Gotland has often been brought in connection with the Goths and this has led to the belief that Gotland is the original homeland of the Goths. Foreign visitors were strictly not allowed on Fårö until the 90s. Gotland and Fårö were conquered by Sweden in the 17th century. Får means sheep in Swedish and ö means island in Swedish. Swedes may therefore be tempted to interpret Fårö as “Sheep Island.” This is analogous to the original meaning of the Faroe Islands, which comes from Færøyjar/Færeyjar in Old Norse, which actually means “Sheep Islands.” However, it happens that Fårö is unlike the Faroe Islands in that Fårö actually comes from fara to travel and øy/ey island in Old Norse, which implies that Fårö actually means “Travel Island.” It was perceived as some kind of stop apparently and therefore thus named.

Linguistic Discrimination Against Gutnish

Gutnish is still being called a Swedish dialect, which is a sign of Swedish linguistic supremacism. Lau Gutnish and Fårö Gutnish, which Gutnish is comprised of, are called Swedish dialects as well. The use of the term “dialect” for describing Gutnish has everything to do with the belief that languages possess distinct characteristics or qualities, so as to make them inferior or superior to one another. Calling Gutnish a dialect is nothing but discrimination, and cannot be defended. Dialect is a discriminatory and derogatory term.

Languages such as Lau Gutnish and Fårö Gutnish are equal. I can try to sugarcoat it and avoid trendy-sounding terms such as supremacism and discrimination, but for lack of better and more timeless and neutral-sounding words, the essence is really this: looking at indigenous languages of Sweden through the lens of Swedish linguistic supremacism entirely misses the point of the equal value of all the indigenous languages. I am not attacking the value of the Swedish language and culture: I can speak Swedish and I believe it is fine and normal that Swedish folks take pride in their own language and culture, but just not at the expense of others, whether wittingly or unwittingly, as asserting a linguistic sense of Swedish supremacy or domination over others is neither fine nor just.

Linguistic supremacism is not unique to Swedes including Swedish linguists, though, and I do not randomly toss the concept of supremacism around while I do not like using such strong terms, but as an apolitical bystander who has a strong innate sense of conscience and empathy, I notice indigenous languages and cultures being treated extremely unfairly and it seems a very serious problem to me when people look down on indigenous languages and cultures; those indigenous language and cultures are treated as second-class even though they have been around for a very long time in their own places of origin, which are now part of the nation where they are treated as second-class. Furthermore, it should not be overlooked that not just Swedes engage in Swedish linguistic supremacism, but there are also international enablers, particularly institutions, who help the Swedes institutionalise the discrimination against indigenous languages of Sweden.

By making an unfair and prejudicial distinction between languages, one cannot truly appreciate and respect their true value and beauty, and hence people influenced by Swedish linguistic supremacist ideas cannot truly appreciate and respect the existence of Lau and Fårö Gutnish, which is why they keep ridiculing it and calling it dialects or any other term which has the same effect. It is not a laughing matter. The defamation of Gutnish seriously has to stop, and the same goes for other indigenous languages of Sweden.

I hope that my work can make a difference for improving the situation of indigenous languages and cultures, because the people, to whom these languages and cultures belong, deserve love and respect. All humans ultimately want to be understood, accepted, and recognised. This is why I strive to understand the stories of languages and cultures, accept and be accepted by the speakers of these indigenous languages, and recognise the value of these languages and cultures in the context of the past (history), the present, and the future.

Summary: 

Lau Gutnish and Fårö Gutnish are not Swedish dialects.

Dialect is a derogatory and discriminatory term.

"Swedish dialect" is a term that reeks of Swedish linguistic supremacism.

Calling something a "dialect" or the like is based on nothing but a belief that there are inferior and superior languages.

Gutnish Self-Identification

It ought to be obvious by now that Lau Gutnish as well as Fårö Gutnish is not the same language as Swedish. But what to make of the similarities between Lau Gutnish and Fårö Gutnish? Based on the similarities between Lau Gutnish and Fårö Gutnish, one might be tempted to argue that Lau Gutnish and Fårö Gutnish are dialects of Gutnish. However, the same applies as mentioned in the section above which talked about linguistic discrimination: dialect is a discriminatory concept and it is a derogatory term that should not be used at all. It is therefore strongly recommended that we do not describe Lau Gutnish and Fårö Gutnish as dialects of Gutnish. Instead, we should use the following respectful description: Lau Gutnish and Fårö Gutnish are languages, and Gutnish is a language family. How we call Lau Gutnish and Fårö Gutnish makes a real difference; classifying things properly is a moral issue certainly in this case. Furthermore, it is imperative we respect indigenous identities when we talk about indigenous languages and cultures and therefore we should take self-identification into account: Fårö Gutnish speakers and Lau Gutnish speakers see themselves as distinct. A Lau Gutnish speaker believes he speaks Lau language (Laumål) and a Fårö Gutnish speaker believes he speaks Fårö language (Fårömål), which means they identify as distinct entities.

