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The North Germanic Languages of the Nordic Nations (UPDATED)


Okay, so I’ve had a lot of requests for a video
on the North Germanic languages. So today, I present to you a video
on Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Finnish. [Crowd protestation] What? The North Germanic languages
of the Nordic Nations And Finnish isn’t one of them. Hello everyone. Welcome to the Langfocus channel
and my name is Paul Today, I’m going to talk about the North Germanic
languages of the Nordic Nations. That includes the scandinavian languages:
Swedish, Danish and Norwegian. And I will also touch on the languages of
Icelandic and Faroese. I wanted to call this video:
the Scandinavian Languages because I just love the way that word sounds:
“Scandinavian” But to the people of that region, the word “Scandinavian”
only refers to Denmark, Sweden and Norway and not to the other countries that I want to talk about. So if I say the Nordic Nations, that also includes
Iceland, the Faroe Islands as well as Finland. I want to talk about the North Germanic languages
spoken in all of those countries. So I decided on the title:
the North Germanic languages of the Nordic Nations. And please note that Finnish is not
a North Germanic language. It belongs to a separate language family entirely. But there is a Swedish-speaking miniority in Finland. There are about 20 million native speakers
of North Germanic languages. And that includes about 9 million speakers of Swedish, mainly in Sweden but also
as a minority language in Finland. Six million speakers of Danish, mainly in Denmark but also as a minority language in the “Southern Schleswig”
region of Northern Germany and in Greenland. 5 million speakers of Norwegian, mainly in Norway 320,000 speakers of Icelandic, mainly in Iceland 90,000 speakers of Faroese, about 2/3 of them living
in the Faroe Islands and the rest mainly in Denmark The North Germanic languages are, as you probably guessed,
a branch of the Germanic language family. All Germanic languages developed from Proto-Germanic,
which was spoken around 500 BCE Proto-Germanic possibly originated in Scandinavia and different varieties of Germanic
began to emerge with migration. Runic inscriptions from the 2nd century CE show us that,
by that time, Proto-Germanic had began to separate
into distinct Western, Eastern and Northern dialects. The northern dialect was spoken in Scandinavia
and is today often referred to as Proto-Norse. And became the ancestor
of all the North Germanic languages. Proto-Norse was spoken from
around the 2nd century CE to the 8th century CE and, by the beginning of the Viking Era
in the eighth century CE, It had evolved into the dialects that are
collectively referred to as “Old Norse”. During the next few hundred years, Vikings, seafaring
norse people, explored much of europe by sea and river, conquering lands and establishing settlements
and bringing their language with them. During this time, “Old Norse” was divided
into three mutually intelligible dialects of “Old East Norse”, “Old West Norse” and “Old Gutnish” “Old East Norse” was spoken in Sweden and Denmark,
as well as their overseas settlements in Russia,
England and in Danish settlements in Normandy. “Old West Norse” was spoken in Norway as well
as its overseas settlements, the two most notable
were Iceland and the Faroe Islands. But also Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man
and Norwegian settlements in Normandy. Old Gutnish was mainly spoken on the island of Gotland,
which is today part of Sweden as well as
some overseas settlements to the East. These West, East and Gutnish varieties of Old Norse
gradually developed into the modern North Germanic
languages around the 14th century CE. The western branch of languages consists of
Norwegian, Icelandic and Faroese, as well as some other extinct languages. The eastern branch consists of Swedish and Danish. The Gutnish branch consists of only
the Gutnish language, which is still spoken
to some extent on the island of Gotland. But these days, the North Germanic languages are generally
not thought of in terms of East, West and Gutnish. They are thought of in terms of continental and insular. The Continental languages are
Danish, Swedish and Norwegian, and the insular languages are Icelandic and Faroese. These categories are based
on the mutual intelligibility of the languages, rather than on the genetic root language
that they come from. Norwegian is grouped with Swedish and Danish because,
even though Icelandic and Norwegian developed
from the same Old West Norse, Norwegian is today much more intelligible
with Swedish and Danish. One reason for that is the political union of
Denmark and Norway from 1536 to 1814. During this time, the written Norwegian language
stopped being used and it was replaced
by the written Danish language and this had a big impact on the spoken dialects of
Norwegian, especially the central and eastern dialects. The Continental languages also underwent
a lot of influence from Middle Low German, which is an influence that didn’t affect
Icelandic and Faroese. The three continental languages can be referred to
as the “Scandinavian languages”. When talking about the Scandinavian languages,
it’s important to note that there is a significant amount
of dialectal variation within each language. In fact, the three languages are made up
of a dialect continuum, that means if you travel in one direction,
the dialects gradually change the further you go. That means for example that, if you are Norwegian living
near the border with Sweden, you probably have an easier time understanding
your neighbor just across the border in Sweden than you do a Norwegian
from the other side of the country, even though you are supposedly speaking
a different language from that Swedish person. This makes it kind of hard to determine at what point
these dialects become different languages. Or if they are in fact different languages at all. The three languages are all more or less intelligible,
depending on where the dialect lies on that continuum. And the written languages are almost entirely intelligible. Danish seems to be the odd man out,
with its complex phonology that has come
to be quite distinct from the written language. Swedes and Norwegians often say that Danish people
sound like they’re speaking with a potato in their mouth. I can’t actually confirm if they do speak
with the potato in their mouth. So, Scandinavians, can you let me know
if that’s true in the comments down below? I have Danish roots.
