In so many words – Language cultures of the European Community: Part 9, Danish

This programme is part of the series In So Many Words
Little Mermaid in Copenhagen (© Flickr/brando)

The Romans never made it up as far north as Scandinavia, and Christianity arrived late, so the languages in Europe’s far north did not undergo the influence of Latin that the southern regions did. Instead they retained for centuries their original Norse core. Danish is one of the newest of Europe’s languages, having broken away from Swedish only about five hundred years ago. Since then the language has produced world-famous masterpieces, such as Hans-Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales and Karen Blixen’s Out of Africa.

Danish is spoken by about five to six million people, mostly in Denmark. Speakers of English should not turn up their noses at this apparently small number of native speakers, however, for they should remember that in the early Middle Ages, Danish invaders and Danish rulers of Britain had a profound and lasting impact on British culture, including some of the most basic vocabulary of the English language.

Producer: Marijke van der Meer

Broadcast: October 22, 1991

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