In addition, a Lau Gutnish speaker can identify a Fårö Gutnish speaker based on pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar and vice versa. Lau Gutnish speakers and Fårö Gutnish speakers really know who is who. To an outsider, the differences might seem insignificant and the outsider might not be able to distinguish Lau Gitnish and Fårö Gutnish as it sounds the same to him. But who is he to judge? Because to the natives, the differences are big enough to warrant distinct categories: Lau Gutnish and Fårö Gutnish. This phenomenon is comparable to the distinction between Afrikaans (Cape Dutch) and Dutch, Serbian and Croatian, and East Terschelling Frisian and West Terschelling Frisian. An outsider might not be able to appreciate the differences between Afrikaans and Dutch, West Terschelling Frisian and East Terschelling Frisian, and Serbian and Croatian, because they are related languages which might seem the same at first glance, but it takes insider knowledge, as I have learned from my studies of so many Frisian languages, to truly appreciate the differences. Dutch and Afrikaans speakers know that Afrikaans and Dutch are not the same language, West Terschelling Frisians and East Terschelling Frisians know East and West Terschelling Frisian are not the same languages, and Serbians and Croatians also strongly believe there is no such thing as Serbo-Croatian. It is no different with Lau Gutnish and Fårö Gutnish. Pretending there are, for instance, no nuances rendering Dutch and Afrikaans distinct is culturally and linguistically insensitive. We should make an effort to respect languages and cultures by trying to appreciate the nuances. Even if Lau Gutnish and Fårö Gutnish are clearly related as can be gleaned from the sections on pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar in this article, nuances render them distinct.

Gutnish or Gotlandic?

Swedes may make a distinction between Gutniska and Gotländska. They say the former is the “genuine dialect” and the latter the “Swedish dialect.” They are trying to say that the situation is similar as with Scottish: some people speak genuine Scottish and others speak Scottish English (English with Scottish substrate). I would just say that there is Gutnish/Gotlandic and there is Gutnish/Gotlandic Swedish (i.e., Swedish with Gutnish/Gotlandic substrate). I see, therefore, no reason to differentiate between the words Gutnish and Gotlandic, which seems rather foolish to me, while they both mean the same thing, namely “belonging to Gotland.” To me, it seems much better to add the word “Swedish” after Gutnish/Gotlandic to denote the language which is Swedish with Gutnish substrate, while Gutnish/Gotlandic, after which the word Swedish is absent, is simply what the people of Gotland originally spoke before strongly mixing it with Swedish, the result of which is the aforementioned Gutnish/Gotlandic Swedish.

Lau Gutnish Pronunciation

My information on the pronunciation of Lau Gutnish is based on page XVIII of the first volume of Ordbok över laumålet på Gotland (see the resources section below) which shows an overview in Landmålsalfabetet and the spelling recommendations of the Gutnish Language Guild (Gutamålsgillet in Swedish). My insights on the retroflex consonants and syllabic sonorants are based on Adolf Noreen’s Fårömålets Ljudlära (see the resources section).

Lau Gutnish monophthongs (pure vowels) can be short and long.

Lau Gutnish has the following short vowels: a /a/, ä /ɛ/, i /i/, u /u/, y /y/, å /ɔ/, ö /œ/.

Lau Gutnish has the following long vowels: a /aː/, e /eː/, ä /ɛː/, i /iː/, y /yː/, å /ɔː/, ö /øː ~ œː/.

The pronunciation of long ö is r-dependent:

  • Ö is pronounced /œː/ before r;
  • Ö is pronounced /øː/ when not followed by the r.

Lau Gutnish has the following falling diphthongs: au /au/, ai /ai/, äi /ɛi/, äu /ɛu/, ei /ei/, u /ʉu/, öi /œi/, åi /ɔi/, åu /ɔu/.

Lau Gutnish has no rising diphthongs.

Lau Gutnish has the following “triphthongs”: jau /jau/, jäu /jɛu/.

Traditionally, the long e and the diphthong ei are distinct. However, in contrast to the elder pronunciation, the e is merged with the ei in the younger pronunciation.

Lau Gutnish has the following single consonants: b /b/, p /p/, t /t/, d /d/, k /k/, g /g/, n /n/, m /m/, ŋ /ŋ/ f /f/, v /v/, s /s/, h /h/, j /j/, l /l/, r /r/.

I have heard in recordings that the Lau Gutnish r is a strong alveolar trill.

The sonorant n /n/ may be used as a syllabic consonant.

The consonant cluster sj is pronounced as a single consonant, namely the voiceless postalveolar sibilant fricative /ʃ/.

Lau Gutnish consonants can be geminated like in other North Germanic languages.

The following geminate consonants exist in Lau Gutnish: ck /kː/, gg /gː/, tt /tː/, nn /nː/, mm /mː/, rr /rː/, ll /lː/, ss /sː/.

Geminate consonants in Lau Gutnish may occur between vowels or at the end of words. Geminate consonants do not occur at the beginning of Lau Gutnish words. Geminate v does not exist in Lau Gutnish.

Examples of Lau Gutnish words with geminate consonants are: nackä, ägg, vattn, hännä, såmmar, vörr, ällar, uss. 

The consonant clusters gj, kj, skj, stj, tj are pronounced as /gj kj skj stj tj/, which is the same as the Old Gutnish pronunciation.

In contrast to Gutnish, gj, kj, skj, stj and tj are pronounced as single consonants in Swedish.  There are only three words with word-initial kj in Swedish: kjol, kjusa, and kjortel. The Swedish kj is pronounced as /ɕ/. 

The consonant clusters rt, rd, rs, rl are pronounced as retroflex consonants. The retroflex rn does not exist anymore (see Lau Gutnish Sound Evolution).

Fårö Gutnish Pronunciation

My information on Fårö Gutnish pronunciation is based on the 19th-century work of Adolf Noreen titled Fårömålets ljudlära (see the resources section).

The 19th-century Fårö Gutnish vowels are as follows: i /i/, e /e ~ ɪ/, ä /ɛ ~ æ/, a /a/, å /ɔ/, y /y/, œ /œ/, ø /ø/, o /ʊ/, u /u/.

