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Danish Language

scandinavian, runic, swedish, germanic, inscriptions, words, manuscripts, retained, western and middle

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DANISH LANGUAGE. The Danish lan guage belongs to the Scandinavian group of the Germanic languages. This group comprises, in modern times, besides the language already mentioned, the Dano-Norwegian, the Nor wegian Landsmaal, the Swedish, the Icelandic and the Faroish languages.

The earliest specimens, still preserved, of the primitive Scandinavian language (Urnordisk), soon after the beginning of the Christian era, are loan words in Finnish (and Lappish), sev eral hundred in number, mostly denoting uten sils belonging to a fairly advanced stage of civil ization. In the Scandinavian countries them selves the earliest specimens of Urnordisk are the inscriptions in the early Runic characters, 24 in number, developed from the Latin and Greek alphabets and known to all Germanic peoples. There are over 100 of these early Runic inscriptions. Some of these are the old est existing traces of any Germanic tongue and closer than any other to what is supposed to have been the original primitive Germanic lan . From these early specimens that have we learn then that the Urnordisk belongs to the Germanic (Teutonic) group of the Indo-European family, and is an independ ent and individual branch, most nearly related to the Gothic. The most famous old Runic inscription found in Denmark is the inscription on the Golden Horn, found in 1734 and lost in 1802: 'Ek hlewagastir holtinar horn tawidcd (I Lagest from Holte (Holt's son) the horn made). The Norwegian Professor Sophus Bugge and the Danish Professor Ludvig Wim mer were the first scholars able to interpret these Runic inscriptions, of which some. how ever, have as yet not been interpreted. During the Viking Age (750-1000 A.D.) the language of the Scandinavian nations, as evidenced in the Runic inscriptions in the later peculiarly Scan dinavian, Runic characters (16 in number), un derwent a very decided change. The Scandina vian peculiarities distinguishing the language from the other Germanic idioms now appear fully developed, and by and by even dialectal differences between the languages of the sev eral Scandinavian nations commence to assert themselves. The principal changes from Urnor disk are: (1) dropping unaccented vowels, (2) introducing vowel harmony (i-and u- mu tation), (3) assimilation of consonants. Toward the close of this period the dialectic differences establish two groups: Norwegian-Icelandic (western group) and Danish-Swedish (eastern group). In the eastern group there are fewer cases of u-umlaut, not as many assimilations, the simplicity of verb inflections is much further advanced, the passive ends in s, while in the western group it ends in sk. The differences, however, are still unimportant, and the Scandi navians themselves consider their la ge as one (Danish tongue.) Generally speaking, the western group has preserved the more primi tive forms. As an example of old Danish from this period may be cited the inscription on one of the 200 runestones found in Denmark, the smaller Jellinge-stone: konungr gaerdi kumble p si aeft pyrwi konu sina, Danmarkar (King Gorm made this mound [with rune stone], after his wife, Tyra Danebod).

Danish in the Middle Ages (1050-1500), It is only after the introduction of Christianity (about 1000 A.D.) that real literature is made possible. The monks brought with them the art of writing, and literary activity in the Middle Ages is especially connected with the churches and monasteries. The Latin alphabet was in troduced, but sometimes, especially in Iceland, characters denoting peculiar Scandinavian sounds were added. The Norwegian-Icelandic

literature from the earlier Middle Ages stands, both as to extent, age and value, far above the Danish and Swedish, and the language of the oldest Norwegian-Icelandic manuscripts varies only a little from the Runic language of about 1000 and has greater linguistic interest. The earliest preserved Danish manuscripts date from the close of the 13th century. From 1050-1250 Danish language is known only from rare Runic inscriptions and from Latin manuscripts with Danish names. The oldest manuscripts with Danish words contain the old Provincial Laws. They show that the separation from the orig inal common Scandinavian idiom, already indi cated in the younger Runic inscriptions, now is strongly apparent. Old Danish (1050) was an old Scandinavian dialect, middle Danish (1300) is an independent language which has diverged far from the original idiom and also from the western Scandinavian language, and now is on the point of parting company with Swedish. In the Middle Ages (and later) Danish was spoken also in Sleswick and in Scania, Halland and Blekinge (now belonging to Sweden.) There were three groups of popular dialects, those of Scania, Zealand and Jutland. But already the earlier manuscripts show a tendency toward cre ating a uniform Danish literary language, and this is gradually developing essentially from the Zealand dialect. In this period some of the changes to be noticed are: A large number of Low German words are introduced, especially in the 14th and 15th centuries, when the Han seatic League controlled the commerce of Den mark, and also the political influence from Ger many was very considerable. Most of these words have been retained and are later con sidered pure Danish. Many German deriva tional endings were adopted and often added to native words. Of German prefixes adopted were be-, for-, und-. The declension of nouns, adjectives and pronouns was greatly simplified. Instead of the original four cases only two, nominative and genitive, were ordinarily used (in pronouns also the objective form). The orig inal three genders (retained in most dialects) were reduced to two, common and neuter, in the literary language. In western Jutland only one, the common gender, was used. The use of prep ositions is developed more and more. The order of the words in the sentence, to show the syntactical connection, becomes more fixed. Al ready from the 10th century the monophongi fication of original diphthongs was observed in the eastern group of Scandinavian languages (Danish and Swedish), Stein became sten, daudr-dodr, leysa-losa. The language of Nor way, on the other hand, with the dialects spoken in the countries settled from or belonging to Norway, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, the islands north and west of Scotland, retained the old diphthongs as diphthongs. About 1300 the Danish language began to substitute voiced stops (mediae) for voiceless stops (tenues or hard consonants) after a long vowel at the end of a word or a syllable. The Swedish retained the old voiceless stops. K, t, p were changed to g, d, v. Swedish rike D. righa, S. Nita = D. ladhe, S. dripa ...a D. drzww. About 1300 also the glottal catch, so peculiar to Danish pronunciation, was introduced. The earlier Da nish ju (retained in Swedish) is changed into y.

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