Indigo Books

Learn to Speak Danish

About Danish

A member of the northern or *Scandinavian subgroup of the *Germanic languages. And also being the sole language of mainland Denmark, Danish could be the second official language (as well as *Faroese and *Greenlandic respectively) while in the Faroe Islands and Greenland.

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More about Danish


The history belonging to the Danish language can divided into the following periods:

Old Danish: 800-1100

Middle Danish: 1100-1525

Early Modern Danish: 1525-1700 Modern Danish: 1700present day

The in order to these periods is also dealt with plantar too the entry for Old *Norse (where it really is argued that a sensible date to set for the long run of Old Norse, and then the gradual emergence of Danish as being a distinct language, is when the inflectional system of the Scandinavian languages began to show signs of simplification; concerning Danish, this did start to happen while in the 12th c.).

Old Danish

Throughout this period, is not any native manuscripts, and then the main sources for our is critical to get the language are: foreign accounts which either deal with or make reference to Denmark and things Danish and which provide information on place- and personal names; the Danish linguistic expansion abroad which left a not inconsiderable legacy offered loan-words in other languages; place-names datable to the current period; and runic inscriptions datable to this particular period.

The most significant foreign texts would be the Old English poems WidsM and Beowulf, which contain Anglicized forms of Scandinavian place-names; King Alfred the Great's translation of Orosius's History worldwide, which includes two travel accounts relating to Scandinavia by Wulfstan and Othere; and Adam of Bremen's report on Scandinavia in Gesta Hammaburgiensis Ecclesiae Pontificum.

In those areas which were either settled by or came into contact with Danish Vikings, especially the Danelaw as well as a lesser extent Normandy, we find many traces of Danish; in east England you can get hundreds of place-names ending in -by, -thorpe, -gate and -tofi, and many terms in English relating to government and basic words are loans from Scandinavian, e.g. law, bylaw, riding, give, take, hit, die, sky and they; as well as in the Norman dialect of *French, some 300 items of Scandinavian origin, a lot of relating to maritime matters, have already been identified, a few of which have passed into standard French, e.g. tillac 'deck' from Danish place-names from this period, in particular those which are composites including a personal name, provide not only linguistic information but also an indication belonging to the economic and social activity in at this occassion (e.g. the establishment of agricultural communities).

Danish runic writing (see *Runes) experienced a considerable revival in this period; the shorter, 16-symbol 'younger futhark' was now in use. You can find 412 Danish inscriptions, 240 of which are on stones, and their subject-matter is generally like 'X raised this monument after Y, his son, who [. . The runes continued in Denmark until about 1350, as well as the runic evidence therefore is carried over into the next period belonging to the Danish language.
The spread of Christianity to Denmark, are viewed as having been finally completed in the 11th c., meant that in this period Danish received its first major influx of foreign loans. These derived largely from Greek and Latin, via Old English, Old *Frisian or Old Saxon (the languages spoken by the missionaries), and get on with the religious sphere, e.g. kirke 'church', kristen 'Christian', biskop 'bishop', prcest `priest', pdske 'Easter', pinse 'Whitsuntide'.

Middle Danish

By their the Middle Danish period, the Viking Age was at an end, and Denmark had emerged as a separate Scandinavian nation, geographically, politically and linguistically. South, the country's border was formed by the River Ejder and Leven* as well as to the east, Skane, Blekinge and Halland (now part and parcel of southern Sweden) were still within the Danish kingdom. There initially were some conquests further to the south, but these we had not resulted in any colonial or linguistic expansion. Indeed, from the 12th c. there began a German colonization of the largely uninhabited region immediately north of the River Ejder, and by their the 1200s this area was largely peopled by West Germanic speakers.

