Danish Language

According to topschoolsintheusa, the Danish language belongs to the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family, and with the languages ​​of Sweden, Norway and Iceland forms a group called “North Germanic” or simply “Nordic”. The Danish linguistic territory in the earliest period included, in addition to today’s Denmark, almost all of Schleswig and the southernmost part of Sweden, i.e. the provinces of Halland (except, perhaps, the northernmost portion), Scania and Blekinge. For some time Danish was spoken in parts of England (around 875-1175) and in Normandy (around 900-1100, perhaps alongside Norwegian). At the time of the Reformation, the Danish was replaced in most of Schleswig by the German who had already entered it in the 10th century. XV. In 1658 the aforementioned Danish provinces in the Scandinavian peninsula were ceded to Sweden; and in a short time Swedish replaced Danish as the language of culture and public acts, while in popular usage the ancient parlors still survive in part. On the other hand the Dane gained Norway, where he penetrated in the century. XV and was victorious in the XVI, after the political union of the two kingdoms became stable and the Lutheran Reformation (1536) was also introduced in Norway. From that time on, Danish was used throughout Norway as a literary and official language and, in cities, also as a language of conversation (v.norway: Language). In the Faeroe too, Danish was introduced at the time of the Reformation as a language of school, church and justice; Pharyngeal (a dialect of the Norwegian-Icelandic group) was maintained as a language spoken by the people, and only towards the middle of the 19th century did it also begin to be used as a written language alongside Danish. In Greenland only a small part of the population speaks Danish. Recently centers of Danish culture were formed among the emigrants in the two Americas. At the end of 1926 the number of Danish speakers in Europe was estimated at 3,418,000 (of which 3,407,000 in Denmark and 11,000 in Germany).

The dialects spoken by the Danish people can be divided into three main groups: 1. Bornholm Island dialect (to which the Danish speakers, now influenced by Swedish, are found in the former Danish provinces of southern Sweden). 2. dialects of Zealand, ie of insular Denmark (excluding the islands of Bornholm, Læsø, Anholt, Samsø). 3. dialects of Jütland (Jylland) with the islands of Læsø, Anholt and Samsø, and of Schleswig with the island of Alsen. This tripartition is already evident in the most ancient Danish texts; however at that time the first group was mainly represented by documents belonging to Scania, so that it could be called scanio. The Copenhagen vernacular occupies a separate place among modern dialects, due to some of its peculiarities. The Danish used in Norway could be considered as a fourth dialectal variety.

The oldest linguistic monuments belonging to the Danish territory consist of just over twenty runic inscriptions, which date back to the III-VII centuries. C. However, the language in which they are written is not Danish, but the “primitive Nordic”, that is the Germanic language from which all the Nordic languages ​​were developed, therefore also Danish. In the “age of the Vikings” (around 800-1050) the Nordic language undergoes an evolution that at first takes place in an almost uniform way throughout the extension of its territory. Gradually, a “Western Nordic” (Norwegian, from which Iceland is separated) from “Eastern Nordic” (which then differs into Danish and Swedish) begins to be distinguished.

In the history of the Danish language, which is usually made to begin towards the middle of the century. XI, three periods can be distinguished: ancient (around 1050-1350), middle (1350-1550) and modern (from 1550 onwards). In the 11th-12th centuries and partly in the 13th the documentation of Danish is scarce: it consists of a few inscriptions and in glosses and names of people and places contained in Latin texts (diplomas, obituaries, annals, etc.). Important in this respect is the Liber daticus Lundensis (written around 1140), with which the Liber census Daniae must also be remembered., which however belongs to the following century (it was drawn up under the reign of Valdemaro II, 1202-1241, and came to us in a copy made around 1270). In the thirteenth century a literature in Danish begins with a predominantly juridical content; however the manuscripts that preserve it do not date back beyond the last years of that century. While in the pre-literary sources the language is still not very different from Swedish, in the literary texts Danish is clearly distinguished from that. All the oldest Danish literature is dialectal; and the three main dialects are already clearly differentiated. In the middle period, especially in the century. XV, while the literature becomes more varied, enriching itself with prose and verse compositions of religious, historical and romantic subjects, the language presents a confused spelling, an uncertainty in the use of grammatical forms, generally an oscillation between the old and the new. In the century XIV, and even more in the fifteenth, the Danish lexicon absorbs a large amount of foreign elements, mostly German (plattdeutsch). The use of dialects in literature continues; but their peculiarities are mixed, and therefore their differences are attenuated: thus the outline of a Danish literary language is outlined in which the Seelamdese element is prevalent. In the age of the Reformation (about 1500-1550), in which a copious literature of a religious nature is developed, the language is stripped of antiquated voices and forms, the grammar becomes more regular; this age creates a written language common to the whole nation. There Christian III Bible (1550), to which the best writers of the time collaborated (such as Christiern Pedersen and Peder Palladius) opens the modern era. Its linguistic form, in which a regularity not previously achieved is noted, was usually used in the religious literature of the following age. In secular literature, Danish was little used in the first two centuries of the modern age, as humanism induced writers and scientists to prefer Latin. Among the few exceptions, the versions of Saxo Grammatico and Seneca, due respectively to AS Vedel (1575) and Birgitta Thott (1658), are worthy of mention. On the other hand, the German found wide diffusion in Denmark, especially from the middle of the century. XVII, and the Danish lexicon had a new influx of German voices not only dialectal, but literary. Nor was it lacking, but it was less profound, the French influence. The foreign imprint is still very clear in the writings of L. Holberg (1684-1754), whose literary work marks in various respects a notable progress in the elaboration of the Danish language.

Around the middle of the century. XVIII begins a movement aimed at purifying the national language and making it capable of expressing any concept with its own means. Through the work of FC Eilschov (Cogitationes de scientiis vernacula lingua docendis, 1747), JS Sneedorff (Den patriotiske Tilskuer, 1761-63) and others, the Danish language was renewed in the course of a few years. The appearance it acquired at the end of the century. XVIII is substantially the same as today: the differences concern single points of grammar and some spelling rules.

Danish Language

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