So I’m allowed to make fun of Danes. From what I understand, Norwegians have the easiest
time understanding the other two Scandinavian languages. Though, they understand Swedish better than Danish. Swedes can generally understand Norwegian
but they have much more trouble understanding Danish,
because of its pronunciation And Danes can more or less understand Norwegian and,
to a lesser extent, they can understand some Swedish. From what I understand, Scandinavians will
generally not speak the other person’s language. They will speak their own language, while making
an effort to understand the other person’s speech. And maybe, they will slow down
and clarify things when necessary. But, when they have significant trouble
communicating, they might switch to English, which isn’t that tough for them because Scandinavians
are magical geniuses when it comes to learning English. In this kind of situation where you have three closely related
languages that kind of blend together on a continuum, the languages are not defined by the spoken variety,
but rather by the official standard language associated
with that country or region. In Denmark, there is Standard Danish.
In Sweden, there is Standard Swedish.
And, in Norway, there is Standard Norwegian. Or wait, no, there are actually two Standard Norwegians. What? That’s right, Norway actually has
two official standard written languages: Bokmål and Nynorsk. Bokmål which means “book language”,
is a Danish-influenced standard language, which is very close to standard Danish
but which uses Norwegian pronunciation. Nynorsk or “new Norwegian” is intended to be
a purer version of Norwegian, based on
Norway’s more conservative Western dialects Which standard language Norwegians are educated in
depends on the region they grow up in. But, despite having two official standard languages,
Norwegians don’t really speak them. Norwegians generally speak their own local dialect,
whenever they are speaking. Even in formal situations and even when they’re speaking
to people from the other scandinavian countries. Because of this, Norwegians have to get used to
understanding a wide variety of spoken dialects And that’s probably part of what makes it easier
for them to understand Swedish and Danish. But that, of course, is just my speculation.
So, native speakers, you can confirm or disconfirm that. So let’s take a look at the three continental languages
and see just how similar they are. In English : “I love you” First in Swedish: Now in Norwegian : Now in Danish : As you can see, these sentences are very similar but with some differences in spelling and in pronunciation. In particular, the Swedish pronunciation is
a little different than the other two. Listen to the first person pronoun again At the end the swedish one,
you can hear a hard g sound. It is not also pronounced that way,
it depends on exactly where the speaker is from. Another example : “Dogs are the best pets”. First in Swedish: Next in Norwegian : And in Danish : Here we see some more noticable differences
even though the sentences are still really similar. Notice the differences in the words for “dogs”. The swedish word is pretty much pronounced as written. But in the Norwegian and Danish words,
some letters are not pronounced. And notice the different words for “pets”. The Swedish word is different from the other 2. And the Norwegian and Danish words are
almost the same but a different initial sound
and slightly different vowels. Another example Tomorrow I will go to Germany. In Swedish: And in Norwegian : And in Danish : In this case, the Norwegian and Danish sentences
are basically the same, but the Swedish sentence
is pronounced a little differently. Again we hear those hard g sound which aren’t present in the Norwegian and Danish sentences. But again they’re not always
pronounced in Swedish either. One more example. In English: The party was fun because I liked the music. First in Swedish: Then in Norwegian : And in Danish : In these sentences, the word for fun
is different in each language. The word meaning “because” is also different in Swedish. And in Norwegian and Danish,
it’s spelt the same but pronounced differently And “like” is expressed differently in all 3 languages. or “gillade” with a hard g sound,
more as the voice in the recording. In Danish it is expressed with 2 words,
the first one expressing “could”. The phrase literally means “could suffer”. And listen to the difference for the words for “music”
In Norwegian and Danish. Listen how the k sound disappear in Danish. And listen to the pronounciation of this phrase again. The end of the second word seems to vanish. This could be part of
that “potato phenomenon” discussed earlier. So you can probably see just how similar
these three languages are. And you can probably see how – relatively speaking –
they are easy for English-speakers to learn. They are all category 1 languages, according to
the American Foreign Service Institute, which trains
diplomats for their overseas assignments. None of the North Germanic languages are amongst
the most widely spoken languages in the world. And people from the Nordic countries
generally speak excellent English. So, is it a waste of time to learn
a North Germanic language? Of course not! If you’re interested in the cultures
and the history of that region, then learning one of the languages
could bring you immense joy. And because the three Scandinavian languages are
so similar, learning one of them can unlock the doors
to the other ones, especially of the written languages. And, if you’re an avid traveler
or you want to go backpacking around the world, then you will probably meet
a surprising number of Scandinavians. And, knowing their language or even one
of the other two languages will help you break the ice and get to know some wonderful
and, possibly, highly attractive people. And if you are interested in the old Nordic cultures,
then you might benefit from learning Icelandic. Since written Icelandic is still very similar to Old Norse. So don’t hesitate to start learning
one of the North Germanic languages, which could be your portal into a whole new world So the question of the day: Native speakers of North Germanic languages,
what is your experience communicating
with the speakers of other languages? Which of the other languages
do you understand the most? And how do you bridge that communication gap?
We’d like to know. And everyone else, jump in
and leave whatever comment you want. Thank you for watching and have a nice day.