While in the years around 1100, monasteries did start to be established, as well as something consequence of I thought this was that, through both the clergy as well as religious community, links together with the rest of Europe did start to be forged because pilgrimages, study trips abroad, etc. Outside spiritual circles, foreigners did start to arrive and become residentin Danish towns; we were looking at merchants and traders from the Hanseatic towns as well as others, and in their wake followed many German craftsmen. Additionally, foreign nobility had did start to move to Denmark; some acclimatized linguistically, whereas others retained their Low German tongue and thereby contributed to the Plattdeutsch in Denmark, which for this specific period at the least was prevalent as being a lingua franca in london. This growth in trade, in conjunction with the increasing foreign presence, meant that initially in its hitherto short history, Danish, in town and trading circles at least, was already familiar with considerable foreign (especially Low German) influence. This was not, however, the case with the rural communities, which for perhaps the first time were experiencing a period of relative calm and quiet and isolation from the economic advances taking place around them, and so the isolation of the us dweller in various regions set the preconditions to build up Danish dialects.

Foreign sources for our knowledge of Danish nowadays become less important, since there must have been a rapid growth in domestic writing. This took two forms: writing in runes, and writing while in the Latin alphabet. Runes continued to be used for the first half of this period, but the actual info they are able to provide about the language is limited. A lot more important are the sources written while in the Latin alphabet. And now we don't know precisely to view the leonids this new alphabet did start to be used in Denmark, but be thought of as not crucial, since many of the early writings were in Latin. A bigger factor would be the texts which were written in Danish. The oldest such texts written in Danish are legal documents, medical tracts and religious literature, as well as these the legal texts are the most significant for our an understanding of the Danish language right now. Not one of the extant legal texts in the form we you can keep them is much older than 1300, though we do know that a few of them were originally written down prior as of today (e.g. the so-called jyske Loy (jutlandic Law') from 1241).

From the 14th c. legends and chronicles also turned out to be written down in Danish, though most were translations, principally from Latin. The language that had been used in them reflects local dialectal usage, in that a standard language was still being not around the world at the beginning. However, it will be straightforward even when it reaches this early stage in order to a certain dominance belonging to the Zealandic form belonging to the language while in the late Middle Ages, since Zealand had already end up being the administrative, ecclesiastical and commercial centre of Denmark, through the increasing great need of the towns of Roskilde and Copenhagen, both of which lie on the eastern side of the island. Indeed, a Zealandic so-called 'Chancery Style', inspired by both German and Latin, was already developing nowadays.

During the Middle Ages, Danish conquests temporarily expanded the kingdom both to the south and then to the east, so as to add particular Baltic areas of present-day Germany and Poland, as well as Estonia, and then to its northern border, where Norway came under the Danish Crown in 1380 and became an element of the 'Dual Monarchy' (until 1814). For a brief period, Sweden too was a member of this Nordic Union.

Syntactically, Danish word order became standardized obtained in this period: the finite verb, which hitherto had often took place in clause-final position, especially in subordinate clauses, increasingly became connected to the subject. Furthermore, the vocabulary was extended by over 1,500 loan-words, a good many coming from Low German as a result of the extensive trade links (and quite often wars) along with the Hanseatic League. Even loan-words of Latin origin were nearly all introduced via the medium of Low German.

Early Modern Danish

The 16th c. saw the beginning of the orthographical standardization of Danish. There were clearly two important events which contributed to this: first, the introduction of printing in 1482; and second, the Lutheran Reformation of 1536. Together with the Reformation, Danish of necessity replaced Latin as the main ecclesiastical language; the first Danish Bible translation (Christian III's Bible) was published in 1550, and this had great importance for the language, in that for the first time we find a consistent orthography and a style that are thought to be being 'pure', and which used 'plain' Danish vs either `Latinisms' or `Germanisms'. From using it time we are fortunate to have preserved a work entitled Visitatsbogen (`The Book of Visitations') (c.1543-4) by Peder Palladius; not originally with regard to publication, tactic selection of sermons and talks aimed at introducing the brand new Lutheran faith to a couple of 390 churches in Zealand, and consequently it was written in an every day language and style specifically intended both to appeal to turn out to be accessible to lay congregations; it has frequently been described as a written 'tape-recording' of the common language during.

