Kalix dialect

Pronunciation [kjœɭɪsˈmɔːɭɛ]
Native to Sweden
Region Kalix Municipality
Native speakers
5,000–10,000 (date missing)
Kalix alphabet (Latin script)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog None

Kalix (kjœɭɪsmɔːɭɛ / kölismåle[1]) is a divergent Swedish dialect spoken in the Kalix Municipality along with Sami, Finnish, Meänkieli and the national standard language Swedish. Like other Scandinavian languages, the Kalix dialect originates in Proto-Norse and dialects of Old Norse, spoken by immigrating Germanic settlers during the Viking Age. It has three grammatical genders, two plural forms of indefinite nouns, and broad usage of definite nouns. Nouns are also inflected differently in dative and accusative case, and there are three forms of expressing genitive. Most verbs are conjugated differently in singular and plural, while most adjectives are not. Some adjectives can though be serially joined with nouns and some have two plural forms. A pleonastic article is also always used before people's and pet's names.[2]


While Sami cultures have been present around Kalix for several thousand years, the Kalix dialect is a development from Germanic speaking settlers, arriving along the coast of the Scandinavian peninsula. The Kalix river is called 'Gáláseatnu' in the Northern Sami language and "kölis" in Kalix (spelled "Chalis" by Olaus Magnus in 1539). The name similarity strongly suggests that it is of Sami origin, and that the first arriving Germanic speaking settlers thus were in contact with Sami people, already present in the area.

Germanic settlement

Different theories exist as of how exactly the Kalix river valley came to be settled by Germanic speakers. Related Germanic language is also spoken further to the southeast, with areas with mainly Finnic speakers in between. This suggests movement along both sides of the Bothnian Bay, and a relatively peaceful relationship between the three different groups, Germanic, Sami and Finnic, long before all of them fell under state control.

The Germanic settlers spoke a north dialectal development of Proto-Norse, related to, but not equal to the Old Norse spoken by Vikings many hundred kilometers down the Scandinavian coast. Old Norse is rather well preserved in runestones and later also in a Bible translation. But few runic inscriptions have been found north of Svealand, and none at all in what is now the counties of Västerbotten and Norrbotten. This suggests that the farming settlers finally reaching Kalix had little or no contact with Vikings during the Viking age, and most probably already by then had developed different linguistic features, some of which are still preserved in the modern Kalix dialect.


Christianity came to the relatively non-organized and free Germanic settlers, who until then might have been practising variants of Norse mythology. The magnificent Kalix stone church has been dated to the mid-15th century, but it probably had a wooden building as predecessor. The area must anyway have had a substantial population by that time to fill the church. This population probably spoke an early form of the Kalix dialect. Priests began registering all family relationships in the villages, and since this new era we have better knowledge of the local history, also from preserved documents and maps used for taxation. Colonization escalated under the Swedish Empire.

Modern history

The Swedish school came to Kalix in the 1850s, with the goal of teaching everyone to read, write, speak and understand standard Swedish with its grammar. This was a rather peaceful language education, but in the early 1930s parents were told to speak standard Swedish to their children. This idea has been proved to be wrong by later research in multilingualism. However, it had a huge influence on many small societies like Kalix. The same standardization of language took place in many parts of Sweden.


The oldest preserved manuscripts in the Kalix dialect is an 1879 description of the area,[3] a text which is used as a measurement of genuinity. The Kalix dialect was first described by a thesis work[2] by Hulda Rutberg, starting the year 1908 and ventilated at Uppsala University in 1924. The book contains many words and an extensive description of phonology and grammar. The language is also covered in later documentation,[4] and by many recordings from the 1960s.[5] The work of communities such as Föreningen Kalix Bygdemål, founded 1992, has kept collecting words and expressions to an extensive word lexicon,[1][6] and is still active today. Recent projects have made the general public more aware and interested, where young people in Kalix e.g. present the dialec ton the Internet.[7]

Geographic relation to Uralic languages

Kalix is the easternmost river valley traditionally completely settled by Germanic-language speakers, while the nearby Tornio river valley was settled by Finnic language Meänkieli speakers, evidently arriving along the coastline from the southeast. A sharp language border is found between the villages Säivis and Sangis, where the latter traditionally uses the Kalix dialect. To the north, the Northern Sami language has been spoken. So the Kalix dialect has traditionally been literally surrounded by Uralic languages, which has had remarkably few influences.

