Swedish forms the language group Continental Scandinavian Languages together with the (normally) mutually intelligible languages Danish and Norwegian. The grammar and lexicon of these languages were heavily influenced by Low German during the time of the Hanseatic League. Swedish is co-official with Finnish in Finland, where 5.5% of the population are native speakers of Swedish. Also non-native speakers are offered Swedish lessons in Finnish schools, and studied to at least a basic level by most.

Southern Min

Min Nan Chinese is a dialect group of Chinese languages, which can further be divided into several subdialects: Hokkien, spoken by many communities in southern Fujian and Taiwan, as well as in Chinese communities in Southeast Asia; Teochew, which is also found in southern Fujian and forming the majority of Chinese speakers in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand; and Hainanese, traditionally spoken on the island of Hainan, but also in Singapore. The varieties of Min Nan don’t enjoy official status in any of the places where they are spoken, and Standard Mandarin is the official language for most of its speakers (in China, Taiwan, and Singapore). In the last decades however, the status of Hokkien has been raised in Taiwan, and can now be studied at schools on the island. There are several ways of writing Min Nan. It can be written using Chinese characters. New characters are developed for the many words and morphemes in Min Nan that are not reflected in the common Chinese character set. Another way is romanization, where POJ, developed by Christian missionaries in the 19th century, should be the most spread one. Another Romanization system used officially in Taiwan since 2006, Tâi-Lô, is based on POJ. A third method is mixing these systems by using Chinese characters for those words that have an established character, and use romanization for the rest of the words. This method is called Hàn-Lô.


The 1920s was a dynamic time: Turkey was created out of the remainders of the Ottoman Empire, and Ottoman Turkish was quickly and thoroughly transformed into modern Turkish. Whereas Ottoman Turkish was written with the Arabic script, a new modified version of the Latin alphabet was invented for modern Turkish. The vocabulary which heavily rested on Arabic and Persian loanwords was partly exchanged. When possible, Turkic words used by the uneducated classes would be raised to standard, but a special language committe also developed a big number of neologisms, mostly from older Turkic words, like uçak (airplane) from the verb uçmak (to fly). Turkish is an agglutinative language. Endings are ‘glued’ onto the root. A phrase like ‘in my houses’ will be translated with one word: evlerimde where ev means ‘house’, -ler is the plural ending, -im is the equivalent of ‘my’, and -de is the locative ending. Since Turkish uses vowel harmony, the vowels in these endings might change depending on the vowels in the root.


Czech is closely related to Slovak, and the languages are (normally) mutually intelligible. As can be examplified by the many diacritics in the languages sample below, the idea behind the Czech orthography is one sound - one letter (with the exception of ch which stands for the phoneme /x/). One of these letters, ř, stands for a sound unique to Czech - a raised alveolar non-sonorant trill. In Czech, r and l can be syllabic - popularly illustrated with the phrase strč prst skrz krk (stick a finger through your throat), entirely without vowels.


Latin was the language of Latium, a small area surrounding the city of Rome, before it was spread with the Roman Empire to big parts of southern Europe, and later developed into what would be called the Romance languages, including Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, French, Italian and Romanian. Latin continued, even after having developed in the new Romance language, to be used by the Catholic church, and was also used as the scientific language in most of Europe far into the 18th century. The scientific names for flowers and animals are still in Latin, and much new terminology in scientific fields are based on Latin.


Burmese script is an adaption of the Mon script which derives from the Indian Brahmi scripts. Burmese has been written for at least 1000 years. Since the written language has been rather conservative in its nature, whereas the spoken language has developed naturally, a diglossia has developed (cfr. the situation for Tamil, Persian or Arabic). This means that the written form of Burmese don’t always mirror the pronunciation of the spoken form, also some particles of written Burmese are no longer used in the spoken standard. Proposals to modernize the script and adapt it to the spoken standard have not been popular, though, possibly because many dialects of Burmese exhibit conservative traits that are closer to the written standard. The majority of Burmese words are native monosyllabic words, but the language also exhibits a number of loanwords, especially from Pali, English and Mon. Similar to neighboring languages, like Tibetan, Mandarin and Thai, Burmese is a tonal language. It differs between high tone, low tone, creaky voice and stop tone. One problem that might occur when writing Burmese in the digital age is that several popular fonts used to write Burmese are not Unicode-compliant, and a text might look different depending on the font used. The original text of the fable below is downloadable as a pdf with the correct output.