From the 17th c. we set out to find much more literature being written in Danish. Clearly there was a pressing political need not only to promote the brand new religion of waking time, but and then to provide a canon of new hymns and prayers in Danish, and to this end Thomas Kingo (1634-1703) was engaged by the Crown to compile and write a Danish hymnal. The outcome, Den forordnede ny Kirke-Salmebog (`The Ordained New Church Hymnal') (1699), represents many finest achievements of Danish baroque poetry, and Kingo, as well as other poets such as Anders Bording (1619-77), a leading writer of pastoral and occasional poetry, served finally to establish Danish to be a viable poetic medium. Around this time understand about the value find a selection of dramas being written in Danish versus Latin the so-called Skoledramaer (`school dramas'), which were never with regard to publication but were penned by schoolmasters for their pupils to perform for both their and their audiences' general moral instruction and edification, together with collections, either private or in book form, of medieval Danish ballads. One further work which deserves mention here is Leonora Christine's jammersminde (`Memory of Woe') (1663-85), which the authoress wrote while imprisoned while in the notorious Bldtdrn (`Blue Tower') in Copenhagen on suspicion of treason contrary to the state. Organic food products as it happens literature, method 'secret' diary in which she professes her innocence; from a linguistic outlook, the quality of us with a marvellous record of the language not only belonging to the nobility, but also of a broad cross-section belonging to the community in total, faithfully reproducing as as well as between the various income belonging to the common speech throughout.

In this period, we find a wealth of loan-words being received by the language, especially from ..(High) German, French and Latin, but also from a wide variety of other languages. One particularly important area the reason is was within the armed forces, which adopted much German as well as some French terminology. Many seafaring terms were also being actively borrowed from Low German and Dutch.

The sphere of Danish linguistic influence while in the outside world, however, began to contract in the 17th c. with all the loss of Slane, Halland and Blekinge to Sweden.

Modern Danish

At the beginning of this period, German and French were still the dominant linguistic influences on Danish; we were looking at the prestige languages of both a legal court and the nobility. The Danish royal family was of German stock, and a lot of kings had German his or her mother tongue; and French was generally regarded as the language of culture.
Nevertheless, the 18th c. was the age that saw the final establishment of Danish as being a literary medium. Its first major author was Ludvig Holberg (1684-1754); born in Bergen, Norway, he became a professor at Copenhagen University who, outside his academic production, also wrote popular comedies (not dissimilar to Moliere's) as well as other literary works in both poetry and prose. Although in his comedies he frequently lampoons those who thought we would use foreign (especially French and Latin) words in their speech, he at times makes considerable use of words these types of languages himself in his or her more philosophical works, as an example as part of his Epistler (Tpistles') and Moralske Tanker (`Moral Thoughts').

The centre of the 18th c. (from approximately 1745 onwards) saw the rise of a strong purist movement to be a a reaction to this linguistic trend of Holberg and other people. There seems to be a concerted and conscious effort by its proponents to rid Danish of what was viewed as being unhealthy foreign influences. A leading figure of this movement was Jens Schielderup Sneedorff (1724-64), who was simply contrary to the influence that French and Latin had exerted on Danish and who for you to see Danish words formed much more on the model of German. The purist movement spawned several decades of lively linguistic debate, and succeeded in many cases in ousting foreign words, as well as in others in producing new concurrent forms which served to enrich and enhance the Danish language.

The beginning of the 19th c. saw the advent of Romanticism in Danish cultural and literary life. At the outset, there was clearly three main exponents of this new movement: Schack Staffeldt (1769-1826), Adam Oehlenschlager (1779-1850) and N. F. S. Grundtvig (1783-1872). Both Staffeldt and Oehlenschlager tended to look towards their German counterparts and models when it concerns to their linguistic expression, with Oehlenschlager also making some utilization of the language perfectly located at the Danish medieval ballads; Grundtvig in contrast turned towards Old Norse as part of (largely unsuccessful) attempts to renew and revitalize the Danish language. German continued to retain its strong influence on Danish for via a tunnel the century.