Germanic dialect continuum

The Kalix dialect is part of a Germanic and Nordic dialect continuum on the Scandinavian Peninsula, and more locally along the coastline of the Bothnian Bay. The Kalix dialect is very much related to nearby languages/dialects westwards and southwards Råneå, Luleå, Piteå, Skellefteå, Umeå northwards Overkalix etc., basically mutually intelligible with the Kalix dialect as they all are part of a broader Westrobothnian dialect continuum. The Overkalix dialect differs mainly in a few vocal shifts, and the reason why the two areas has developed distinct characteristics is believed to be that the Kalix river makes a geographic formation near the villages Morjärv and Övermorjärv, which has led to a small communication barrier. Eastwards there are several dialects spoken in the archipelago in Finland, especially in Ostrobothnia, which has obvious similarities with the Kalix dialect, making it evident that people have moved in both directions along the coast of the Bothnian bay. Grammatical similarities can also be found as far away as in Troms, at the north border of Scandinavia, not present in standard Swedish nor Norwegian bokmål, which proves Germanic contact by foot between the two coasts. The pleonastic[2] determined article, a "he" or "she" always put before people's names, is a good example.[8]


The Kalix dialect has, according to Rutberg,[2] 18 vowel monophtongs, 10 vowel diphthongs, and 29 consonants. It is also identified by its very common diacritic accent, where a vowel is repeated and stressed twice. Many vowels can be represented by distinct IPA characters, some of which are listed in the table below:

IPA Ex.IPA Ex.Latin Translation
i iːln i:ln the fire
ɪ hɪn hin here
y snyːn sny:n the snow
ʏ ʏvɪ yvi over
e ve:r ve:r weather
ɛ mɛstɛ meste almost
æ ʝæɾ jär is (singular)
ø røː rö: red (singular)
œ now
ʉ hʉl hul was going to
ʊ ʝʊ jo yes/well
a anar anar another
ɑ lɑːk la:k long
ɒ kɒm kom came
ɔ gɔːɳ gå:rn the yard


The Kalix dialect has an extensive inflection, with many characteristics similar to the German language.

Noun gender

Three grammatical genders exist:

Basically, words that in their definite form end with an "n" are masculine, an "e" is neuter, and all vowel except "e" are feminine.

General ending for words following the nouns are in feminine "-ar", masculine "-en", neuter "-e" or "-t", and plural "-er". Ex.

Definite and indefinite nouns

The definite noun form is used in a broader sense than in other Scandinavian languages, widespread in all dialects spoken in northern Scandinavia.[9] Some examples: "je skå nå:åp i gröut ve bera" – I'll pick some (the)berries, "kunin jåra ät som kåran" – (the)women are not like (the)men. Definiteviness can be divided into four categories depending on the noun's plural form. Examples of usage with the feminine word "i fLa:ask" (a bottle / a flask):

For masculine nouns, the four forms are e.g. "in bi:l" (a car) "to bi:il" (two cars) "naer bi:lo" (some cars), "mytji bi:lan" (many cars), and "bi:lan" (the cars). Neuter definitive plural ending is "-a". Non-enumerative words e.g. "i höus" (a house), "i gåLv" (a floor) are exceptions lacking the "-o" form.


Dative is separated from the Accusative and Nominative case, e.g. feminine: "Din jär SkåoLa, je siti ini skå:oLn" (there is the school, I am sitting in the school), masculine: "je sei tjälarn, he lik na ini tjälaro" (I see the basement, it's something in the basement).

