Danish is a North Germanic language with around 5.5 million speakers mainly in Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. There are also Danish speakers in Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany, and in Norway, Sweden, Spain, the USA, Canada, Brazil and Argentina.
Danish is the official language in Denmark and the Faroe Islands, and is recognised as a minority language in Greenland and Germany. It was the official language of Norway until about 1830, and of Iceland until 1944. Danish is also the first foreign language learnt in Iceland.
During the Middle Ages Danish was heavily influenced by Low German dialects. In the 17th century Danish absorbed many French loanwords, and from the 19th century onwards, many English words have been taken into Danish.
The first written work of Danish literature was Gesta Danorum (History of the Danes) written in Latin in about 1200 by Saxo Grammaticus. This recounts the history of Denmark up to 1186 and includes Danish versions (in a somewhat Christianized form) of Scandinavian myths and sagas, including the earliest version of the Hamlet story.
You can see an online version of Gesta Danorum in the original Latin at: http://www.kb.dk/elib/lit/dan/saxo/lat/or.dsr/
Danish began to be used a literary languge during the 16th century. In 1514 Christian Pedersen published a Danish version of Gesta Danorum, which was highly influential on subsequent Danish literature. Pedersen also published the first Danish translation of the New Testament in 1531.
The letters C, Q, W, X and Z are only used in foreign loanwords. Before 1948, the sound written å was written aa, which can still be seen in some place names, such as Aalborg and Aabenraa.
Details of Danish pronunciation provided by Marc Volhardt
Alle mennesker er født frie og lige i værdighed og rettigheder. De er udstyret med fornuft og samvittighed, og de bør handle mod hverandre i en broderskabets ånd.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Information about the Danish language
Online Danish lessons
Dansk for Alle - information about the Danish language and culture (in Danish)
Project Runeberg - a volunteer effort to create free electronic editions of classic Nordic (Scandinavian) literature: http://runeberg.org
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If you need to type in many different languages, the Q International Keyboard can help. It enables you to type almost any language that uses the Latin, Cyrillic or Greek alphabets, and is free.
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