In 1814, right at the end belonging to the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark was forced to cede Norway to Sweden laboring under the the Treaty of Kiel, but it really still retained its sovereignty over the old Norwegian 'tax lands' belonging to the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland. In 1864, Denmark lost Slesvig-Holsten (Schleswig-Holstein) to Germany, though North Slesvig was returned in 1920 following a referendum while in the two Duchies. In the mid 1940s Iceland gained independence from Denmark, and subsequently both the Faroe Islands and Greenland were granted home rule status while still remaining section of the Kingdom of Denmark.
It wasn't until about 1870 that the influence of English (both British and American) began seriously to be felt in the Danish language. But once it had begun, the domination of German rapidly diminished, and English loan-words rapidly, and particularly after world war 2, proliferated in a variety of areas of the Danish language, such as sport, technology, music, business, fashion, etc. Today, the influence of English on Danish vocabulary is far-reaching. Most English loan-words have retained their original spelling, yet they nevertheless in the latter group two distinct groups: those that can easily be matched with Danish pronunciation, and which consequently have assumed Danish inflections and they are felt to be Danish, e.g. bar, bus, droppe, film, slum, smart, teste; and the great which deviate from the basic orthographical and phonetic structures of Danish and so are therefore still felt to always be loan-words, e.g. free lance, image, playboy, show. A third group comprises those words which can be loan translations, e.g.frynsegoder (`fringe benefits'), hjernevask (`brain-wash'), sameksistens (`co-existence').

By 1800 the orthography of Danish had in general been standardized, although spelling debates and reforms (for example <aa> versus <a>, the latter form finally being legalized in the middle of the 20th c.) continued until well into the 20th c., the last major reform taking place in 1948. Modern Standard Danish (rigsdansk) is largely based on the language of the upper classes in and around Copenhagen.

Dialects and regional languages

The dialects that can be can be found in Denmark are traditionally split up into three broad groups: jysk (Jutlandic), omdl (insular Danish, spoken on the islands of Funen, Zealand as well as smaller islands to the south) and bornholmsk (spoken on the island of Bornholm towards the south of Sweden). The places where dialects continue to be most prevalent are North Jutland, South Jutland, West Jutland and Bornholm, especially in the smaller towns and villages. Some 3,000,000 Danes speak what are now commonly termed regionalsprog (`regional languages'), which can be regarded as kinds of 'watered-down' dialectal usages of the language. They have arisen from the increased social interaction and mobility belonging to the population, especially during the 20th c. These `regional languages' have retained certain characteristics belonging to the local dialects from which they are derived, but tend to also be viewed as simply being regional variants belonging to the standard Danish language. A striking feature of Danish pronunciation is the glottal stop (stod), using which is different from region to region; its presence (or absence) is also used by linguists to tell apart dialectal variants.

Present situation

Today, Danish will be the native language of the 5,200,000 Danish inhabitants of Denmark and it is key official languages of the European Union, which Denmark joined as well as The United Kindom and the Republic of Ireland in 1973. In
North Slesvig there's a German-speaking minority, while in South Schleswig a Danish-speaking minority remains to be can be found. In the Faroe Islands and Greenland, Danish may be the second official language and is taught as the first foreign language in schools.

In 1955, the body called Dansk Sprogncevn (Danish Language Council') was established. Its brief was whilst still being is usually to monitor the development of Danish, by collecting and registering new words and expressions, and then to provide advice on the spelling and pronunciation of foreign words and names. Right now the highest authority on the modern Danish language, to ensure that as well as regularly publishing information booklets on current trends in Danish it also periodically updates the official dictionary of Danish spelling (Retskrivningsordbogen).

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