Fårö Gutnish e is pronounced /ɪ/ in unaccented syllables.

The realisation of the near-open front vowel /æ/ is r-dependent: when the ä is followed by the r, it is realised as /æ/, but when the r is absent, ä is realised as /ɛ/.

19th-century Fårö Gutnish has the following falling diphthongs: ai /ai̯/, äi /ɛi̯/, åy /ɔy̯/, öy /œy̯/, au /au̯/, äu /ɛu̯/, ei /ei̯ ~ eɪ̯/, øy /øy̯ ~ øɪ̯/, åu /ɔu̯/.

Elder people in the 19th century may pronounce øy and ei as /øɪ̯/ and /eɪ̯/ respectively.

The following are 19th-century Fårö Gutnish “triphthongs”: jau /au̯/, jäu /jɛu̯/.

The following consonants exist in 19th-century Fårö Gutnish: p /p/, b /b/, t /t/, d /d/, k /k ~ c/, g /g ~ ɟ/, s /s/, f /f/, v /v/, m /m/, n /n/, ŋ /ŋ/, j /j/ r /ɽ ~ ɽ̊/.

The nasal velar /ŋ/ is often followed by /g n/ but it is possible for other consonants as well to follow the nasal velar /ŋ/. The nasal velar never occurs at the beginning of words.

Examples of the nasal velar in Fårö Gutnish include: tiŋg, vaŋn, laŋt. 

The r may be pronounced voiceless between a short vowel and one of the voiceless plosives /t k/.

The Fårö Gutnish r is a supradental r-sound or supradental tremulant; supradental is the same category as retroflex consonants belong to in the 19th-century phonology book, and tremulant is simply a fancy way of saying r-sound. The r, when it is positioned between a short vowel and k or t, is said to be toneless (original Swedish: tonlöst), i.e. spirantic  (original Swedish: spirantiskt), which can only mean voiceless in modern IPA terminology. The r is described as being produced in the same manner as an r (Swedish: bildas på samma ställe som rsp. r) , but hardly vibrating (föga vibrerande in Swedish). The former part of the description corresponds to the r-sound category (r-ljud in Swedish), but the latter part, which is also reminiscent of the Swedish r realised as an  alveolar tap/flap /ɾ/, corresponds to the manner of articulation I would expected  for the r in the supradental category; namely, the description matches the retroflex tap/flap /ɽ/ with the voiceless variant /ɽ̊/ in modern IPA (or maybe the retroflex approximant /ɻ ~ ɻ̊/), also because (1) it is a retroflex r-sound I know in IPA to alternate between voiced and voiceless besides the retroflex approximant /ɻ ~ ɻ̊/ which occurs in Faroese, and (2) it is not described as an alveolar trill but as hardly vibrated, which probably means a tap/flap while a tap/flap still sounds vibrating-like while an approximant does not at all sound vibrating and I would thus expected the Swedish original to say "inte vibrerande" rather than "föga vibrerande" if it were an approximant; the Fårö Gutnish r is said in Swedish to be produced like (Swedish: bildas...som) an r and so it might be important that the retroflex tap/flap sufficiently matches the Swedish understanding of the r-sound in that this retroflex sound is a tap/flap, therefore realised as an r and hardly vibrating, like the Swedish r-sound, and (3) the r must be retroflex while it is important to note that (3.a) it is not categorised as alveolar like the /d t s l n/ but is categorised as supradental like the retroflex consonants /ɖ ʈ ʂ ɭ ɳ/, (3.b) the retroflex tap/flap sounds more like the alveolar trill of Lau Gutnish than the retroflex approximant does and while the retroflex r-sound may be expected to come from an alveolar trill originally, it makes sense for it to be rather a tap/flap than an approximant and for the same reason, I suspect the Swedish r in retroflex consonant cluster must originally also have been a retroflex flap/tap before it was lost entirely, and (3.c) the Fårö Gutnish r is retained in retroflex consonant clusters unlike in Swedish and it does not assimilate with other retroflex consonants when in a consonant cluster with them as in the word tårst, indicating it is already retroflex. 

The sonorants /r l n/ may be syllabic.

The g and k in kj, skj and gj are pronounced as palatal plosives: /cj scj ɟj/.

Tj is pronounced as an affricate /t͡ç/. However, stj is pronounced /stj/.

Sj is pronounced as a postalveolar sibilant /ʃ/.

The consonants after the r in the clusters rn, rs, rl, rd, rt are pronounced as retroflexes.

Gutnish Spelling

The way I spell Gutnish in this article is based entirely on the spelling employed in Ordbok över laumålet på Gotland (see the resources section below), which practically means I largely follow the spelling recommendations of the Gutnish Language Guild (see here or here).

I use the symbol ŋ instead of the cluster ng for /ŋ/ exactly like Ordbok över laumålet på Gotland.

Geminate consonants are spelled double.

The geminate k is spelled as ck like in Swedish, not as kk like in modern spellings of Old Norse.

Long and short vowels are not distinguished in the spelling. So no macron, acute accent or double vowels are used to indicate long vowels.

I have seen the Gutnish falling diphthong /ɔi/ being spelled as oy or oi based on the Old Gutnish spelling of oy. However, I spell this diphthong as åi in this article.

I have seen the historical Gutnish triphthong /jau̯/ being spelled iau like in Old Gutnish. I spell it as jau in this article, however.

The sound which is spelled as u in Gutnish corresponds to what Scandinavians might perceive as the “European” u, namely the close back vowel /u/.

