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Danish

The Danish alphabet consists of twenty-seven letters.

Remarks on the Alphabet

Q, q, (Ku, pronounced coo) is here omitted, being not merely superfluous and useless, but even prejudicial to a faithful representation of the language, by observing the origin and affinity of words.

For instance, Kvinde, woman, is derived from Kone, wife, bekvem, convenient, from komme, to come (Fr. venir); Kvartér, a quarter of an hour, is also called Kortér; Kvast, tuft, is originally the same word as Kóst, broom; and kvæle, suffocate, the same as the English kill. The Q is therefore justly rejected by the celebrated grammarian P. Syv, as also by the learned Prof. S. N. J. Bloch in his Danske Sproglære, Odense 1817.

Figure Name Power
A a A Fraktur A A in father, part
B b B Fraktur b
C c C Fraktur s and k as in English
D d D Fraktur d hard, and th flat
E e E Fraktur E French é fermé, and è ouvert
F f F Fraktur Ef (eff) f
G g G Fraktur Gé (ghe) g in go, give
H h H Fraktur Hå (hô) h aspirated
I i I Fraktur I (ee) ee in bee, i in bill
J j J Fraktur Jé (jod) y consonant
K k K Fraktur Kå (ko) k
L l L Fraktur El l
M m M Fraktur Em m
N n N Fraktur En n
O o O Fraktur O o in more, for
P p P Fraktur p
R r R Fraktur Er r
S s S Fraktur Es s hard
T t T Fraktur t
U u U Fraktur U (oo) oo in fool, u in full
V v V Fraktur v in vein, w in howl
X x X Fraktur Ex (eks) x hard
Y y Y Fraktur Y French u in pure, nul
Å å Å Fraktur Å (ô) a in warm, oa in broad
Æ æ Æ Fraktur Æ (ai) a in sale, ai in said
Ø ø Ø Fraktur Ø French eu fermé in peu
Ö ö Ö Fraktur Ö French eu ouvert in veuve, œœ in cœœur
(Q Fraktur)
(W Fraktur)
(Z Fraktur)
(Ü Fraktur)
(Ä Fraktur)
(ß Fraktur)

It is however still used by some, but always followed by v, never by u in any Danish book, as, Qvinde, beqvem, Qvarter, &c.

Z, z, (Zet, pronounced sett) has crept from the German orthography into a few words, which should be written by s, according to the true pronunciation; as, Zobel, sable; Zire, to adorn; better Sobel, sire.

Å has been, till the beginning of this century, commonly represented by aa, according to the old Low German orthography, but a is found in ancient Danish and Norwegian manuscripts: its reintroduction, proposed by the celebrated Danish grammarian Höjsgård 1743, later by Schlegel, Baden, Nyerup, Schrejber, Thonboe, &c. has, in the last decennium, been realized in about thirty separate books or pamphlets by Prof. A. Gamborg, Mr. H. J. Hansen, Mr. N. M. Petersen, and also by E. Rask, and several anonymous writers. At all events the sound is simple, and continually interchanging with other simple vowels (a, æ, o,) in the inflection and derivation of words.

For instance, tæller, to count, in the past tense talde or tålde, counted;, to go, Gang, gait, gængse, current, common; from Får, sheep, is derived Færøerne, the Farroe islands. Thus even in kindred dialects; as, Vingård, vineyard; Tåre, tear, German Zahre; Måned, month, German Monath; åben, open, &c. Whereas aa is sometimes long a, sometimes even to be read in two syllables as: Haarlem, Aaron, Kanaan, Knud Danaast, the name of a Danish prince. The learner however will find aa for a, in most printed books hitherto published.

Æ, like A, represents a simple vowel sound, and must never be separated or resolved into ae, which make distinct syllables, for instance, bejae (be-ya-e), affirm.

Ø and O are commonly confounded, so that Ø is used for both sounds in books printed in the Gothic type, Ö in those in the Roman character.

There are no diphthongs in Danish, but aj, ej, qj, uj, qj, even though written by some ai, ei, oi, ui, öi, are pronounced with the open sound of the vowels and a distinct y consonant following, never like ai, ei, French oi, ui or the like, for instance, ej, not, sounds like English eye or I; Konvoj, a, convoy, like the verb to convoy, &c.

In like manner av, ev, iv, ov, æv, øv are pronounced as clear vowels followed by a distinct v consonant or rather w, for the v also is softer after the vowels than at the beginning, for instance, tav, was silent; Brev, letter; stiv, stiff; Tòv, cable; Ræv, fox; døv, deaf. The sound of w is particularly observable, when another consonant follows, for instance, tavs, silent; Europa, Europe; stivne, to stiffen; hovne, to swell; Hævn, revenge; søvnig, sleepy, drowsy.

As to the division of words into syllables, j is always referred to the preceding vowel, which is in these cases constantly pronounced short and sharp, for instance, VeJ-e, ways, not Ve-je. The other consonants are usually referred to the vowel following, when single; or divided between the preceding and succeeding vowel, when more than one, no care being taken to distinguish the radical parts from the accessories, but in compound words, for instance, Ba-ge, days, from Dag, day, but for-ud-si-ge, foretell, from for-ud, beforehand, and sige, tell, say.

It is a great advantage in the Danish orthography, that every noun substantive is written with a capital letter at the beginning, as numbers of words, else perfectly alike, are thereby easily distinguished at the first view. Ex.

  • (en) Tale, a speech, (at) tale, to speak,
  • (en) Bör a bier, (jeg) bör, I must, ought,
  • (en) Tro, faith, tro, faithful,
  • (en) Flöj, weathercock, flöj, flew,
  • (et) Öske, a wish, (at) önske, to wish,
  • Vande, waters, (at) vande, to water.

On the other hand, adjectives of national names are usually written with small initials, contrary to the English usage, as, dansk, Danish; norsk, Norwegian; svensk, Swedish; hollandsk, Dutch; engelsk, English; angelsaksisk, Anglosaxon.

Though the Roman character is daily gaining ground, being introduced into the Transactions of the Royal Academy of Copenhagen, and of most other learned societies in Denmark and Norway, as also used in many excellent works of private authors, yet the monkish or Gothic form of the letters is still preferred by many.

In this character the capital upper I Fraktur is also usually applied for the upper J Fraktur for instance, Israel Fraktur and Iesus Fraktur; the long ſ is constantly applied in the beginning of syllables, even in the combinations: SK Fraktur, SL Fraktur, SP Fraktur, ST Fraktur.

For lower Å Fraktur, has been proposed another figure, viz. alternative lower Å Fraktur, which has been adopted by the celebrated Capt. Abrahamson in his first edition of Langes Dänische Gramm. für Deutsche, as also by Rask, in the first edition of his Icel. Grammar; that he has afterwards preferred the lower Å Fraktur, is not only from patriotic motives; this figure being found in old Danish MSS. down to 1555, but also because it is introduced into several other languages, as Swedish and Laplandic, and has even been used in the upper German dialects; also in the Bornholm dialect by Mr. Skougaard, in the Farroic by the Revd. Mr. Lyngbye, and in the Acra (on the coast of Guinea) by Capt. Schönning, whereas alternative lower Å Fraktur is used nowhere else in the world. — From Rask's Danish Grammar, Copenhagen, 1830.

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