I would like to take the opportunity to ask you, the reader, if you in any language know this word saud, which in Gutnish means well (water well). It exsisted also in Old gutnish but to my knowledge have no equivalent in the other scandinavian languages. The gutnish word is masculine.

There is a seyðr in Faroese but it means sheep so I have difficult to find a common nominator there.

It could have something in common with finnish or baltic languages or perhaps slavic languages. Another possibility is of course a borrowing from greek or latin.

Some suggestions anyone?



The diphtongs

I mentioned in the beginning the diphtongs in Old Gutnish which are ai, au, and oy. Well, the same goes for Modern Gutnish. It hasn´t changed. But we have some more diphtongs nowadays. In Old Gutnish we have the long vowels e, i, o, u, and y which in some words changed into a diphtong. The same trend has been seen in a few more scandinavian dialects or languages. Maybe the closest language to Gutnish in this regard is Faroese. In Gutnish this process could have started maybe in the 15th or 16th century, or probably not later than the 17th century.

In our language and in these cases e turned into an ei-sound  (as in a in English later) and spelled é, the i has about the same sound, just a smaller difference and is written í or ei. The Old Gutnish o is about the same sound as in English bow and is no written as ó. The u is now written as ú or eu and pronounced like an eu-dipthong, and y has become ý.





stain (stone)

bain (bone/leg/foot)

mair (more)



auge (eye)

laus (loose)

haugr (high)

laug (leaf)



koyre (to drive)

oy (island)

foyr (scared)



lét (easy/light)

lére (to learn)



ís (ice)

meil (mile)



kó (cow)

rós (rose)

hól (hollow)



úglo (owl)

heus (house)

beur (cage)



kýk (kitchen)


As in all languages there is a difference between what you see in writing and what you say. It´s just that the old written languages of the world is now fully accepted and taken for granted. So it is not with most lesser used languages.

The Gutnish language is old. No doubt about it. But for the last 400 years it has only been a spoken language. Well, with some exceptions of course. From the 17th century we have a few wordlists, in the 18th century the same, but also sentences and a couple of “grammaticas” and a few poems. From the 19th century we have the large work and collection of the two brothers Säve who spent decades in pursuit of collecting as much as they could about the Gutnish language and culture. From this time we also have a more scientific litterature concerning Gutnish. Also at this time newspapers started to be printed in Gotland and even though they were in Swedish, they sometimes printed articles on the language or about the language.

A gutnish orthography

Discussions about how to write Gutnish has been alive since the days of the Säve brothers in the 19th century. They made great efforts to collect the language as it was spoken around the country and in the villages.

Both were gutnish and Carl Säve, the younger brother born in 1812, would later become the first professor in Sweden in scandinavian languages. He of course specialised in Gutnish.

In the 1970´s the first concrete suggestion to a gutnish orthography was presented by Gertmar Arvidsson from Sproge in Gotland. This orthography did not gain any ground and seems not to have been used since then.

In the late 80´s the gutnish cultural profile and musician Bert Alvengren from Habdum in Gotland initiated the best and most suitable orthography this far for the gutnish language. This orthography was used and supported by an association promoting gutnish culture and language called Propago.

After a decade or so this association rewrote it all and started afresh with an entirely new spelling system that began with an adjusted alphabet, where several letters were changed and adapted to the language itself.

After another decade the members more or less split and started to work on their own. I am one of them.

In 2006 another association (called Gutamålsgillet in Swedish) promoting the gutnish language came out with some recommendations for the spelling of the gotlandic language. Though it wasn´t an orthography per se, it had rules for spelling even if the rules were quite loose.

In 2011 Bert Alvengren as mentioned before published a new orthography that was used in a book called ´ABC-bok på gutniska´ (a swedish title). This orthography is based on the last work and orthography that Propago worked with, but still radically rewritten.

In 2012 another linguistic association called Malsaudin presented its spelling system on It is a project I to a lesser part have been supporting since it is basically based on the Propago norm that too. I use this orthography even if I too have used another one before.

The last 100 years

Until the second world war the language was quite alive all over Gotland. Though it started to loose speakers especially in the north, first close to the only town, Visby. The south of Gotland has always been strong when it comes to the strength of the language.

Even in the 50´s and 60´s there were a lote of Gutnish speakers. The 70´s saw somewhat of a revival of the language and in the 80´s the situation was still stable. Though the signs were visible in the 90´s it was not until shift of the millenia that we saw the heavy decline of Gutnish as a spoken and used language.

When this stage has been reached other measures have to be taken. I believe that major efforts have to be put into making Gutnish into a proper written language.

The linguistic situation in Gotland today

The bitter truth, for the language at least, is that we have had a major influx of Swedish speaking immigrants the last 15 years. At the same time we have had a large emigration and also a generation shift especially when it comes to farming, which has always been the backbone of the Gutnish language.

I quickly made some calculations over how many Gutnish speaking persons there were in a random chosen parish in the south of Gotland. In 1995 there was about 12% of the entire population in that parish that spoke Gutnish as there everyday language. Some perhaps mixed it little bit more with Swedish, but in general all spoke Gutnish as the basic language and all had it as there mother tongue. Furthermore, there was probably around another 10% that had the language as there mother tongue and are able to speak but do not for some reason. Another 20% or so are brought up with the language and understand it fully (more or less). A lot of those probably can speak Gutnish fairly well. I will have to go over these numbers again, because it seems like 60% is an awful high number not to speak or understand Gutnish in 1995.

In 2013 I would say there is about 4-5% native speakers that use the language regulary. Though with these low numbers and also a lot of non gutnish people moving in it is more difficult to uphold your own language.



Not much info on Gutnish

No, there seem to be not so much information about Gutnish out there. Not much on the web and especially not in English. But most swedish sites are quite confusing too and a lot of people are misinformed.

There are some very good literature in Swedish, but the publications are mostly quite old.

Though there should be thousands of people that are brought up with the language. Either they spoke it themselves or people in there suroundings did. Gutnish people born in the 50’s or later also speak quite good English so it shouldn’t be such a big problem finding more information on the net directly from native speakers (in case anyone doubts my information ;-)).

Anyway, with this blog I hope to spread some basic information about the Gutnish language, both the Old and the more Modern one.