Standard Danish

The language that is based on dialects spoken in and around Copenhagen (the capital of Denmark) is called Standard Danish (rigsdansk). Different than other Scandinavian languages, Danish only has one regional speech norm. Unlike Swedish and Norwegian, Danish does not have more than one regional speech norm. Over 25% of all Danish speakers reside in the urban area of Copenhagen. Additionally, most government agencies, institutions and large businesses are located in the capital city of Denmark.

It is thought by most people that Standard Danish is based on a form of Copenhagen dialect. In spite of this, the exact norm (like the majority of most language norms) is not easy to identify. Throughout history, Standard Danish came about as a mix between the dialect of Zealand and Scania. The beginning of it can be seen in east Danish provincial law texts such as Skånske Lov.

Rural Dialects

Even though Denmark had a very centralized government, the divided geography of the country caused rural dialects to thrive over the centuries. These dialects are referred to as genuine dialects and were previously spoken by most in Denmark. Yet since the 1960s, the appearance of these dialects has decreased significantly. In spite of this, they still exist in communities out in the countryside. Yet when most speakers are spoken to in Standard Danish, they tend to reply in a regionalized form of Standard Danish. This is typically a form of the local dialect to Rigsdansk.

Divisions of Danish Dialect

Danish is divided into three distinct dialect groups. These groups are then subdivided in roughly 30 categories. The three main categories are Insular Danish (dialects of the Danish islands of Zealand, Funen, Lolland, Falster, and Møn), Jutlandic (further divided in North, East, West and South Jutlandic), and the Bornholmsk dialect (dialect of the island of Bornholm).

The term Eastern Danish is sometimes used for Bornholmian, but also involves the dialects of Scania. Scanian is a similar group of dialects that formed part of the old Scandinavian dialects. The reason for this is because of the loss of the Danish provinces of Blekinge, Halland and Scania to Sweden in 1658. This means that the spoken language in this part of Sweden comes from a local variation of Danish. Despite this, the written language used in this area is standard Swedish (which developed in Uppsala and Stockholm, Sweden).

Similar to this, the Norwegian language is thought to come from West Norse. While this is so, the written language used by most in Norway is derived from an older version of Standard Danish. Long ago, the classical dialects that existed in the southern Swedish provinces were thought to be more Eastern Danish than Swedish (similar to the dialect of Bornholm).


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