100
Comments
  • Norwegian is probably the most basic Scandinavian language. Swedish is basically a more posh, formal version of Norwegian. While Danish is basically a drunk Swede speaking with gravel in their mouth.

    I’m from Norway and currently live in Sweden but work in in Norway for less taxes and more money lol. So I can say that the Norwegian voice pronounced everything properly but the Swedish voice.. My god where the actual hell did you get that?

    First of all pretty much every single word is pronounced wrong with a very thick accent I cannot recognize having been in all of the large cities in Sweden. And in Swedish you don’t say “I morgon” but rather “imorgon” it’s basically like claiming a British or American English speaker says “to morrow” rather than “tomorrow” it’s totally wrong.

  • The swedish dude is over pronouncing very much, it doesn’t really sound like that. The Norwegian and Danish are more relaxed when speaking.

  • The different words being used are still valid words in all three languages, like: "Husdjur" means house animal or livestock, "kæledyr" means pet, but "husdjur" still technically works, it just an unmodern word. Same with "för" vs "fordi", in Danish "for" and "fordi" are completely interchangeable.

  • In Norway we usually have an easier time reading Danish than Swedish, but have an easier time understanding spoken Swedish than spoken Danish 😉 that just a fun fact

  • I am norwegian. Its realy easy to underserstand swedish people, but Danish is a little bit harder because of the potato. Norwegian is actually pretty close to German too.

  • Hard g sounds does not really depend on where in sweden ur from, depends more on what age the person is. Its more slang used by the younger generations, they say morron instead of morgon.