Several forms of Genitive cases exists, e.g. "Je ha ons Enok bi:l" (I have Enok's car), "je fick bre:ve än Anna" (I got Anna's letter), "kLåk:a gran:o" (The neighbor’s clock).


Verbs are conjugated in singular and plural, unlike modern standard Swedish: "hån jär" (he is) but "di jåra" (they are), "hö löut se" (she leans herself) but "di lö:ut se" (they lean themselves), "je far" (I go) but "we fåra" (we go), "je vil" (I want) but "di vili" (they want). But there are irregular verbs which does not differ, e.g. "je liot fåra" (I have to go) / "we liot fåra" (we have to go).


Most Adjectives are equal in singular and plural, similar to English but distinct from many other Scandinavian languages, e.g.: "dö:rn jär ipi" (the door is open) and "doran jåra ipi" (the doors are open), "bå:ne jär vötchin" (the child is awake) and "bå:na jåra vötchin" (the children are awake), "do jär wälkymin heit" (she is welcome here) and "di jåra wälkymin heit" (they are welcome here).

Other adjectives differs in singular and plural, and have two plural forms, e.g. "flaska jär rö:" (the flask is red), "rö:a flasko, so jåra rö:ö" (red flasks, that are red).

Adjectives can also be joined with nouns, e.g. "råLkafötren" (dirty feet), or serially joined, e.g. "lilvåckerstäinta" (the little beautiful girl).

Pleonastic article

The pleonastic article is widespread among languages in the area, as far north as Troms.[8] A "he" / "him" or "she" / "her" is always put before people's names, pet's names, and words like e.g. father and mother. e.g. "on far å na måor" (mom and dad). The pleonastic article differs in many aspects, by both grammatical gender and case, e.g. "en Erik dji matn åt o Lars" (Eric gives food to Lars), "a Brit skå tåLa ve en Anna" (Brit will talk to Anna).

Writing systems, orthography

In early scientific literature, a phonetic alphabet landsmålsalfabetet (LMA), developed by Johan August Lundell was used to write Kalix dialect, while the most widely used informal form of writing is based on the Latin alphabet with a few added symbols (Kalix variant), including letters å, ä, ö, capitalized L or bolded l, apostrophe ´ or colon : for marking long or diacritic accents, etc.[1] Since no formal standard has been developed, slight differences can be found among different writers. Recent language projects have used the Kalix Alphabet,[10] a simplified form of the IPA, compatible with modern Internet technology, making pronunciation more accurate. The community has not yet agreed on an official writing standard. While early scientific LMA writing is the most accurate system for dwelling into Scandinavian language phonetics, it has been used as a reference for the development of an IPA-based script.


  1. 1 2 3 ÅOLLEIST OPA KÖLISMÅLE, Föreningen Kalix Bygdemål.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Folkmålet i Nederkalix och Töre socknar av Hulda Rutberg, 1924, (174 pages)
  3. KALIXforskarNYTT, no.3-2002, Kalixbygdens Forskarförening
  4. Dahlstedt & Ågren, Övre Norrlands bygdemål: berättelser på bygdemål med förklaringar och en dialektöversikt, utg. av Vetenskapliga biblioteket i Umeå 1954
  5. Institutet för språk och folkminnen
  6. Kalixmålet, sådant det talades på 1990-talet, Föreningen Kalix Bygdemål.
  7. The Kalix Language .org – An online Kalix language course that includes lessons covering pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar.
  8. 1 2 An introduction to Norwegian dialects, Olaf Husby (red), Tapir Akademic Press, Trondheim 2008
  9. Dahl, Östen (2010). Grammaticalization in the North: Noun Phrase Morphosyntax in Scandinavian Vernaculars. Stockholm: Institutionen för lingvistik vid Stockholms universitet. ISBN 978-91-978304-1-6. Retrieved 2011-04-10.
  10. The Kalix Alphabet
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