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[[Image:Nordiska språk.PNG|thumb|right|250px|North Germanic languages

Continental Scandinavian languages:

Insular Scandinavian languages:

]]The North Germanic languages or Scandinavian languages make up one of the three branches of the Germanic languages, a sub-family of the Indo-European languages, along with the West Germanic languages and the extinct East Germanic languages. The language group is sometimes referred to as the Nordic languages, a direct translation of the most common term used among Danish, Swedish and Norwegian scholars and laypeople. In Scandinavia, Scandinavian language(s) is also used as a term referring specifically to the mutually intelligible languages of the three Scandinavian countries.

The term "North Germanic languages" is used in genetic linguistics, while the term "Scandinavian languages" appears in studies of the modern standard languages and the dialect continuum of Scandinavia.

Approximately 20 million people in the Nordic countries have a Scandinavian language as their mother tongue, including a Swedish minority in Finlandmarker. Languages belonging to the North Germanic language tree are, to some extent, spoken on Greenlandmarker and by immigrant groups mainly in North America and Australia.

History

From around the year 200 AD, speakers of the North Germanic branch became distinguishable from the other Germanic language speakers. The early development of this language branch is attested through Runic inscriptions.

After the Proto-Norse and Old Norse periods, the North Germanic languages developed into an East Scandinavian branch, consisting of Danish and Swedish; and a West Scandinavian branch, consisting of Norwegian, Faroese and Icelandic. Scandinavian settlers brought Old North Germanic to Icelandmarker and the Faroe islandsmarker around 800 CE. Of the modern Scandinavian languages, written Icelandic is closest to this ancient language. An additional language, known as Norn, developed on Orkneymarker and Shetlandmarker after Vikings had settled there around 800 CE, but this language became extinct around 1700.

In medieval times, speakers of all the Scandinavian languages could understand one another and they referred to it as a single language, called the "Danish tongue" until the 13th century in Sweden and Iceland. In the 16th century, Danes and Swedes still referred to North Germanic as a single language, which is stated in the introduction to the first Danish translation of the Bible and in Olaus Magnus' A Description of the Northern Peoples.

Yet, by 1600, the genetic East Scandinavian and West Scandinavian branches had become reconfigured from a syntactic point of view into an insular group (Icelandic and Faroese) and a continental group (Danish, Norwegian and Swedish). The division between Insular Scandinavian (ö-nordisk/ø-nordisk) and Continental Scandinavian (Skandinavisk) developed due to different influences, and is based on the degree of mutual intelligibility between the languages in the two groups.

Classification

[[Image:Europe germanic-languages 2.PNG|240px|thumb|right|West Germanic languages

North Germanic languages

]]
In historical linguistics, the North Germanic family tree is divided into two main branches, West Scandinavian languages (Norwegian, Faroese and Icelandic) and East Scandinavian languages (Danish and Swedish), along with various dialects and varieties. The two branches are derived from the western and eastern dialect group of Old Norse, respectively. There was also an Old Gutnish branch spoken on the island of Gotlandmarker. The East Scandinavian languages (and modern Norwegian, through Danish) were heavily influenced by Middle Low German during the period of Hanseatic expansion.

Currently, English loan words are influencing the languages. A 2005 survey of words used by speakers of the Scandinavian languages showed that the number of English loan words used in the languages has doubled during the last 30 years and is now 1.2%. Icelandic has imported fewer English words than the other Scandinavian languages, despite the fact that it is the country that uses English most.

Another way of classifying the languages—focusing on mutual intelligibility rather than the tree of life-model—posits Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish as Continental Scandinavian, and Faroese and Icelandic as Insular Scandinavian. Because of the long political union between Norway and Denmark, Traditional Standard Norwegian (Riksmål and Bokmål) share most of the Danish vocabulary and grammar, and was virtually identical to written Danish until the spelling reform of 1907. (For this reason, Riksmål and Bokmål is sometimes considered East Scandinavian, and Nynorsk West Scandinavian via the West-East division shown above.) However, Danish has developed a greater distance between the spoken and written versions of the language , so the differences between spoken Norwegian and Danish are somewhat more significant than the difference between the written. In writing, Danish is relatively close to the other Continental Scandinavian languages, but the sound developments of spoken Danish include reduction and assimilation of consonants and vowels, as well as the prosodic feature called stød in Danish (lit. "push; thrust"), developments which have not occurred in the other languages. However, Scandinavians are widely expected to understand the other spoken Scandinavian languages. Some people may have some difficulties, particularly older people who speak a dialect, but most people can understand the standard languages, as they appear in radio and television, of the other Scandinavian countries.

