Danish Dialects - Dialects


Standard Danish (rigsdansk) is the language based on dialects spoken in and around the capital, Copenhagen. Unlike Swedish and Norwegian, Danish does not have more than one regional speech norm. More than 25% of all Danish speakers live in the metropolitan area of the capital 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. In contrast, though Oslo (Norway) and Stockholm (Sweden) 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, as with most language norms, is difficult to pinpoint for both laypeople and scholars. Historically Standard Danish emerged as a compromise between the dialect of Zealand and Scania. The first layers of it can be seen in east Danish provincial law texts such as Skånske Lov, just as we can recognize west Danish in laws from the same ages in Jyske Lov.

Despite the relative cultural monopoly of the capital and the centralized government, the divided geography of the country allowed distinct rural dialects to flourish during the centuries. Such "genuine" dialects were formerly spoken by a vast majority of the population, but have declined much since the 1960s. They still exist in communities out in the countryside, but most speakers in these areas generally speak a regionalized form of Standard Danish, when speaking with one who speaks to them in that same standard. Usually an adaptation of the local dialect to rigsdansk is spoken, though code-switching between the standard-like norm and a distinct dialect is common.

Danish is divided into three distinct dialect groups, which are further subdivided in about 30 dialektområder:

  • Insular Danish (ømål), including dialects of the Danish islands of Zealand, Funen, Lolland, Falster, and Møn
  • Jutlandic (jysk), further divided in North, East, West and South Jutlandic
  • Bornholmsk dialect (Bornholmian) the dialect of the island of Bornholm

The term Eastern Danish is occasionally used for Bornholmian, but including the dialects of Scania (particularly in a historical context). The background for this lies in the loss of the originally Danish provinces of Blekinge, Halland and Scania to Sweden in 1658. The island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea also belongs to this group, but returned to Danish rule in 1660. This means that the spoken language in this part of Sweden is descended from a regional variant of Danish, while the written language used is standard Swedish, which evolved in Uppsala and Stockholm. Similarly, the Norwegian language is classified as a descendant of West Norse, while the written language used by the vast majority in Norway is derived from an older variant of standard Danish. A few generations ago, the classical dialects spoken in the southern Swedish provinces could still be argued to be more Eastern Danish than Swedish, being similar to the dialect of Bornholm. Today, influx of Standard Swedish and Standard Danish vocabulary has generally meant that Scanian and Bornholmian are closer to the modern national standards of their respective host nations than to each other. The Bornholmian dialect has also maintained to this day many ancient features, such as a distinction between three grammatical genders, which the central Insular Danish dialects gave up during the 20th century. Standard Danish has two genders and the definite form of nouns is formed by the use of suffixes, while Western Jutlandic has only one gender and the definite form of nouns uses an article before the noun itself, in the same fashion as West Germanic languages. Today, Standard Danish is most similar to the Insular Danish dialect group.

Read more about this topic:  Danish Dialects

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