Language in Denmark
The Danish language belongs to the North Germanic language group of the Indo-European language family and is spoken mostly in Denmark.
Origin and history of Danish language
The history of the Danish language in some form is believed go back over one thousand years. The Danish language originated from a Nordic language known as Old East Norse. Since both the Danish and Swedish languages are derived from the Old East Norse line of the Nordic languages, both languages have several similarities. It is said that the spoken form of the Danish language was widely used in Sweden until the end of the 13th century.
From the 8th century to the 12th century, Old English was strongly influenced by the Scandinavian language from which Danish later evolved.
This language was also known as Runic Danish in Denmark in the 13th century. Runic Danish is believed to have existed in the form of inscriptions during the languages early years. In later years, the Nordic languages were strongly influenced by European languages such as German, Italian and French.
A Comparison of Danish, Swedish and Norwegian in modern times
While Norwegian is derived from the Old West Norse line of Nordic languages, Danish and Swedish are derived from the same branch of the Nordic languages, that is, Old East Norse. In modern times all three of the populations who speak these languages can understand and converse with each other. Today, these three languages are considered as the Mainland Scandinavian group of languages.
The basic glossary of all three of these languages is similar, although in some cases Swedish differs from Danish and Norwegian. The Danish language differs most from the other two when looking at the intonation of words. Swedish speakers find spoken Danish difficult to understand while Danes have less trouble understanding spoken Swedish. Danes also have difficulty in distinguishing Swedish from Norwegian.
It has been noted that the Norwegians can understand and converse in both of the other languages, i.e. Swedish and Danish, with much more facility as compared to inter-language communication of Danes or Swedes.
Importance of Communicating in Danish
When expanding business and services to Denmark, it is always a good idea to use translation services to communicate with Danish buyers. A few reasons companies choose Denmark as a priority target market when expanding in Europe:
- Danish consumers are fast adopters
- Products successful in Denmark will likely succeed in other European countries
- Translations are recommended but not a must. Flexible language requirements: some documents may be registered in English
The Beginning of Danish
The Danish language stemmed from a common Germanic language. In the 8th century, the common Germanic language of Scandinavia, Proto-Norse, went through several changes and soon became Old Norse. This language began to experience new changes that did not reach every part of Scandinavia. This development caused the emergence of two related dialects. These dialects included Old West Norse (Norway and Iceland) and Old East Norse (Denmark and Sweden).
Today, around 6 million people speak Danish as their native tongue. Currently, most of these speakers reside in Denmark. Danish is also considered a minority language in Germany as nearly 50,000 Danes in Germany still commonly use it. It is also an official language in the Danish territories of Greenland and the Faroe Islands and is taught in schools in Iceland and the Faroe Islands.
Old East Norse and Runic Danish
The Danish language shares much of its roots with Swedish. This is because they both have evolved from the East Nordic group of dialects. In Sweden, Old East Norse is called Runic Swedish. In east Denmark, it is called Runic Danish. Before the 12th century, the dialect was generally the same in the two countries. These dialects are called runic due to the fact that the main body of text appears in the runic alphabet. The runic alphabets are a set of similar alphabets that use letters called runes to write a variety of Germanic languages. Different than Proto-Norse (written with the Elder Futhark alphabet), Old Norse was used with the Younger Futhark alphabet. This alphabet only consisted of 16 letters.
At one point in time, Old East Norse was commonly spoken in the northeast parts of England. There are numerous surviving words from Norse such as “gate” (gade) for street. These words are still in use in Yorkshire and the East Midlands (parts of eastern England) that were colonized by Danish Vikings. Long ago, the city of York was the Viking settlement of Jorvik. Many other English words also come from Old East Norse. Examples of these are “knife” (kniv), “husband” (husbond), “call” (kalde) and “egg” (æg).
The suffix “-by” for ‘town’ is popular in regards to the names of places in Yorkshire and the East Midlands. These places include Selby, Whitby, Derby and Grimsby. The word dale in Yorkshire and Derbyshire is usually used instead of the word valley.
Currently, Danish is not as common throughout the world but still an important language. Interestingly enough, in Denmark itself there is no law specifying an official language. This means that Danish does not have official status there. In spite of this, Danish is not under threat in Denmark. Although it has no official status in Denmark it has been well established in law as the official language of the courts. Many still wonder why Danish has not been proclaimed as the official language of the country.