The country of Denmark, located in Northern Europe, is the smallest and southernmost of the Nordic nations. Its capital is the famed city of Copenhagen, and the country is populated by nearly 5.8 million people. The Danish language is the official tongue of Denmark. The Danish language is spoken by 5.5 million people chiefly in Denmark, but also in Greenland, Germany, and the Faroe Islands. In Germany, the Danish language is considered a protected minority language. The Danish language is also an official language of the European Union.
The Danish language is a member of the Scandinavian language family, which is a sub-group of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European languages. Danish is also, along with the Swedish language, an East Scandinavian language. The modern Danish language started to deviate from Old Norse, the common ancestral language, sometime during the 13th century. It became more individual from the other emerging Scandinavian languages in the year 1550 with its first Bible translation. This helped to establish a differing written alphabet from the Swedish language. The written Danish language is easier for the Swedish to comprehend than the oral Danish language. Because it is spoken very fast with many restrictions in sounds, many foreigners have a tough time understanding it or speaking it themselves.
Sometime in the 8th century, the Old Norse language began to evolve. The resulting changes led to 2 distinct but similar dialects, Old West Norse (spoken in Norway and Iceland) and Old East Norse (spoken in Denmark and Sweden). Old East Norse is referred to as Runic Danish in Denmark. It is referred to in this way because the main essence of the writing corresponds to the runic alphabet. Old Norse was written in the Younger Futhark alphabet, which was a runic alphabet. Because it contained only 16 characters (due to a limited number of runes), some were used to represent several sounds. After 1100, the dialect of the Danish language began to move away from the Swedish language. This branching out resulted in a mixture of regional dialects.
Today, the Standard Danish language is spoken based on dialects that appear around the capital city of Copenhagen. Danish only has one regional speech variety. Because a great many of the Danish citizens live in and around Copenhagen, and most government groups and major businesses have headquarters there as well, the result is an analogous national dialect. There are some rural dialects spoken, but they are more regionalized versions of the Standard Danish language, and are interregionally understood. The 3 general Danish dialects are Østdansk (Eastern Danish), Ødansk (Island Danish), and Jysk (Jutlandish).
The written form of the Danish language uses a slightly modified version of the Latin alphabet. It has 3 letters added to the end of the alphabet: æ, ø and å. The majority of Danish words have their roots in the Old Norse language, as well as Middle Low German. As time has passed, German, French, and English have also influenced the words of the Danish language. There are many words in the Danish language that are similar to English. These words are easily identifiable in written form to those who speak and read the English language. These words include have, over, under, and for. However, they sound very different from their English counterparts when articulated.