Monday, April 7, 2014

Language Profile: Danish

Today we're taking a quick look at Danish, a member of the Germanic language family. It is the de facto official language of Denmark, as there is no law in the country naming it the official language.

The Øresund bridge, which connects Copenhagen,
the Danish capital, to Sweden.
Danish is also widely used in Greenland, where it is spoken as the first language of about 20% of the population. It is also a popular second language in Greenland, and is often used in administrative and educational settings despite the country's official language being Greenlandic.

The Danish language is a descendant of Old Norse, and as such is closely related to several other Germanic languages. In particular, it is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Swedish. Standard Danish, known as rigsdansk, is based on the dialects of the language spoken around Denmark's capital, Copenhagen.

Lexically speaking, most words in Danish are derived from Old Norse terms. After World War II, most loanwords into the language came from German and French. It is also interesting to note that Danish had a large influence on fellow Germanic language Old English back in medieval times. If you're interested in this influence, you might want to look at our previous posts on Scandinavian loanwords into the English language.

The Danish alphabet is the same as the English alphabet, except for the inclusion of three additional letters: 'æ', 'ø', and 'å'. Danish also contains quite a few vowel phonemes: 16 to be exact!