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the official language of Denmark, belonging to the North Germanic branch of the Indo-European family



the language of the Danes and the official language of Denmark. Danish is spoken by more than 5 million people (1970 estimate). Between the 16th and 19th centuries Danish was also the official and written language of Norway. Danish belongs to the Scandinavian (North Germanic) subgroup of the Germanic group of languages. Three periods are distinguished in the history of the Danish language: Common Scandinavian, the parent language (third to ninth centuries); Old Danish (ninth to 16th centuries); and New Danish (16th to 20th centuries), including Modern Danish (20th century).

The oldest records in Danish, which were written in Danish runic script, date to the ninth century, when features distinguishing Old Danish from the rest of the Scandinavian languages began to appear; diphthongs shifted to monophthongs (tenth century); the “Danish consonant shift” occurred; consonant length disappeared; the stød appeared, replacing musical stress (12th and 13th centuries); the four-case declensional system was replaced by a two-case system, and the three-gender system became a two-gender system; verbs ceased to be conjugated for persons; and the vocabulary became enriched with loanwords, especially from Middle Low German (13th and 14th centuries). As a result of the Reformation, the area in which Danish was spoken expanded, and this had a great effect on its development. Verbs ceased to be inflected for number, the modern word order became fixed, compound sentence syntax developed, and the vocabulary was further enriched by borrowings from German, English, and French. The modern Danish literary language had taken its basic shape by the 18th century. Danish dialects are divided into three main groups—Jutland (northeastern and southwestern), Island Danish (Sjælland, Fyn, etc.), and Eastern Danish (Bornholm, Skåne, etc.). The Danish literary language originated from the Sjælland dialects.

Modern Danish, which is ranked among those languages having an analytic structure, is characterized phonetically by the presence of long and short vowel phonemes (ten pairs). Consonants are only short. All voiceless obstruents are classed as aspirated (p, t, k) and unaspirated (b, d. g). Stress is dynamic (usually falling on the root syllable). Danish also has a st0d (a form of ejective emphasis of a sound). Grammatically, nouns have common and neuter gender, singular and plural number, common and genitive case, and an article, which can be a separate word (indefinite and free definite article) and part of a word (suffixal definite article). Adjectives are not declined, but they agree with the dependent word in gender and number. Personal pronouns have a subjective and objective case. The earlier genitive case forms (third person) function only as possessive pronouns. Verbs have two simple and six compound tense forms, active and passive voice (analytical and inflectional form), and indicative, imperative, and subjunctive moods. The verb is not inflected for person and number. The sentence is characterized by binomiality and specific positioning of the principal members—the subject and predicate. Word formation is accomplished by suffixation of nouns and adjectives, by prefixation of verbs and nouns, and by nominal and verbal compounding. The writing system is based on the Latin alphabet.


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Russko-datskii slovar’, 2nd ed. Compiled by N. I. Krymov and A. la. Emzin. Moscow, 1968.
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Dansk etymologisk ordbog. Compiled by N. Á. Nielsen. Copenhagen, 1966.
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References in classic literature ?
I don't know what he had looked like, except a funeral; with the addition of a large Danish sun or star hanging round his neck by a blue ribbon, that had given him the appearance of being insured in some extraordinary Fire Office.
It was offered to one of Victoria's sons, and afterwards to various other younger sons of royalty who had no thrones and were out of business, but they all had the charity to decline the dreary honor, and veneration enough for Greece's ancient greatness to refuse to mock her sorrowful rags and dirt with a tinsel throne in this day of her humiliation--till they came to this young Danish George, and he took it.
And by the way it is a curious thing, and just shows how the blood will out, I discovered afterwards that Sir Henry Curtis, for that was the big man's name, is of Danish blood.
That is the actual phrase used by the Vienna cabinet," said the Danish charge d'affaires.
And the latest thing he had done was always on men's lips, whether it was being first in the heartbreaking stampede to Danish Creek, in killing the record baldface grizzly over on Sulphur Creek, or in winning the single-paddle canoe race on the Queen's Birthday, after being forced to participate at the last moment by the failure of the sourdough representative to appear.
In addition to these--and they were all on deck, chattering and piping in queer, almost elfish, falsetto voices--were the two white men, Captain Van Horn and his Danish mate, Borckman, making a total of seventy-nine souls.
I remember, somewhere, sitting in a circle with Japanese fishermen, Kanaka boat-steerers from our own vessels, and a young Danish sailor fresh from cowboying in the Argentine and with a penchant for native customs and ceremonials.
Since historical times the land we now call England has been conquered three times, for we need hardly count the Danish Invasion.
And lastly, in the canter of this region of crevasses, the most splendid mountain on the lunar disc, the dazzling Tycho, in which posterity will ever preserve the name of the illustrious Danish astronomer.
It may have been carried to England in the form of ballads by the Anglo-Saxons; or it may be Scandinavian material, later brought in by Danish or Norwegian pirates.
The Councillor thought she did not understand Danish, and therefore repeated his wish in German.
Munt's inattentive eyes, a series broken at one point by six Danish tumuli that stood shoulder to shoulder along the highroad, tombs of soldiers.

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