The lowest degree of intelligibility is between spoken Danish and Swedish. The relationships between the three languages Danish, Norwegian and Swedish may be summarized as per the following diagram; Norwegian is sometimes humorously explained as "Danish spoken with a Swedish pronunciation":
How Norwegian is related to Swedish and Danish.
(Simplified)


Mutual intelligibility

The mutual intelligibility between the Continental Scandinavian languages is asymmetrical. Various studies have shown Norwegian-speakers to be the best in Scandinavia at understanding other languages within the language group. According to a study undertaken during 2002–2005 and funded by the Nordic Cultural Fund, Swedish-speakers in Stockholmmarker and Danish-speakers in Copenhagenmarker have the greatest difficulty in understanding other Nordic languages. The study, which focused mainly on native speakers under the age of 25, showed that the lowest ability to comprehend another language is demonstrated by youth in Stockholm in regard to Danish, producing the lowest ability score in the survey. The greatest variation in results between participants within the same country was also demonstrated by the Swedish-speakers in the study. Participants from Malmö, located in the southernmost Swedish province of Scania, demonstrated a better understanding of Danish than Swedish-speakers to the north. Access to Danish television and radio, direct trains to Copenhagenmarker over the Öresund bridgemarker and a larger number of cross-border commuters in the Oresund Region contribute to a better knowledge of spoken Danish and a better knowledge of the unique Danish words among the region's inhabitants. According to the study, youth in this region were able to understand the Danish language better than the Norwegian language.

The results from the study of how well native youth in different Scandinavian cities did when tested on their knowledge of the other Continental Scandinavian languages are summarized in table format, reproduced below. The maximum score was 10.0:

City Comprehension

of Danish
Comprehension

of Swedish
Comprehension

of Norwegian
Average
Århusmarker
3.74
4.68
4.21
Copenhagenmarker
3.60
4.13
3.87
Malmömarker
5.08
4.97
5.02
Stockholmmarker
3.46
5.56
4.51
Bergenmarker
6.50
6.15
6.32
Oslomarker
6.57
7.12
6.85


Icelandic and Faroese speakers (of the Insular Scandinavian languages group) are even better than the Norwegians at comprehending two or more languages within the Continental Scandinavian languages group, scoring high in both Danish (which they study at school) and Norwegian and having the highest score on a Scandinavian language other than the mother tongue, as well as the highest average score. When speakers of Faroese and Icelandic were tested on how well they understood the three Continental Scandinavian languages, the test results were as follows (maximum score 10.0):

Area/

Country
Comprehension

of Danish
Comprehension

of Swedish
Comprehension

of Norwegian
Average
Faroe Islandsmarker
8.28
5.75
7.00
7.01
Icelandmarker
5.36
3.34
3.40
4.19


The North Germanic languages are often cited as proof of the aphorism "A language is a dialect with an army and navy." The differences in dialects within the countries of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark can often be greater than the differences across the borders, but the political independence of these countries leads continental Scandinavian to be classified into Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish in the popular mind as well as among most linguists. This is also because of the strong influence of the standard languages, particularly in Denmark and Sweden. Even if the language policy of Norway has been more tolerant of rural dialectal variation in formal language, the prestige dialect often referred to as "Eastern Urban Norwegian", spoken mainly in and around the Oslomarker region, can be considered to be quite normative. The creation of Nynorsk out of dialects after Norway became independent of Denmark in 1814 was an attempt to make the linguistic divisions match the political ones.

Mutual intelligibility with other Germanic languages, while generally low, also varies. For example, Germans can understand Danish slightly better than the other languages, whereas English-speakers can understand Swedish or Norwegian slightly better than Danish.

Family tree

All North Germanic languages are descended from Old Norse. Divisions between subfamilies of North Germanic are rarely precisely defined: Most form continuous clines, with adjacent dialects being mutually intelligible and the most separated ones not.



Beside the two official written norms of Norwegian, there exist two established unofficial norms: Riksmål, similar to, but more conservative than Bokmål, which is used to various extents by numerous people, especially in the cities and Høgnorsk "High-Norwegian", similar to Nynorsk, used by a very small minority.

Jamtlandic shares many characteristics with both Trøndersk and with Norrländska mål. Due to this ambiguous position, it is contested whether Jamtlandic belongs to the West Norse or the East Norse language group.

Älvdalsmål "Älvdalen Speech", generally considered a Sveamål dialect, today has an official orthography and is, because of a lack of mutual intelligibility with Swedish, considered as a separate language by many linguists.

