Center for the Study of Language and Society (CSLS)

Center for the Study of Language and Society

Multiethnolects and The Founder Principle – The dominance of Romani and Turkish loans in Low Stockholmian

Mittwoch, 11.03.2020, 16:15 Uhr

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Veranstaltende: Forum Language and Society
Redner, Rednerin: Nathan Young, Stockholm University
Datum: 11.03.2020
Uhrzeit: 16:15 - 17:45 Uhr
Ort: F-123
Lerchenweg 36
3012 Bern
Merkmale: Öffentlich

This paper showcases and unpacks the overwhelming presence of Romani and Turkish loans in Stockholm’s multiethnolect, referred to here as Low Stockholmian to deliberately beg the continuity between the city’s historical working-class variety and the radical inflow of new lexical material during the post-War labor-migration epoch.

Data come from a corpus of contemporary Swedish hip hop containing over 390 000 words from 816 songs produced by 154 artists. Although only one artist is of Romani heritage and only one artist is of (half-)Turkish heritage, the slang words with the highest dispersal – that is, used by the most artists – are from Romani and Turkish. This is likely explained by the high number of Swedish Romani that populated Södermalm, the district where the variety first emerged. It is also likely explained by the high number of Turks in Rinkeby, the district where Stockholm’s multiethnolect first emerged (Kotsinas, 1988).

The talk will give additional focus to one unique loanword, the masculine first-person honorific pronoun benim, exemplified in (1).




















‘My niner is mean.’

(Ibbe, 2018, time 1:03)


[benim: from Turkish benim; latch: from Swedish Romani lattjo]



A loan from Turkish, benim indexes self-aggrandizing masculinity. It is exceptional for two reasons. Functional words are rarely borrowed into a superstrate, and we have yet to see a similar occurrence in other European multiethnolects (man in MLE is the closest resemblance; Cheshire, 2013). Further, this is the second time such a pronoun has circulated in Low Stockholmian. At the turn of the 20th century, the Romani loan mandrom, exemplified in (2), served a nearly identical socio-indexical purpose.














promiscuous woman






‘That’s my girl!’

(Koch, 1916, p. 98)


[mandrom: from Swedish Romani mandertjejja: from Swedish Romani chej]


These findings invoke Mufwene’s (1996) Founder Principle, which states that “structural features of creoles have been predetermined to a large extent by characteristics of the vernaculars spoken by the populations that founded the colonies in which they developed” (p. 84). Of course, in the context of contemporary Stockholm, we are witnessing koinéization rather than creolization, but the principle nonetheless provides us with (1) a helpful theoretical framework within which to understand these phenomena and (2) theoretical impetus to turn and ask whether the same is true of the contemporary linguistic phenomena in other European cities.



Cheshire, J. (2013). Grammaticalisation in social context: The emergence of a new English pronoun. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 17(5), 608-633.

Ibbe (2018). Verse 1 in Joel Fungz, Ibbe, Chris o Fada, Michel Dida & Ille FreeWay (collaborators) Nia Remix [Niner Remix] [music video]. Retrieved from (0:37–1:13).

Koch, M. (1916). Guds vackra värld: En historia om rätt och orätt. Del 3 [God’s beautiful world: A history about right and wrong. Part 3]. Stockholm: Albert Bonnier.

Kotsinas, U.-B. (1988b). Rinkebysvenska - en dialekt? [Rinkeby Swedish – a dialect?]. In P. Linell, V. Adelswärd, T. Nilsson, & P. A. Petersson (Eds.), Svenskans beskrivning 16 [The description of Swedish 16] (Vol. 1, pp. 264–278). Linköping: Tema Kommunikation.

Mufwene, S. S. (1996). The founder principle in creole genesis. Diachronica, 13(1), 83-134.