Lau Gutnish Sound Evolution

Old Gutnish and Modern Gutnish show interesting similarities in terms of pronunciation, which clearly demonstrates that Lau Gutnish and Fårö Gutnish are modern continuations of Old Gutnish. Lau Gutnish and Fårö Gutnish traditionally has the falling dipthongs ai /aɪ/ and åi /ɔɪ/, which correspond to Old West Norse falling diphthongs ei and ey /øy̯/. Lau Gutnish and Fårö Gutnish inherited these diphthongs from Old Gutnish, where they were spelled as ai and oy. The Old Gutnish sounds would, however, have sounded more similar to Old West Norse ei and ey than the Modern Gutnish equivalents.

Old West Norse had three falling diphthongs: au, ei, and ey. The corresponding Old Gutnish diphthongs were au, ai, and oy. The Old East Norse au, ei, and øy, which correspond to the aforementioned Old West Norse and Old Gutnish falling diphthongs, became monophthongised into ō, ē, and ø̄ in Old Swedish, which correspond to the long monophthong o /ʊː/, diphthong e /ɪə̯/, and long monophthong ö /œː/ in Modern Swedish.

Lau Gutnish and Fårö Gutnish have inherited the triphthong jau /jau/ from Old Gutnish, where it was iau. The Old/Modern Gutnish jau/iau corresponds to Old West Norse .

Modern Gutnish and Old Gutnish also show interesting differences, which demonstrate that the evolution of Gutnish has not stood still.

The Old Gutnish long ī and ū have developed into äi and äu in Modern Gutnish. This Gutnish diphthongisation is similar to the development in Dutch, where the Germanic long ī and ū have developed into /ɛi̯/ and /œy̯/. This makes Gutnish täid and täun, which come from Old Gutnish tīd and tūn, sound very similar to Dutch tijd /tɛi̯t/ and tuin /tœy̯n/, which come from Old Dutch tīd and tūn.

The Gutnish r is frequently lost before the n: ban and hånn stand for barn and hårn.

Lau Gutnish Vocabulary

The following are examples of Lau Gutnish words:

  • U and
  • Sum which, who
  • Jär is
  • Pa on
  • Äi in
  • Nai no
  • Ja yes; I
  • Int not
  • Dä(r) there
  • Ti to (added to infinitives)
  • now
  • Åftä often
  • Vaim who
  • Äld fire
  • Jård earth
  • Vattn water
  • Nattäur nature
  • Rauk rauk, sea stack
  • Ljaus or jaus light
  • Kväldevening
  • Såmmar summer
  • Vintar winter
  • Blåumå or blåmmå flower
  • Aik oak
  • Fäugäl bird, fowl
  • Svalå swallow
  • Äikånn squirrel
  • Svan swan
  • Mjäl flour
  • Fröisä to freeze
  • Säugä to suck
  • Mjälk milk
  • Ägg egg
  • Mjöid mead
  • Bråur brother
  • Fräu wife
  • Ban child
  • Systar sister
  • Man man
  • Järtä heart
  • Nagäl nail
  • Har hair
  • Nackä or nack’ neck
  • Bain leg, bone
  • Jännä brain(s) 
  • Njaurä kidney
  • Naväl belly button, navel
  • Hånn horn
  • Täid time
  • Väg road, way
  • Täun farmyard
  • Ård word
  • Aid oath
  • Namn name
  • Dail part
  • Häus house
  • Uk yoke
  • Mjaukar soft
  • Mair mer
  • Mästä most
  • Fa to get
  • Svarä to answer
  • Ljaud sound
  • Läsä to read
  • Fallä to fall
  • Gaist ghost 
  • Jaul Christmas
  • Milljåun million

Fårö Gutnish Vocabulary

  • U and
  • Ällar or
  • Sam or sum (still used circa 1850) which, who
  • Neir when
  • Inte not
  • Dar there
  • Jer is; here
  • Nai no
  • Jåu yes
  • now
  • Äi in
  • Pa on
  • Yttur after
  • with
  • För for
  • Vaim who
  • Saul sun
  • Äld fire
  • Jård earth
  • Tjeile ground frost 
  • Snåy snow
  • Äis ice
  • Stjärna star
  • Skåug forest
  • Trei tree
  • Håuks’l Swedish whitebeamSorbus intermedia
  • Bjärg mountain
  • Sjåu sea
  • Järn iron
  • Gull gold
  • Stain stone
  • Värd world
  • Seumar summer
  • Kväld evening
  • Mårgun morning 
  • Dag day
  • Natt night
  • Vädur weather
  • Skäur shower
  • Räŋn rain
  • Bjauda to offer
  • Säla to sell
  • Håyra to hear
  • Släuta to close
  • Vita to know
  • Sita to sit
  • Ligga to lie
  • Sätta to place
  • Suŋna to fall asleep
  • Räkjna to count
  • Skjauta to shoot
  • Jeiga to hunt
  • Säi to see
  • Fylga to follow
  • Tjeina to serve
  • Jälpa to help
  • Svära to answer
  • Halda to hold
  • Säuga to suck
  • Dricka to drink
  • Säupa to drink alcoholbooze 
  • Jeita to eat
  • Släuka to swallowgobble
  • Siŋga to sing
  • Tjuta to howl
  • Fa to get
  • Stjeila to steal
  • Liva to live
  • Dåy to die
  • Syva to sleep
  • Duŋna go numb 
  • Målka to milk
  • Lamb sheep
  • Gait goat
  • Buk male goatbuck
  • Djaur animal
  • Fäul bird, fowl
  • Arn eagle 
  • Kau cow
  • Äikårne squirrel
  • Häst horse
  • Russ steed
  • Katt cat
  • Sväin pig, swine
  • Läus louse
  • Uxe ox
  • Hårn horn
  • Fjeidur feather
  • Häus house
  • Tjält tent
  • Väg road, way
  • Täun farmyard
  • Bat boat
  • Vaŋn wagon
  • Jaul wheel; Christmas 
  • Tjeirå tar
  • Kvärn mill
  • Akur farm field
  • Tjaudur rope for cattletether
  • Aŋn baitchaff
  • Spägul mirror
  • Kamb comb
  • Tjau thiefcrooked, lower part of a scythe
  • Keuna woman
  • Fräu wife; lady
  • Källiŋg(?) wife
  • Stjaubarn stepchild
  • Auga or ava eye
  • Näuk enoughsufficient
  • Kaldur cold
  • Tambur tame
  • Gammal old
  • Fuldur full
  • Havur high
  • Lagur low
  • Tjåk thickfat 
  • Geul yellow
  • Mair more
  • Slöygur skilledcrafty
  • Snäldur kind
  • Gåur good
  • Djaupur deep
  • Sjaukur sick
  • Mjälk milk
  • Kårn grain
  • Mjeil flour
  • Kytt meat 
  • Brøy bread
  • Tårst thirst
  • Svämn sleep
  • Järne or järn’ brain(s)
  • Har hair
  • Bain leg, bone
  • Wamb rumen
  • Nagul nail
  • Järta heart
  • Hand hand
  • Njaure kidney
  • Lyŋn lie
  • Knäul lumpbumptuber

