Thanks to Denmark’s intriguing history, political power and influence, many years ago the Danish language had a strong influence on the Scandinavian languages. Even today it is considered a particularly important language in the Scandinavian languages. Danish is one of the official languages of the European Union and is a working language of the Nordic Council. Also, it forms part of the school system of all Scandinavian countries and it is actively learned in schools.
Facts and history of the Danish language
Classification and Early History
Danish is classified as part of the East Scandinavian branch of the North Germanic languages, which developed much more than other modern Scandinavian languages. In the past, almost all Scandinavian languages were similar, but Danish over time began to develop its own characteristics. In the period when the Vikings throughout Northern Europe spread the Old Norse language, they used the runic letter from the Danish language. The earliest records of Danish runic script date from about AD 250, and the first manuscripts were written in clear Danish dating from the 13th century.
Copenhagen: The Early Center of the Language
Copenhagen, up until the 14th century, was considered to be a major cultural and political city in Denmark.
The first printed books in the Danish language were made on the basis of standardized Danish of the royal office in Copenhagen. This way of writing was held in Denmark as a high standard, not based on any particular dialect. Because of this standard, many spoken forms of Danish in that period have been removed. According to the aristocracy at the time, there were some dialects that absolutely did not fulfill that standard and were even considered vulgar. As a result, a so called standardized version of Danish that corresponds to the written language was made for that purpose.
Differences from Other Nordic Languages
According to most linguists’, the common conclusion is that Danish has suffered more changes compared to any other Scandinavian language. Contacts with the hanseatic merchants in Middle Ages enriched Danish with many suffixes and prefixes from Low German. Due to a combination of male and female gender in a unit gender, the old system of the Norwegian language is lost to it.
The reforms in the 18th century created a consolidated Danish language and many words of French origin have been replaced by their equivalents in Danish.
Danish in England
Furthermore, over the years the influence of Denmark is transmitted to the other Nordic countries. Due to the efforts of Danish Vikings, Danish is spoken even in areas of northeast England and those roots still show the linguistic signs of certain English words.
The Danish alphabet is indeed similar to the English alphabet, except for the difference that in the Danish alphabet three letters were added: æ, ø, and å. The Norwegian and Swedish languages also use å as intended to replace the letter “aa” and it was incorporated with a 1948 spelling reform.
Through this reform, some changes to the spelling of many everyday words were also made and written Danish was allowed to closely resemble its oral form. Another result of the reform is that all nouns are now written in lower cases, instead of being capitalized as they were up until that time.
Dialects of the Modern Language
The intellectual and business capital of the country is Copenhagen. As such, the dialect of Copenhagen has over the years occupied an important place. The dialect used in the capital serves as the basis for the standard form of the language.
But there are dialects that were developed in other areas and rural regions of the country. The main division of the language is a division of 3 dialects: The Eastern Danish, Jutlandic, Island Danish.
The Language Today
Danish today is spoken by more than 5 million people and is the official language of Denmark. Also, it is studied in the schools of Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Iceland. In Northern Germany, Danish is spoken by about 50,000 Danes who live there. There is a huge wealth of works created in the Danish language by many influential writers, including fairy-tale author Hans Christian Andersen, a Nobel Peace Prize winner Johannes Vilhelm Jensen and existential philosopher Soren Kierkegaard.
The Powerful Influence of the Danish Language
Great political power in Denmark through history enabled the influence of Danish to other Scandinavian languages. Norwegian Bokmal (or Dano-Norwegian) language was developed around 1400. Despite the nationalism that reigned in Norway Dano-Norwegian remains one of the official languages even today. Languages of Denmark and Norway are different in their oral form, but they are closely related in their written form.
If you were a fairytale lover in your younger years, you surely would have read and enjoyed “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and “The Ugly Duckling”. But what you didn’t know that you read the English translations of these stories because these stories were originally written by author Hans Christian Anderson in the Danish Language.
But the story of the Danish Language doesn’t end here, numerous other surprising facts are embedded in its history. Although belonging to Denmark, the Danish Language is also an official language in Greenland. The fun part about the Danish language is that it gives you the liberty of creating a new word on the go. Yeah, not even joking. The Danish language allows room for compounding meaning adding more than one words into making one new word. Amazing isn’t it?
And the next one is definitely harder to believe. Danish has a specific phonological feature called stød, this could really sound like a hiccup or a creak in the voice and it could literally change the meaning of a word. If you are not a native speaker, chances are speaking Danish is a tough game for you.
At present, it is estimated that nearly 6 million people speak Danish language today. While most of these are in Denmark, you’ll also find Danish speakers in Faroes, parts of Germany, Iceland, Canada, Greenland, Norway, Argentina, Sweden, and the US.
Denmark has 1,400 islands under its name, with 400 of them classified. Although some of these have their freedom with their governments, they all speak Danish which is how the figure of speakers of Danish today is so huge.
It might not be connected to the language, but there have been many researches that show Denmark is one of the happiest lands in the world to live. Maybe it is time for the rest of the world to take a little from the Danish culture and follow suit!
There are many famous Danish authors, writers, and even tales by Hans Christian Anderson were initially written in Danish and then translated.