Other languages in Scandinavia

Sami languages form an unrelated group that has coexisted with the North Germanic language group in Scandinavia since prehistory. Sami, like Finnish, is part of the Finno-Ugric language group. In inter-Nordic contexts, texts are today often presented in three versions: Finnish, Icelandic, and one of the three languages Danish, Norwegian and Swedish. During centuries of interaction, Finnish and Sami have imported many more loanwords from North Germanic languages than vice versa.

The North-Germanic languages are majority languages in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, while Finnish is spoken by the majority in Finland. Another language in the Nordic countries is Greenlandic, the official languages of Greenlandmarker.

In southernmost Denmark, German is also spoken, being an official language there. Traditionally, Danish and German were the two official languages of Denmark-Norway.

See also



Notes

  1. Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.), 2005. Language Family Trees Indo-European, Germanic, North. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International
  2. Scandinavian Dialect Syntax. Network for Scandinavian Dialect Syntax. Retrieved 11 November 2007.
  3. Holmberg, Anders and Christer Platzack (2005). "The Scandinavian languages". In The Comparative Syntax Handbook, eds Guglielmo Cinque and Richard S. Kayne. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Excerpt at Durham University.
  4. Bandle, Oskar (ed.)(2005). The Nordic Languages: An International Handbook of the History of the North Germanic Languages. Walter de Gruyter, 2005, ISBN 311017149X.
  5. Lund, Jørn. Language. Published online by Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Version 1-November 2003. Retrieved 13 November 2007.
  6. Lindström, F. & Lindström, H. (2006). Svitjods undergång och Sveriges födelse. Albert Bonniers Förlag. ISBN 9100118737 p.259
  7. Jónsson, Jóhannes Gísli and Thórhallur Eythórsson (2004). "Variation in subject case marking in Insular Scandinavian". Nordic Journal of Linguistics (2005), 28: 223–245 Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 9 November 2007.
  8. Heine, Bernd and Tania Kuteva (2006). The Changing Languages of Europe. Oxford University Press, 2006, ISBN 0199297347.
  9. Torp, Arne (2004). Nordiske sprog i fortid og nutid. Sproglighed og sprogforskelle, sprogfamilier og sprogslægtskab. Moderne nordiske sprog. In Nordens sprog – med rødder og fødder. Nord 2004:010, ISBN 9289310413, Nordic Council of Ministers' Secretariat, Copenhagen 2004. (In Danish).
  10. "Urban misunderstandings". In Norden this week - Monday 01.17.2005.The Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers. Retrieved 13 November 2007.
  11. Maurud, Ø (1976). Nabospråksforståelse i Skandinavia. En undersøkelse om gjensidig forståelse av tale- og skriftspråk i Danmark, Norge og Sverige. Nordisk utredningsserie 13. Nordiska rådet, Stockholm.
  12. Delsing, Lars-Olof and Katarina Lundin Åkesson (2005). Håller språket ihop Norden? En forskningsrapport om ungdomars förståelse av danska, svenska och norska. Available in pdf format. Numbers are from Figure 4:11. "Grannspråksförståelse bland infödda skandinaver fördelade på ort", p.65 and Figure 4:6. "Sammanlagt resultat på grannspråksundersökningen fördelat på område", p.58.
  13. Dalen, Arnold (2005). Jemtsk og trøndersk – to nære slektningar. Språkrådet, Norway. (In Norwegian). Retrieved 13 November 2007.
  14. Sapir, Yair (2004). Elfdalian, the Vernacular of Övdaln. Conference paper, 18–19 juni 2004. Available in pdf format at Uppsala University online archive.
  15. Sammallahti, Pekka, 1990. "The Sámi Language: Past and Present". In Arctic Languages: An Awakening. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Paris. ISBN 92-3-102661-5, p. 440: "the arrival of a Uralic population and language in Samiland [...] means that there has been a period of at least 5000 years of uninterrupted linguistic and cultural development in Samiland. [...] It is also possible, however, that the earlier inhabitants of the area also spoke a Uralic language: we do not know of any linguistic groups in the area other than the Uralic and Indo-Europeans (represented by the present Scandinavian languages)."
  16. Inez Svonni Fjällström (2006). "A language with deep roots".Sápmi: Language history, 14 November 2006. Samiskt Informationscentrum Sametinget: "The Scandinavian languages are Northern Germanic languages. [...] Sami belongs to the Finno-Ugric language family. Finnish, Estonian, Livonian and Hungarian belong to the same language family and are consequently related to each other."
  17. The Nordic Council's/Nordic Council of Ministers' political magazine Analys Norden offers three versions: a section labeled "Íslenska" (Icelandic), a section labeled "Skandinavisk" (in either Danish, Norwegian or Swedish), and a section labeled "Suomi" (Finnish).


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