German is by far the biggest native language in the European Union, and also a very popular second language in the region. German has also been one of the main scientific languages. The standard language has developed from High German, i.e. the varities spoken in the southern parts of the language area, and has now almost replaced the northern Low German. The medieval High German has an offspring in Yiddish. Unlike the other major Germanic languages (like English, Dutch, Swedish, and Danish), German has kept a four-case and a three-gender system for nouns. Typical for German orthography is the capitalization of nouns (cfr. below).


Gilaki belongs, together with Mazandarani, to the Caspian languages. Those are Iranian languages spoken at the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, north of the Alborz mountain range. Even though Gilaki and Persian belong to different branches of the Iranian languages, they belong to the same cultural zone, where Persian is the dominant player, and Persian has therefore had a great influence on Gilaki, and many words have been borrowed. The verbs and the verb system has been very resistant to this influence, though. Gilaki has traditionally been a spoken a language, and only during the last decades, there have been attempts at standardizing a written form of the language.


Despite being spoken natively in almost only one country, Japanese is one of the biggest languages in the world. It is the the dominant language of the Japonic language family, which also includes the Ryukyuan languages spoken on the southern islands of Japan. Researchers have connected the Japonic languages with other language families, but all claims remain controversial. Special to written Japanese is the mix of writing systems. In addition to the Chinese characters (kanji), used for both native words and Chinese loanwords, Japanese makes use of two parallel syllabaries (hiragana and katakana). Hiragana is normally used for native Japanese words, while katakana for (historically more recent) foreign loanwords. The text of the fable below shows only kanji and hiragana being used.


Russian is by far the biggest native language in the Slavic language group. Having been the main language for inter-ethnic communication in the Soviet Union and its sphere of influence in Eastern Europe and parts of Asia, Russian is also spoken by many non-native speakers. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, many Russian-speaking Jews emigrated to Israel, making it one of the major languages there. Typical for Slavic languages is that most phonemes have two allophones, one of which is palatalized (i.e. it is pronounced with a slight y-sound). Vowels in Russian can be pronounced quite differently if they are stressed or unstressed. Also very typical for Russian are the consonant clusters; Russian allows heavier clusters than most other languages, like встрет- (vstret-) ‘meet’ or чёрств- (čërstv-) ‘stale’. The Russian vocabulary mostly relies on a native stock, but there are also many loanwords from Latin, Greek and other major Europan language, like in most of the European languages. However, Russian has also extended its vocabulary by borrowing words from Old Church Slavonic, the classic Slavic language. An example can be seen in the native Russian word for ‘city’, gorod (as in Novgorod) vs. the borrowed word grad (as in Volgograd). Russian has also absorbed some words from Turkic languages.


Korean is considered a language isolate by many researchers, i.e. it has no known relatives. Others group it together with Japanese, Turkish, Mongolian and other languages in the proposed Altaic family, but the existence of such a language family is disputed. Like many languages in East Asia, Korean has been influenced by Chinese and used to be written with Chinese characters, which are still used marginally. However, the main writing system for Korean is Hangul, which was developed in 1443. Hangul is an alphabet, where the design of the consonants is based on their place of articulation. Also vowels follow a logic scheme. Syllables are grouped together and can be read in blocks.


“Kurdish” is a macro-language that can be divided into three dialect or sub-language groups: Northern, with e.g. Kurmancî and Badînanî; Central, with e.g. Soranî and Mukrî; and Southern, with e.g. Feylî, Lekî and Kirmaşahî. Kurdish has, because of the political situation, neither been official nor taught in schools in most of the language area. The lack of official standardization has led to a very wide spectre of dialects, even within the dialect groups. In later times, however, the Soranî dialect (native to Silêmanî, IQ) has been recognized as the official variety of Kurdish in Iraq, whereas the Kurmancî dialect of Diyarbakır, TR, has developed into the major literary language of the northern group.