Lau Gutnish Grammar

Lau Gutnish has three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter.

Masculine nouns in Lau Gutnish are: stain stone, äikånn squirrel, bråur brother, fäugäl bird, svan swan, täun farmyard, såmmar summer, navlä belly button, mjöid mead, nattäur nature, äld fire.

Feminine nouns in Lau Gutnish are: aik oak, fräu wife, blomå flower, systar sister, mjälk milk, jård earth, rauk rauk.

Neuter nouns in Lau Gutnish are: bain leg, ban child, ård word, uk yoke, hånn horn, namn name, mjäl flour.

Lau Gutnish has two numbers: singular and plural.

The Lau Gutnish plural usually ends in -ar. Neuter nouns often end in nothing, which is called zero ending in grammar. The Lau Gutnish nouns sometimes have an irregular plural with an umlaut.

The Lau Gutnish regular ar-plurals are: stainar stones, aikar oaks, äikånnar squirrels, fräuar wives, fäuglar birds, svanar swans, svalår swallows, blommår flowers, systrar sisters, täunar farmyardsmilljåunar millions.

Lau Gutnish zero ending plurals are: bain bones, uk yokes, ban children.

Lau Gutnish umlauted plurals are: männar men, bröidrar brothers.

The masculine, feminine and neuter forms of a/an (indefinite article) and one (cardinal number) in Lau Gutnish are en, ain and ätt.

Personal pronouns in Lau Gutnish have a subject (nominative) and object form. The object form is used both for the direct object (accusative) and indirect object (dative).

The subject forms of the Lau Gutnish personal pronouns are: ja I, däu thou, han he, (h)a she, de it, vöir, vör(r) or vår(r) we, er you or ye, di they.

Lau Gutnish er corresponds to the Old West Norse ᛁᛦ (éʀ) and Old East Norse ᛁᛦ (īʀ). Swedish originally had i, which it inherited from Old Swedish ī(r). However, people  say ni nowadays in Swedish. 

The object forms of the Lau Gutnish personal pronouns are: mi me, di thee, hännä or hänn’ her, uss us, er you, daim them

Some personal pronouns have a genetive form: hännäs her, of hers.

Minn or min is the masculine singular of my, main is the feminine singular, mitt is the neuter singular, mainä or main’ is the plural.

Lau Gutnish nouns still have a genitive. The genitive of man is mans.

Lau Gutnish has a definite singular and plural like other North Germanic languages.

The definite singular of man, ård and mjälk is mann’n, årdä and mjälki.

Adjectives in Gutnish have masculine, feminine, and neuter forms in the singular yet no gender distinction in the plural. For example, the masculine singular of soft, pliable is mjaukar, the feminine singular mjauk, the neuter singular mjaukt, and the plural mjaukä or mjauk’. Thus, mjaukar stain pliable stone, mjauk aik pliable oak, mjaukt bain pliable bone, mjaukä stainar pliable stones.

Adjectives in Lau Gutnish have the following degrees of comparison: positive, comparative and superlative forms.

Mjaukar, mjauk, mjaukt, mjaukä and mjauk’ are all forms that are examples of the positive degree. The comparative of mjaukar is mjaukarä and the superlative is mjaukastä

The masculine singular of the superlative of mjaukar is mjaukastä or mjaukast’, the feminine singular is mjaukast’, the neuter is mjaukastä or mjaukast’,and the plural is mjaukastä or mjaukast’. It works the same way with mästä most.

The basic form of the Gutnish verb is the infinitive. The Lau Gutnish infinitive usually ends in . The infinitive ending is often dropped and if that is the case, an apostrophe is written where the infinitive ending is expected.

Examples of the Lau Gutnish infinitive: (h)a to have, varä, var’ or va to be, jälpä/jälp’ to help, etc.

The Lau Gutnish verb has two tenses: present and preterite.

The present of the verb varä, var’ or va to be is conjugated as follows: ja jär I am, däu jäst thou art, han jär he is, vöir är we are, etc.

