Gutnish – ‘Old’ and ‘Modern’

Modern Gutnish is the native language of the Gotlandic people living on what some consider the mythological island of Gotland. It is Sweden’s largest island (3200sq km), and rests in the Baltic Sea off of Sweden’s southeast coast. Gutnish was both a spoken and written language until late medieval times. Today it exists as a spoken language,and though many of the Old Gutnish words are still used, to some degree it has become mixed with Swedish, Danish and German.

Whether the reasons are political, cultural or whatever they may be, it remains a highly controversial issue whether modern Gutnish is to be considered an independent language or a Scandinavian dialect. The Gotlanders are fiercely proud of their language and heritage and demand that their language be given the due recognition it deserves and be preserved for future generations. Unfortunately, so far the Swedish goverment has not officially recognized Gutnish as a language even though linguists have established that Old Gutnish, is indisputably a separate branch of the Old Norse language family. It has been unequivocally established that Old Gutnish shows sufficient differences from the Old East Norse dialect (also called Old Swedish or Old Danish) that is considered to be a separate language branch.

Today a somewhat modernized version of the Old Gutnish called Modern Gutnish is still spoken on the south-east parts of Gotland and on the island of Fårö which is just a few kilometers from Gotland’s northern coast. Gutnish exists in two variants, Mainland Gutnish an Faroymal on Fårö. The Faroymal is considered the more archaic of the two forms .The root Gut is identical to Goth, and it is often remarked that the language has similarities with the Gothic language. These similarities have led scholars such as Elias Wessén and Dietrich Hofmann to suggest that it is most closely related to Gothic.

Some features of Gutnish include the preservation of Old Norse diphthongs like ai in for instance stain, Swedish: sten, English stone and oy in for example doy, Swedish dö, English die. There is also a triphthong that exists in no other Norse languages: iau as in skiaute/skiauta, Swedish skjuta, English shoot.