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Danish is a North Germanic language spoken by around six million people, principally in the country of Denmark and in the region of Southern Schleswig in northern Germany, where it holds minority language status. There are also significant Danish-speaking communities in USA, Canada and Argentina. Due to immigration and language shifts in urban areas around 15-20% of the population of Greenland speaks Danish as their home language.
Danish is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Swedish. Proficient speakers of any of the three languages can understand the others, though studies have shown that speakers of Norwegian generally understand both Danish and Swedish far better than Swedes or Danes understand each other. Both Swedes and Danes also understand Norwegian better than they understand each other's languages.
Along with the other North Germanic languages, Danish is a descendant of Old Norse, the common language of the Germanic peoples living in Scandinavia during the Viking Era. Danish, together with Swedish, derives from the East Norse dialect group, while the Old Norwegian dialects before the influence of Danish and Norwegian Bokmål is classified as a West Norse language together with Faroese and Icelandic. A more recent classification based on mutual intelligibility separates modern spoken Danish, Norwegian and Swedish into a Mainland Scandinavian group while Icelandic and Faroese are placed in a separate category labelled Insular Scandinavian.
Danish has a relatively large vowel inventory consisting of 16 phonemes and is distinguished by the many pharyngealized sounds, including both vowels and consonants. Written Danish and Norwegian Bokmål are particularly close, though the phonology (that is, the system of relationships among the speech sounds that constitute the fundamental components of the language) and the prosody (the patterns of stress and intonation) differ somewhat.
Danish is a mandatory subject in school in the Danish dependencies of the Faroe Islands (where it is also an official language after Faroese) and Greenland (where, however, the only official language since 2009 is Kalaallisut and the language[clarification needed] is now spoken as lingua franca), as well as the former crown holding of Iceland.
The Danish writing system uses the Latin alphabet and is based on the 26-letter alphabet with an additional three letters - Æ/æ, Ø/ø, and Å/å - placed at the end.
In 1948, Danish underwent a major orthography reform which introducedÅ/å character as a replacement for aa. The old usage of aa can still be found in Danish names and historical documents. According to the Wikipedia, the Æ/æ character "represents a simple vowel...the same phoneme is represented in Swedish by the letter 'Ä', and in German by 'A-Umlaut. The Ø/ø character, on the other hand, is a unique vowel in Danish and Norwegian while the letter Ö in Turkish, Finnish, Swedish, Icelandic, and German alphabets is the equivalent.
The Danish language is an important language as historically major works of literature and thought have been written. Examples of noteworthy authors include Kierkegaard, Hans Christian Andersen, and Karen Blixen).
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