Jäst as in däu jäst is a very interesting form. Analogues of jäst exist in other North Germanic languages. Du äst thou art is an archaic form in Swedish, Swedes nowadays say du ärt instead. The Swedish form äst, which goes back to Old East Norse from which Old Swedish and Old Danish are descended, is related to Old West Norse est, which later became ert, which is now the standard form in Icelandic and Faroese. It is very interesting that the aforementioned modern descendants of Old West Norse and Old East Norse lost their cognate forms of jäst, yet the descendants of Old Gutnish have retained it. 

The present of the verb (h)a to have conjugated as follows: ja ha(r) I have, däu hart thou hast, han ha(r) he has, etc.

The preterite of the verb varä, var’ or va to be is conjugated as follows: ja var or va I was, däu varst or vast thou wert, han va(r) he was, etc.

The Lau Gutnish verb has a supine. The Gutnish supine is used in constructions with an auxiliary verb.

The supine of the verb varä, var’ or va to be is vart been, which is used with the auxiliary verb “to have” in order to express perfect tenses.

Lau Gutnish verbs have an imperative form.

The imperative of the verb varä, var’ or va to be is cobjugated as follows: va(r)! be!

A passive form of the verb can be constructed in Lau Gutnish with the suffix -s.

Jälpäs to be helped and jagnäs to be hunted are examples of the passive.

Fårö Gutnish Grammar

Not a whole lot of grammar is extant in Adolf Noreen’s work on contemporary 19th-century Fårö Gutnish phonology, but it is sufficient for our purposes in this article. I will treat Fårö Futnish grammar in the same manner as Lau Gutnish grammar.

Only the personal pronouns in Fårö Gutnish still make a distinction between subject and object case forms. The old dative has merged with the accusative, so no distinction is made between indirect and direct object anymore.

The Fårö Gutnish subject forms of the personal pronouns are: ja I, däu or täu thou, han he, ha she, or it, vör we, (n)er you, di they.

The Fårö Gutnish object forms of the personal pronouns are: mi me, di thee, an him, eus us, daim them.

The Fårö Gutnish reflexive pronoun is si oneself.

The Fårö Gutnish infinitive usually ends in -a like in Old Gutnish.

The Fårö Gutnish verb has singular and plural forms.

Suffixes containing -r are used with the 1st person singular present: ja sär I say.

Suffixes without -r are used with the 1st person plural present: vör fa we get.

The 3rd person singular present has the suffixes -ur, -ar or -r: räidur rides, bläir becomes, gar goes, gir gives.

The Fårö Gutnish plural suffix for the 3rd person present tense is –å: jerå are, bitå bite, bläivå become.

The extant conjugation of the present tense of vära to be is as follows: däu jest thou art, han jer he is, di jerå they are.

The extant conjugation of the present tense of vära to be is as follows: däu varst thou wast/wert.

Vära may be used as an auxiliary verb with the past participle of some verbs to form perfect tenses: jer keume has come.

The suffix -s may be used to form the passive: råyras to be mixed.

The feminine-masculine distinction still exists in the singular of the possessive pronoun for my: masc. sing. minn and fem. sing. mäin.

The relative pronouns are at and sam/sum. The form sum was still in use circa 1850 CE.

Fårö Gutnish nouns have three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter.

Masculine Fårö Gutnish nouns are: bat boat, katt cat.

Neuter nouns are: tiŋg thing, gras grass.

The regular plural of nouns in Fårö Gutnish is formed with the suffix -ar: batar boats, uxar oxen.

The plural of neuter nouns in Fårö Gutnish may have zero ending: tiŋg things.

The plural forms in Fårö Gutnish may include umlaut: bröydur brothers, döytrar daughters, fädur fathers, röytur roots, händur hands, mörnar mornings, böyndur farmers.

Fårö Gutnish nouns have definite and indefinite forms.

Examples of Fårö Gutnish singular definite nouns are: jårde the earth, kata the cat, grase the grass, hästen the horse, täiden the time.

Examples of Fårö Gutnish plural definite nouns are: augån the eyes.

The only grammatical case that still occurs in Fårö Gutnish nouns is the genitive: mans a man’s, of a man.

Adjectives and possessive pronouns in Fårö Gutnish have masculine, feminine, and neuter forms in the singular.

The masculine singular positive of Fårö Gutnish adjectives usually ends in -ur: lagur low, havur high, slöygur skilled, djaupur deep, and teitur watertight.

Neuter singular adjectives end in -t: gut good, laŋt long.

Gammul is the feminine singular of gammal old.

The prefix åu- may be added to adjectives to denote non- or not: åuteitur non-watertight.

The Fårö Gutnish indefinite article, which is also used as cardinal number, has three genders: masculine ann a(n) or one, feminine ain or a(n) or one, and neuter ätt a(n) or one

Attested cardinal and ordinal numbers in Fårö Gutnish are: ann/ain/ätt one, fö(r)ste first, tröy three, fäira four, teiå or teiu ten, tint tenth, tålf twelve, tylt twelfth, trättan thirteen, fjäurtan fourteen, förte forty.

Gutnish Sentence Structure

Gutnish has a standard SVO word order.

An kaldur mai gir gåu grøyda. A cold May gives good fields.

The VSO word order is used in Gutnish for questions and when the predicate is preceded by any part of speech which is not the subject of the sentence: nouns, adjectives, personal pronouns in the object form, infinitives, adverbs, prepositional phrases, demonstrative pronouns.

Continental West Germanic languages frequently use SOV in clauses. Like other North Germanic languages, Gutnish does not employ SOV word order in clauses. Gutnish is actually like English in that sense, which just uses SVO in clauses.