  • As a Swede I can understand Danish, Norwegian and even Icelandic text better than speaking to them, but I can have a conversation with someone from Norway with out any problems. Danish languish sounds more like some made up words with porridge in there mouth to my ears..😜

  • hi im from norway <3 swedish and danish is easy to understand. some words are understandable to me in icelandic, BUT FINNISH IS HELL. its a cool language, but ITS HELLLLL

  • Norwegian : Hallo
    Swede : Hej
    Norwegian : hvordan har du det?
    Swede : Ledsen att jag inte förstår dig.
    Norwegian : Fine I'll just talk in English
    Swede : That makes life a lot easier for both of us

  • Im Norwegian, and i can pretty much confirm every thing you said. The only ting i reacted to, is that we would have said "det beste kjæledyrET", or "de beste kjæledyrENE" because its in the particular form. "De beste kjæledyr" works, but its incredibly formal (probably because Danish was long considered formal speech in Norway), so very rarly used. We are NEVER formal😅

    Otherwise; tipp topp content😊

  • I'm from Skåne (south Sweden, formerly Danish territory). we have quite a distinct dialect because of our heritage which the rest of Sweden thinks sounds very fun and different (many jokes about "go back to Denmark" and such hehe). Though from what i hear from my grandparents the general understanding between our region and Denmark has changed from being generally able to understand each other rather good to actually being worse at understanding one another than the standard Swedish/Danish, this maybe due to televisions role and how that's the most common way to experience each others languages (of what i can think of). I personally understand the written Danish- and the spoken Norwegian better and i have no idea why :/ but only the standardised languages as known through TV. I love our counties connections though and i really enjoyed your video ^^

  • jeg tror vidst godt vi kan være enige om at norsk og svensk lyder meget ens, dog er norsk lidt mere dansk-agtig fordi landet har hørt under danmark i så lang tid. Personligt selv syntes jeg at norsk og svensk lyder lidt som om man synger, hvor dansk lyder meget flat, lidt svensk/norsk bare uden den form for dialægt

  • Hounds or "Hundar" in swedish is actually "Hunder"(bokmål) or "Hundar"(new norwegian). New norwegian is: Ein hund, hunden, hundar, hundane.

  • im from malmoe in southern sweden in region scania. i can travel to copenhagen in 25 min so danish is no problem to understand for me, but speak it is big no no! And norwegian is no problem also to undertand, but speak it is also a big no no! i speak swedish if im in denmark or norway! maybe sometimes i need to get a danish word in because sometimes the words are so diffrent!

  • The swedish woman that helped you with those sentences totally ruined the video. No swede talks like that unless they're helping a child learn to read /Swede

  • This is years later, but what ever.
    I'm a native Swedish speaker. I learned English at a young age and studied German in high-school.
    I find it easier to understand Norwegian than Danish. But when I don't understand Danish speaking people tend to have an easier time adjusting their language so that I can.
    But, as you said, oftentimes we just talk English =)

  • I’m Norwegian and i understand and speak Swedish, danish and icelandic fluently. So when i talk to someone from the other countries i will just talk their language:)

  • well I am Swedish, and then you meet someone from Denmark. Danish ppl are usually very nice, but as you explained a bit tricky to understand from both sides… then comes the battle…. … Denmark and Sweden have been rivals thru out history and fought a lot wars against each other.. so…
    who will admit that there is a language barrier, and turn into english?… well its a battle everytime…. I mean… you cant really give up to someone from Denmark, just like that!? can you!?

  • The Norwegian sentences seem to be the product of an online translation service, as they are not quite how a native speaker would put them. Since "dogs" are in plural, you should also put "pets" in plural (just like in English): "Hunder er de beste kjæledyrene". The danish often do not put the object in plural, which is a quirk exclusive to danish. In the party sentence, using "morsom" is preferable to "gøy" in this context (although both mean fun). I would also note that the speaker seems to have a west country dialect – that pronunciation of the R sound is exclusive to south and west Norway. Lastly, the topic of Norway's two written languages is very contentious and claiming that New Norwegian is somehow more pure than Bokmål is controversial. Although that was the intention, it was mainly based on a select few southwestern dialects and is used by only 15% of the population. In addition, Bokmål has gradually moved away from Danish during the last 200 years, and is still developing quite rapidly. In both languages many words have several correct spellings that you can choose from based on what's closest to your dialect and therefore there is quite some degree of overlap.

