UCL CENTRE FOR LANGUAGES & INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION (CLIE)

LOGIN

Self-Access Centre - Danish

Welcome to the Self-Access Centre materials database. Here you can find out about the Danish materials we have in the SAC.

If you are interested in studying Danish at UCL, please click here.

The SAC is here to provide you with opportunities to study Danish outside class time. You may feel extra study is necessary in order to achieve the exam score you want, or you may just enjoy studying Danish. Either way, the SAC could be useful for you.

If you have a very clear idea of what you need to study in Danish, use the menu on the left to look for the study topics which are of importance to you. If you need advice and guidance on what to study, you should talk to your class tutor, who will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and make recommendations on what to study.

In the Self-Access Centre you can find course books, but also, reading and grammar books. You can also browse through magazines and newspapers in Danish, watch online TV or listen to radio stations. You can also watch Danish films.

A bit about the language

Danish (dansk) is one of the North Germanic languages (also called Scandinavian languages), a sub-group of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European languages. It is spoken by around 6 million people, mainly in Denmark; the language is also used by the 50,000 Danes in the northern parts of Schleswig-Holstein in Germany where it holds the status of minority language. Danish also holds official status and is a mandatory subject in school in the Danish territories of the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Danish is a mandatory subject in schools in Iceland. There are also Danish language communities in Argentina, the U.S. and Canada.

Classification

Danish, together with Swedish, derives from the East Norse dialect group. A more recent classification based on mutual intelligibility separates modern spoken Danish, Norwegian and Swedish into a Mainland Scandinavian group while Icelandic and Faroese are placed in a separate category labelled Insular Scandinavian.

Written Danish and Norwegian Bokmål are particularly close, though the phonology and the prosody (stress and intonation) differ somewhat. Proficient speakers of any of the three languages can understand the others, though studies have shown that speakers of Norwegian generally understand both Danish and Swedish far better than Swedes or Danes understand each other. Both Swedes and Danes also understand Norwegian better than they understand each other's languages.

History

In the 8th century, the common Germanic language of Scandinavia, Proto-Norse, had undergone some changes and evolved into Old Norse. This language began to undergo new changes that did not spread to all of Scandinavia, which resulted in the appearance of two similar dialects, Old West Norse (Norway and Iceland) and Old East Norse (Denmark and Sweden).

Old East Norse is in Sweden called Runic Swedish and in east Denmark Runic Danish, but until the 12th century, the dialect was roughly the same in the two countries. The dialects are called runic due to the fact that the main body of text appears in the runic alphabet. Due to the limited number of runes (16), some runes were used for a range of phonemes, such as the rune for the vowel u which was also used for the vowels o, ø and y, and the rune for i which was also used for e.

Some famous authors of works in Danish are existential philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, fairy tale author Hans Christian Andersen, and playwright Ludvig Holberg. Three 20th century Danish authors have become Nobel Prize laureates in Literature: Karl Adolph Gjellerup and Henrik Pontoppidan (joint recipients in 1917) and Johannes Vilhelm Jensen (awarded 1944).

The first printed book in Danish dates from 1495. The first complete translation of the Bible in Danish was published in 1550.

Geographical distribution

  • Map of Denmark

Danish is the national language of Denmark, and one of two official languages of the Faroes (alongside Faroese). Until 2009, it had also been one of two official languages of Greenland (alongside Greenlandic). Danish is widely spoken in Greenland, and an unknown portion of the native Greenlandic population has Danish as their first language. In addition, there is a small community of Danish speakers in Southern Schleswig, the portion of Germany bordering Denmark, where it is an officially recognized regional language. Furthermore, Danish is one of the official languages of the European Union and one of the working languages of the Nordic Council. Under the Nordic Language Convention, citizens of the Nordic countries speaking Danish have the opportunity to use their native language when interacting with official bodies in other Nordic countries without being liable to any interpretation or translation costs.

There is no law stipulating an official language for Denmark, making Danish the de facto language only. The Code of Civil Procedure does, however, lay down Danish as the language of the courts.

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. 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 laypeople and scholars.

Despite the relative cultural monopoly of the capital and the centralised 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 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:

  • Codex Runicus - manuscript from 1300 AD containing one of the best preserved texts in runes of the Scanian Law
  • Bornholmic - the dialect of the eastern island of Bornholm)
  • Island Danish, including dialects of Zealand, Funen, Lolland, Falster, and Møn
  • Jutlandic, further divided in North, East, West and South Jutlandic

Today, Standard Danish is most similar to the Island Danish dialect group.

Writing system

The oldest preserved examples of written Danish (from the Iron and Viking Ages) are in the Runic alphabet. The introduction of Christianity also brought the Latin alphabet to Denmark, and at the end of the High Middle Ages the Runes had more or less been replaced by the Latin letters.

As in Germany, the Fraktur types were still commonly used in the late 19th century (until 1875, Danish children were taught to read Fraktur letters in school), and many books were printed with Fraktur typesetting even in the beginning of the 20th century, particularly by conservatives. However, the Latin alphabet was used by modernists, e.g. the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters changed style in 1799. Nouns were capitalized, as in German, until the 1948 spelling reform.

The modern Danish alphabet is similar to the English one, with three additional letters: æ, ø, and å, which come at the end of the alphabet, in that order. A spelling reform in 1948 introduced the letter å, already in use in Norwegian and Swedish, into the Danish alphabet to replace the letter aa; the old usage still occurs in some personal and geographical names (for example, the name of the city of Aalborg is spelled with Aa following a decision from the City Council in the 1970s). When representing the å sound, aa is treated just like å in alphabetical sorting, even though it looks like two letters. When the letters are not available due to technical limitations they are often replaced by ae (Æ, æ), oe (Ø, ø) or o, and aa (Å, å), respectively.

Source: adapted from www.wikipedia.org