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Minority Languages

Three of the five national minority languages, Sami, Finnish and Meänkieli, are territorially linked languages. These languages have a long tradition and are historically associated with certain geographical areas of Sweden. This is why these languages are more strongly protected than the other recognized minority languages such as Yiddish or Romani Chib.

In these areas, place-names can be multilingual. One location can therefore simultaneously, have a Finnish, a Sami and a Swedish place-name. As far as possible, these names are presented in public maps and in our place-name register.

A Swedish name, in these areas, is often a Swedish form of a Finnish or Sami name. Meänkieli differs slightly from the Finnish language spoken in Finland. This difference is considered when place-names are established.

Sami place-names are mostly found in the mountain areas. Since Sami exists in four varieties, names are written differently in the north, middle and south mountain areas of Sweden.

In our products, we map out the following languages:

  • Swedish 
  • Finnish
  • Meänkieli
  • Northern Sami
  • Lulesami
  • Umesami
  • South Sami

Minority Language Legislation

In 1999, the Riksdag approved the ratification of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (the Framework Convention) and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (the Minority Languages Charter). The protection of these rights and the right to use minority languages in private and public contexts are an integral part of the international protection for human rights. The recognition of the minority languages also acknowledges that these languages are part of Sweden’s intangible cultural heritage. In 2010 the specific minority language legislation has been revised and protection has been strengthened.

Administrative areas

The minority language legislation applies to certain municipalities in Norrbotten, called administrative areas, and entitles individuals to use Sami, Finnish and Meänkieli in their dealings with administrative agencies and courts.

The national language policy states that everyone is entitled to a language, and emphasizes the right to use and develop one’s own minority language. The Institute for Language and Folklore is the government agency responsible for language cultivation as regards Finnish and Meänkieli. The Sameting (Sami Parliament) is in charge of language cultivation for Sami. Lantmäteriet’s responsibility is that minority language place-names are written in a valid orthography, and used officially in public maps, on road signs etc.

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