When used with family members or loved ones, “my” is placed after the person: systar mäin my sister. However, when you add their name, you have to place “my” before the person: mäin systar Gretä my sister Greta.

The Gutnish word order is in most cases no different from that of Elfdalian, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic, and Faroese.

Old Gutnish Sample

Modern Gutnish derives glory and legitimacy from its ancestor Old Gutnish. Although Gutnish has changed since the time of Old Gutnish, it should be evident that the Modern Gutnish languages are the legitimate heirs and glorious continuations of Old Gutnish.

This is a sample of an Old Gutnish text taken from volume VII of the work Corpus iuris Sueo-Gotorum antiqui (1852):

Compared with Other Languages

The phonetic closeness of Gutnish to the most ancient Germanic languages in some cases is astounding: Gutnish stain stone, which comes from Old Gutnish stain, is much closer to Gothic ᛊᛏᚨᛁᚾᛊ (stains), Proto-Norse ᛊᛏᚨᛁᚾᚨᛉ (stainaʀ), and Proto-Germanic ᛊᛏᚨᛁᚾᚨᛉ (stainaz) than Swedish sten stone is to the latter forms. Gutnish has apparently preserved the Germanic ai.

The threeway gender distinction of the singular of the Lau Gutnish possessive pronoun min(n), main, mitt resembles the Elfdalian menn, mąi, mett.

The Lau Gutnish åi corresponds to the Faroese oy /ɔi(ː)/ both etymologically and phonetically. 

Lau Gutnish äu as in fräu wife actually sounds similar to Schiermonnikoog Frisian eeuw as in freeuw woman.

Interestingly, Lau Gutnish vattn, kväld and häus resemble Elfdalian wattn, kweld and aus more than Swedish vatten, kväll and hus.

The elder Lau Gutnish term for light is ljaus, for which an Old Gutnish form *ᛚᛁᚢᛋ (*liūs) /li̯uːs/ may be reconstructed. The loss of the /l/ before /j/ in Fårö Gutnish and younger Lau Gutnish jaus light matches:

  • Swedish and ljus /jʉːs/ light,
  • Norwegian ljus /juːs/ and lys light,
  • Danish lys light
  • younger East Terschelling Frisian jecht light,
  • West Terschelling jecht light,
  • Schiermonnikoog Frisian jiet light,
  • Middle Goesharde Frisian Jååcht light
  • Langenhorn Frisian jaacht light,
  • Ockholm Frisian jåcht light,
  • Hallig Frisian jaacht light,
  • Karrharde Frisian jåcht light,
  • Bökingharde Frisian jåcht light,
  • Horsbüll Frisian jaacht light,
  • Klanxbüll Frisian jaacht light

Contrast the above with: 

  • Elfdalian ᛚᛁᚢΦᛋ (liuos) light,
  • Norwegian ljos /ljuːs ~ ʎuːs/ light,
  • elder East Terschelling Frisian ljecht light,
  • Clay Frisian ljocht light,
  • Hindeloopen Frisian lócht light,
  • Molkwerum Frisian *lúcht (< weerluchtig) light,
  • South Corner Frisian <Joël Hut> löcht light,
  • (Classical) Sagelterland Frisian ᛚᚢᚺᛏ (luht) <Marron Curtis Fort: Lucht> or ᛚᛁᚪᚺᛏ (liạ̄ht ~ liāht) <Marron Curtis Fort: Ljoacht, Ljaacht> <Karl Freiherr von Richthofen: ljocht> <Theodor Siebs: ljacht as adjective in the sense of bright> <Montanus de Haan Hettema: ljocht> light,
  • Wangerooge Frisian ᛚᛁᚪᚺᛏ (liaht) <Heinrich Georg Ehrentraut: liachtlight,
  • Harlingerland Frisian ᛚᚪᚻᛏ (laht) <Cadovius-Müller: tlacht> light,
  • Wursten Frisian ᛚᛁᚪᚺᛏ (liaht) <Luderus Westing: liacht> <Dietrich Anton Witte: liacht> light,
  • Upgant Frisian *liaht light,
  • Karrharde Frisian ljåcht light
  • Wiedingharde Frisian ljaacht light,
  • Helgoland Frisian Leäch light,
  • Amrum Frisian laacht light,
  • Föhr Frisian laacht light,
  • Sylt Frisian Leecht light,
  • Early Middle Shire Frisian <Gysbert Japicx> ljuecht, ljucht, ljeacht, ljecht (< Dey-ljecht), ljocht light,
  • Late Middle Shire Frisian ljacht, ljocht and ljucht light,
  • Brecklum Frisian ljagd light,
  • Hattstedt Frisian liagd light,
  • Bargum Frisian ljâgd light,
  • Classical Ockholm Frisian <Moritz Momme Nissen> liagd light,
  • Classical Karrharde Frisian liagd light,
  • Classical Bökingharde Frisian <Bende Bendsen> Ljāgt <Moritz Momme Nissen> Liagd light,
  • Classical Wiedingharde Frisian liâgd light,
  • Classical Heligoland Frisian <Theodor Siebs> läć͜ht light,
  • Classical Amrum Frisian <Moritz Momme Nissen> lâgd light, <Johansen> lâcht light,
  • Classical Sylt Frisian lêght light,
  • East Frisia Saxon Lücht light,
  • Groningian licht light,
  • Dutch licht light,
  • Afrikaans lig light,
  • Scots licht light,
  • Luxembourgish Luucht light,
  • Swiss German Liecht light,
  • German Licht light,
  • Old West Norse ᛚᛁᚢᛋ (ljós) light,
  • Old East Norse ᛚᛁᚢᛋ (liūs) /li̯uːs/ light,
  • Old English ᛚᛖᚩᚻᛏ (lēoht) light,
  • Gothic ᛚᛁᚢᚺᛏ (liuht) (< ᛚᛁᚢᚺᛏᛃᚨᚾ liuhtjan) or ᛚᛁᚢᚺᚨᚦ (liuhaþ) light,
  • Latin lūx light,
  • Ancient Greek λευκός (leukós) white.

