Danish shares a common ancestor with Norwegian and Swedish, the Old Norse language. This was the language spoken in the region during the Dark Age. In the 8th century, Old Norse split into two different dialects, Old Norse East and Old Norse West. It was Old Norse East that went on to become the progenitor of Swedish and Danish.
During the Old Norse period, Danish was written using the Younger Futhark alphabet, the newer version of Elder Futhark, like Norwegian and Swedish language. Elder Futhark is a runic alphabet commonly believed to have originated from the old Italic script, the progenitor of Latin. This change allowed more people from other classes of the society, not just the literate elites, to become literate, as Younger Futhark is noticeably simpler and more accessible than Older Futhark.
The next great change in the language came gradually in the 12th century, when distinctive features of Danish distinguished itself from Swedish. It was during this period that Latin and its script came to the Scandinavia. Latin was quickly adopted as the court language, but Danish remained the vernacular one and was widely spoken by the general population. Due to the needs to educate the general public about general law, new laws were soon written in vernacular Danish. However, there was no standardized spelling in the period, so there existed many dialects of Danish with different spellings and phonology.
In 1536, the Protestant Reformation happened, elevating Danish into the language of religion. This phenomenon also attracted vigorous enthusiasm from many writers to Danish, rendering it a language of literature as well. Many grammar books, such as The Art of the Danish Language by Peder Syv, were published in vernacular Danish. It was also during this period that Danish took up such distinctive linguistic features that differentiate it from Norwegian and Swedish. However, even though a standardized orthography was a subject of enthusiasm, none was conceived during the period.
The modern period of Danish came after the loss of Schleswig, a town in the northeastern part of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, to Germany. The Danish people, astonished at the loss, became vigorously patriotic, revering the Danish language as a national pride. There was also a surge of famous Danes who were awarded many prestigious prizes, making them role models to the younger generations. This, along with the higher education requirements in Copenhagen made the Copenhagen dialect the national standard.
Nowadays, Danish enjoys great popularity. Being the language of many literary geniuses like Hans Christian Andersen and Søren Kierkegaard, Danish sparks the interest of bookworms all around the world. Furthermore, there is a great need for Danish translators worldwide as many companies originating from Denmark, including Maersk, one of the world’s largest shipping companies, and Carlsberg, are seeking to go global.
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