  • Because Sweden has a larger population than Norway, and more TV productions, many kids in Norway grew up watching Swedish television. At least this used to be the case. This is, to my understanding, the reason (at least one of them) why Norwegians tend to understand Swedish a little bit better than vice versa.

  • I’ve been arranging a lot of internordic conferences, where the common language has been “Scandinavian” meaning, all spoke their own language, but slowly and with clear pronunciation (always a good idea 😊) – if everyone is doing an effort, it works quite well. You also get better in understanding your sister languages (at least on the second or third day of the conference). There are some words in your own language that you know are very different from the other languages, so you try to pick other words. For instance: “forskellige” (“different”) is similar in Danish and Norwegian but is not understood by the swedes – they say “olika” which is more like “uneven”. Often the Swedish alternative which is also understood by Danes and Norwegians, is chosen, because many Finish people already have Swedish as a foreign language. So going further away from Swedish makes it more difficult for the Finns.

  • As a German learning Icelandic:
    I could always communicate well in English with Scandinavians but sometimes the English word for a German one is missing or too complicated and I can just say it in German and mst of the time they have a similar sounding word that's the same. LEarning icelandic I've been seeing massive improvements in comprehending the written language of Norwegian (Swedish remains odd but got used to Danish and Norwegian and ofc my Icelandic is improving a lot).

  • It's not official but norwegians usually say that the standard way of speaking is what they speak in the capital. Also, we have to learn nynorsk in school no matter where you live in the country

  • only a couple of minutiae I'd disagree with, but after living in Sweden (and working in the Nordics) for 12 years this is a spot-on video. Well done!

  • norwegians tend to understand danish writing more than swedish writing, but at the same time we usually find it easier to listen to swedish than listening to danish

  • I'm Norwegian, and late to this video. But for me it's really easy to understand swedish,

    and i'm in highschool. but danish is a little more difficult. Even though i'm a little danish.

  • I can confirm that Danes do speak with a potato in their mouths. But we have to walk around with several potatoes in our pockets too, since we tend to get hungry throughout the day.

  • How danes view every single country:bullys. 4real. Stop hating on our language. I could talk shit about you and you would just think i was a 13 year old drunk Girl.

  • Its very easy to hear an accent when norwegians and swedes speak english while alot of danes have very little to no accent when speaking english.

  • In the Denmark as people and NOT on paper we find it really easy to understand norwegian and swedish while i have tried on hundreds of tours to norway and sweden that they have NO clue what im saying when i speak Danish. Norwegians and swedes also have alot clearer accent when speaking english while alot of danes have no to very little accent.

  • When she says "husdjuren" 9:00 she sounds really pissed, and being from Sweden, the pronunciation of that particular person sounds totally weird, nobody speaks like that in Sweden

  • The faroese people can understand and speak Danish, norwegean and sweedish with out problems, and understand mostly islandish but not every one can speak it 😊 Faroese people also intend to alter there Faroese to a mix language when speaking to people from norway and sweeden so they understand each other perfectly even tho some words are not the same 😊 enjoy

  • As a Norwegian I have no problem normally understanding swedes. Danish can be more difficult but I have learned to understand more and more. The one thing that suprise me is that sometimes it feels like some swedes struggle to understand me when I can understand them perfectly fine. Though this is just personal experience. A funny thing is that "rar" means "cute" in swedish and means "weird" in norwegian.

  • DANSKARNA SUGER BALLE MED DERAS JÄVLA PEPPERSTUNNA BRÖD NÄR SKÅNSKARNA LÄMNADE DANSKARNA VAR DET INTE FÖR ATT SVERIGE TVINGA OSS UTAN FÖR ATT DANSKARNA SUGER JU DASE! DERAS LAND ÄR JU SÅ JÄVLA FACKING PLATT ATT OM MANN TITTAR FRÅN SKÅNE SÖDER UT SÅ KAN MAN SE TYSKLAND. DERAS HÖGSTA BERG ÄR 1.8 METER DANSKJÄVLAR VI SKA SPRÄNGA DEM OCH TA DERAS JÄVLA BRÖD KÖTT OCH POTATISAR FÖR FAN!

    btw "gillade" is not pronounced with a hard g sound it's more like a soft g, pronounced like "j"

  • The Swedish "Husdjuren" looks and sounds like a cognate to the German "Haustiere," which has the same meaning. Can anyone confirm?

