Danish 101

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Danish is the official language of Denmark, one of two official languages of Greenland (the other is Greenlandic), and one of two official languages of the Faeroes (the other is Faeroese). In addition, there is a small community of Danish speakers in Schleswig, the portion of Germany bordering Denmark, where it is an officially recognized and protected regional language. Furthermore, it is one of the official languages of the European Union.


Standard Danish (rigsdansk or rigsmål) is the language based on dialects spoken in and around the capital of Copenhagen. Unlike Swedish and Norwegian, Danish does not have more than one regional speech norm. More than 20% of all Danish speakers live in the metropolitan area and most government agencies, institutions and major businesses keep their main offices in Copenhagen, something that has resulted in a very homogeneous national speech norm. Though Oslo and Stockholm are quite dominant in terms of speech standards, cities like Bergen, Gothenburg and the Malmö-Lund region are large and influential enough to create secondary regional norms, making the standard language more varied than is the case with Danish. The general agreement is that Standard Danish is based on a form of Copenhagen dialect, but the specific norm is, as with most language norms, difficult to pinpoint for both laymen and linguists. More distinct "genuine" dialects still exist in smaller communities, but most speakers in these areas generally speak a regionalized form of Standard Danish. Usually an adaption of the local dialect to rigsdansk is spoken, though code-changing between the neutralized norm and a distinct dialect is common.

Danish dialects are divided into three general dialect groups:

~ Østdansk ("Eastern Danish)
~ Ødansk ("Island Danish")
~ Jysk ("Jutlandish")

Historically, Eastern Danish includes what is today considered Southern Swedish dialects like Scanian and the dialect spoken on the island of Bornholm in the Baltic between the coasts Sweden and Germany. The background for this lies in the loss of originally Danish provinces like Blekinge, Halland and Skåne to Sweden in 1658. While many similarities can be found in Southern Swedish and the Bornholm-dialect, they are more similar to the modern national standards than to each other. The Bornholm-dialect has also maintained a distinction between three grammatical genders, rather than just two in Standard Danish and lacks the diphthongs used in the standard language.

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