Swedish (svenska) is a North Germanic language (also called Scandinavian languages) spoken predominantly in Sweden and in part of Finland, especially along the coast and on the Åland islands, by more than nine million people. It is mutually intelligible with two of the other Scandinavian languages, Danish and Norwegian. Standard Swedish is the national language that evolved from the Central Swedish dialects in the 19th century and was well-established by the beginning of the 20th century. While distinct regional varieties descended from the older rural dialects still exist, the spoken and written language is uniform and standardized, with a 99% literacy rate among adults. Some of the genuine dialects differ considerably from the standard language in grammar and vocabulary and are not always mutually intelligible with Standard Swedish. These dialects are confined to rural areas and are usually spoken by small numbers of people with low social mobility. Though not facing imminent extinction, such dialects have been in decline during the past century, despite the fact that they are well researched and their use is often encouraged by local authorities.
Swedish is distinguished by its prosody, which differs considerably between varieties. It includes both lexical stress and tonal qualities. The language has a comparatively large vowel inventory, with nine separate vowels that are distinguished by quantity and to some degree quality, making up a total of 17 vowel phonemes. Swedish is also notable for the voiceless dorso-palatal velar fricative, a sound found in many dialects, including the more prestigious forms of the standard language. Though similar to other sounds with distinct labial qualities, it has so far not been found in any other language.