  • Sweden and danish… wut
    also swedish is so much more closely related to norweigian than danish… i don't get this
    I should know as a very swedish swede whos family has lived here since like beginning of time…

  • I'm swedish and I have almost no trouble at all communicating with and understanding noweigian people. I was recently in denmark on a family road trip and when we met people we mostly talked to them in swedish and for the most part it worked, but some words in swedish means something completely different in danish, and sometimes you just don't understand each other, in that case we just switch to english.
    Btw, the reason scandinavian people have such good english is because we start learning english in school in first grade 7 years old. I'm in ninth grade and as you can tell I'm not fluent in english and I use the same words cause I don't have a huge vocabulary but I can speak english without a problem in most cases, notice I'm only fifteen 🙂

  • I am danish. I can understand most written norwegain and some written swedish.
    I can not understand when they speak tho.. lol they sound like small hudilidooo people

  • The Danish speech here is even too well-pronounced. We reduce way more in normal speech: 'Festn va sjow, fodi ja ku li musikn'. And 'lide' in 'kunne lide' does not carry the same meaning as the verb 'lide' (suffer). They are pronounced differently, and a Danish speaker will not connect these too meanings, even though they are spelled the same.

  • Well, I'm from the northern part of Norway, called Tromsø. And I would say that I understand the Swedish language more.

  • Bokmål is the language that most of us speak (it’s spoken in the capital and around that place) and Nynorsk is kind of a mix off all the dialects we have

  • hi, im danish.
    I speak perfect English, so I sometimes just speak English.
    but I know Norwegen to sins I was born in Norway.
    I understand the Scandinavian languages decently well, so yeah.

  • I hate Nynorsk! As a Norwegian who lives in the east, I have to learn Nynorsk! And that sucks, beacuse learning Nynorsk is like almost learning a new language. And since I am going in 9th grade, I have to have tests in Nynorsk. And then I fucking get a grade on it!

  • My mom is norwegian and my dad is danish, but I was born and raised in Sweden so I can talk, write and understand all three languages

  • I was born in Denmark and lived here for 13 years and i've lived in Sweden for 9 years and I understand Norwegian as long as they speak slowly and as long as it's "Bokmål". Some words can be a challenge tho when they have no similarities with Danish or Swedish.

  • As a dane, I can understand Bokmål with as much ease as Danish with a few words as the exception. With nynorsk and Swedish I can understand it if they speak slowly and clearly.

    The Norwegian word gøy can be likened to the Danish word gøjl which means carnival or parlor tricks. And was used to express how people felt about the carnival. A slang word that caught on.

    In Denmark, during our 9 years of elementary school, we learn Danish and English as mandatory, and then we have to pick a third mandatory language, either German, French or Spanish. During our 9th year of elementary school, we have to dissect texts, poems and essays in Norwegian and Swedish. Or at least you had to 12 years ago when I left school, man I'm old.

    And lastly I want to make a fun experiment with you all, try and search The Julekalender on youtube and report back what you got out of it. I'm fairly curious. It's a Danish Christmas calender tv series that mixes up Danish and English into an amalgamation. You also get to hear one of the hardest to understand dialects in Denmark.

  • When failing to learn Icelandic in Reykjavik I lived with two Norwegians and I thought they were amazing at Icelandic because when asked something they'd always reply really confidently. Then at the end of the month our teacher said 'by the way you can't really say the words you don't know in Norwegian during the exam' :') mystery solved

  • does it really sound like we Danes have something stuck in our throats? I’ve learned that we have a more harsh way of speaking, making specific sounds from the back of the throat while other languages are more in the upfront throat area. tbh when a Swede says that a Dane sounds like a Swede on their 13th beer, it’s kinda the opposite for me. Swedish sounds like a slurred Danish 🤷‍♂️ Norwegian is the easiest to understand.

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