The following languages like Lau Gutnish which exhibit forms both with and without l before j: East Terschelling Frisian, the Wiedingharde Frisian languages, Karrharde Frisian, and Norwegian.

Gutnish Folklore

Nissn house elf, näck forest elf and havfräu merlady are beings of Gutnish folk tradition. 

 

De små undar jårdi (Earth Spirits), which literally means the small ones under the earth, are traditionally respected by speakers of Gutnish. The respect for these Elves positively influences the behaviour of speakers of Gutnish towards the local natural environment. De små undar jårdi, which are to be analysed as the Gutnish type of genius loci, are as central to the Gutnish folk philosophy as the Earth Spirits of the Shire Frisians, the Sea Spirits of the Wangerooge Frisians, and the Dune Spirits of the Schiermonnikoog Frisians. The Gutnish traditional relationship with nature is encapsulated in the concept of De små undar jårdi.

Gutnish Environment

Languages reflect the natural and human environment in which they developed.  Languages often develop words for peculiar phenomena and features of the environment. The intergenerational, seemingly timeless experience of the speakers is saved in a language. The intergenerational experience of speakers is saved in a language. A language is therefore the reflection of a culture’s soul.

There is a deep connection with the past in Gutnish, and this may be called the Gutnish ancestral experience. It is important to seek to understand the Gutnish ancestral experience; for the Gutnish ancestral experience is what is encoded in the languages and cultures of Gotland and Fårö. If we wish to know more about the Gutnish cultural soul, we need not look further than the raukar.

The raukar rauks, sea stacks are natural rock formations found on Gotland and Fårö. Since these stone formations are such an important part of the Gutnish experience, the Gutnish people developed a word for it. Raukar are icons of Gotland and Fårö. Raukar as indispensable aspects of the Gutnish experience are powerful symbols of the Gutnish linguistic and cultural landscape. The Gutnish term rauk has been adopted into Swedish and English. The number of raukar on Fårö is especially plentiful.

In conclusion, the Gutnish languages are spiritually connected with nature or nattäur as one would say in Lau Gutnish. The Gutnish languages deserve to be conserved as vital constituents of the natural environment and local landscape.

Why Learn Gutnish?

Learning Lau Gutnish and Fårö Gutnish gives you a unique connection with the rich history and geography of Gotland and Fårö. A big personal motivator for me to learn Lau Gutnish and Fårö is the reward of feeling connected with mainland Gotland and Fårö; learning Lau Gutnish and Fårö Gutnish is my way to connect with the raukar, which are the natural symbols of the Gutnish world. Learning Lau Gotland offers an indigenous perspective on mainland Gotland as does learning Fårö Gutnish offer an indigenous perspective on Fårö. Languages are connected with a perspective that is based on a lifestyle in a certain environment. So learning Lau Gutnish and Fårö Gutnish means learning new lifestyles alongside new perspectives. While I have now sufficiently elaborated on the geographical aspect, let’s delve deeper into the historical aspect. When one learns the modern descendants of Old Gutnish, one inevitably learns more about the linguistic history of Gutnish and one will find a deeper, even personal, connection with Old Gutnish. When one becomes a speaker of Lau Gutnish and/or Fårö Gutnish, one may find a healthy sense of pride in Old Gutnish, the linguistic history of Gutnish, and the fact that Old Gutnish belongs to a separate branch from Old East Norse and Old West Norse.

Gutnish Resources

The official website of the Gutnish Language Guild (Gutamålsgillet in Swedish) contains information about Gutnish and a Swedish-Gutnish and Gutnish-Swedish wordlist.

A 26-volume Swedish-Lau Gutnish dictionary is available here.

Adolf Noreen’s phonology of Fårö Gutnish, which uses Sweden’s phonetic alphabet which has the ill-chosen name of Landsmålsalfabetet (The Dialect Alphabet), is available here.

Volume VII of Corpus iuris Sueo-Gotorum antiqui, which contains Old Gutnish texts, is available here

Herbert Gustavson’s Gotlandic dictionary based on the collection of P.A. Säve is available here.

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14 comments

  1. Ya article hits home to me because I am from the Dominican Republic and I understand language supremacy I did not know that Sweden is also involved in the practice. Worldwide cultures of the indigenous types are under attack! From down under to the Andes and the Caribbean and now ya have opened many eyes to the travesty taking place in the far north! Living in America we forget about the rest of the world! It’s our curse as the beneficiaries of the freedoms we enjoy ☮️ keep working hard everyone 👌🏿

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you so much for your comment. 🤗 It is vital to raise awareness about the plight of indigenous languages and cultures around the world. 😇 You are right that indigenous languages and cultures are under attack. 😢 What Sweden is doing with Gutnish and other indigenous languages such as Elfdalian is absolutely unacceptable, and that is why the stories of the indigenous languages and cultures of Sweden really have to be told. 😟 I genuinely hope the world can be a better place where indigenous cultures and languages are not bullied. 🥺 Fortunately, what we can do to contribute to a better world is share indigenous stories and spread awareness. 🤗

      Liked by 1 person

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