Jamska - the dictionary project

The language in Jamtland, called Jamska, is related to old Norse. With a completed dictionary comparative studies can be made with other Scandinavian dialects, or languages, such as Norwegian and Icelandic.

Context: The province of Jamtland is situated in northern Scandinavia, between latitude 62° to 65°, 450 km north of Stockholm and 100 km east of the Norwegian city Trondheim. Jamtland has an area of 39.600 km2 (Belgium 30.000 km2).

History in brief: Jamtland was conquered by Sweden during the 17th century. Before 1645 it belonged to Norway for almost 500 years. Previously Jamtland was an independent province, ruled by own laws. This explains the origin of our language, and also why we do not have Swedish as our first language. Jamtland has today around 120.000 inhabitants. The official language is Swedish, however at least 50.000 of the inhabitants still know the language Jamska, fewer still use it daily. The language Jamska has survived 350 years of Swedish attempts to extinguish it. It has survived mostly because the inhabitants have been bilingual. The language Jamska differs from Swedish in words, grammar and syntax. (The difference can be compared to the difference between Swedish and Norwegian)

Aims: The aims, in brief, are to extract all known words from printed or handwritten manuscripts, from the 18th century up to 1999, and register them in a database. The database will also be augmented with present day field studies made in present time to collect new words, and also to confirm older examples. Around 70.000 words are known in at least 68 written manuscripts or printings. Jamska consists of 8 different dialects and this explains the volume of words. The first step is aimed at compiling a smaller word list of the words most often used today, and, ultimately a complete dictionary. The database will supply both a Jamsk-Swedish and a Swedish-Jamsk edition. Further on, also a Jamsk-English and an English-Jamsk version is planned for the Internet.

Justification: Today there is no complete dictionary covering the language Jamska in Jamtland. Those who speak the language are diminishing in number. The most serious problem is that so few children today speak the language. Schools in Jamtland are, and have always been Swedish, which means they are completely mono-linguistic. Our language has never been recognized but rather oppressed. We were forbidden to use our language in school! We consequently became bilingual.
The need for making a complete documentation of our language is very urgent. Without a dictionary we can not produce any educational material.

Anticipated results: Saving the old Norse language Jamska, by making a complete register in a database. The first step will result in a plain, popular word list of todays most commonly used words. The next step is to make a full dictionary using modern computer techniques, such as CD-rom, as well as a printed dictionary.
The project will also improve and increase our regional identity.

  • Comments, suggestions and questions are welcome!

    New article about the project, financed by EU. Only in Swedish.

    Older article from local press. Only in Swedish

    Latest update: 18/03/2000

    Mail to Bo Oscarsson  
    bo.oscarsson@telia.com (home)

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