When we say ‘Chinese’, we normally refer to the biggest Chinese language, also known as Mandarin. Whereas most Chinese consider all Chinese languages dialects of one language - where (the Beijing variety of) Mandarin Chinese is considered the standard one, many linguists prefer to divide Chinese into several languages, like Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka, Min Nan etc. Mandarin also forms the pattern for the Chinese written language which is used also by speakers of other different languages. Mandarin is one of the most phonologically simplified varieties of Chinese. This is mirrored by the fact that Mandarin has more polysyllabic than most other varieties (Shanghainese has more). Like all Sinitic languages, Mandarin is a tonal languages and has four tones, illustrated by the accents on the vowels in the pinyin transcription below.


Even though Thai, also known as Siamese or Central Thai, is spoken all over Thailand, only a third of the population speaks it as their native language. Most of the others speak related languages, like Northern Thai, Southern Thai and Isan (Northeastern Thai). Many speakers would classify them as dialects of the same language. Thai is mutually intelligible with Lao, the official language of Laos, but not related to any other major language in the area. Thai is a tonal languages, featuring five different tones. The Thai script is derived from the Khmer script, which has developed from Indian scripts. The oldest remains in Thai script are from the late 13th century. The current spelling was developed when Thai featured less tones, but more consonants. This has created a complex spelling.


Estonian is closely related to Finnish, and the languages are to some extent mutually intelligible. Specific for Estonian in a Finno-Ugric context is the lack of vowel harmony. Estonian also features three different vowel lengths: short, half-long and long, although only two lengths are distinguished in the orthography. The same goes for consonants, where the three lengths of stops are distinguished in writing: b/p/pp, d/t/tt, and g/k/kk. All the stops are voiceless unaspirated.


Danish differs from its sister languages Norwegian and Swedish through its phonology whose most prominent feature is probably the stød (‘push’), a prosodic feature sometimes realized as a glottal stop, sometimes more like a creaky voice. Due to its immediate vicinity to the West Germanic language area, Danish is the one of the Scandinavian languages that was the most influenced by the Low German of the Hanseatic League during medieval times. Nowadays, Danish is a mandatory subject at schools on the Faroe Islands and Greenland (both parts of the Kingdom of Denmark), and on Iceland.


Norwegian is sometimes mistakenly considered a macrolanguage for the forms Bokmål and Nynorsk. These language forms should however rather be seen as two alternative forms of writing the multifaceted Norwegian language, known for its many dialects. Bokmål, which is the dominant form of written Norwegian, has its roots in Danish which was the model for writing Norwegian during its 400 years of Danish domination, but has been adapted to Norwegian phonology. Nynorsk was invented during the 19th century by Ivar Aasen, a linguist who traveled around in Norway, recording the different Norwegian dialects, creating a new written language based on a compromise between the dialects. Most Norwegians will however use their native dialect when speaking to other Norwegians.


French belongs to the Romance languages, with other words it is a daughter language of Latin and a sister language to e.g. Spanish and Portuguese. The area where French is spoken was inhabited by the Gauls, a Celtic people, which to a great extent underwent language change to the form of Latin that was going to evolve as French. Not without leaving vocabulary traces behind. Later, the Germanic tribe of the Franks invaded the area, and even if also they changed their language, they had an influence on the language in terms of vocabulary, morphology and syntax. French developed from the dialects spoken in the north of what is now France, and spread from there. In 1634, Académie Française, an institution for the French language, was founded. In this period, French was the language of the European nobility, and you can still find lots of French loanwords in other European language, especially in culturally refined domains.


The written Standard for Croatian is based on the Štokavian dialect, just like for Serbian, Bosnian and Montenegrin. Croatian is however made up by two other characteristic dialects; Kajkavian, spoken in the north of Croatia, in and around Zagreb, and Čakavian, spoken in the coastal areas. The different names were derivated from the word for ‘what’ in these different dialects: što, kaj and ča. Another thing that makes Croatian special, when compared with Serbian and Bosnian, is a strong tradition of word coinage instead of word borrowing for new phenomena. For instance, the word for ‘geography’ is zemljopis (from zemlja ‘Earth’ + opis ‘description’) in Croatian, and geografija in Serbian and Bosnian.