Estimated native speakers: 6 million
Estimated total speakers: 7 million
Official/de facto official language in: Denmark, Faroe Islands
Language family: Indo-European – North Germanic
A brief history:
The language of Kierkegaard and Hans Christian Andersen shares many features with its neighbouring Scandinavian languages; particularly Norwegian (Denmark ruled Norway for centuries), and the languages are to a greater or lesser extent mutually intelligible. They all developed from the Old Norse spoken by the Vikings around the turn of the 2nd millennium AD: a language which also had a significant influence on English. The Standard Danish of today is based on the dialect of Copenhagen, where more than a quarter of Danes live.
In 1100AD, Danish began to separate from the other varieties of Old Norse. The first Danish translation of the Bible in 1550 marks the point at which it can be called its own language, although the first book Danish book had been printed 50 years earlier. Standard Danish developed during the 19th century, after a reform was passed to standardise the language.
Today, there are four different Danish dialects: standard Danish, spoken in Copenhagen and used in the media, Insular Danish, spoken on the island of Funen, Jutlandic, spoken in the Jutland peninsula and Eastern Danish, spoken on the island of Bornholm. All are mutually intelligible.