Danish/Norwegian/Swedish: How similar are they?

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by Magiciangirl131, Oct 7, 2008.

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  1. Magiciangirl131 New Member

    A Little Town In The Middle of Nowhere
    English (American and British)

    So, I was talking to my Norwegian speaking friend and he said that he has a simple time understanding people who speak Swedish and more so Danish. Just the other day he was talking to Ed, the exchanged student from Denmark. They were both speaking their respective language, and they seemed to understand each one with ease.

    So, how similar are they?


  2. Wilma_Sweden

    Wilma_Sweden Senior Member

    Lund, Sweden
    Swedish (Scania)
    There are several threads in this forum discussing this matter already, and consequently I shall refrain from answering anything other than to point you to one of the 'epic' ones: http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=256094

    If you still have specific questions after reading that, feel free to ask!

  3. Magb Senior Member

    Norway, Norwegian
    As a short non-answer I'd just like to point out that it really depends on what type of Norwegian, Danish and Swedish you're talking about. The Scandinavian languages are a classic example of a so-called "dialect continuum", where two dialects spoken close to each other are likely to be very similar but two dialects that are geographically and culturally distant may be too different from each other to be considered to be the same language.

    For example, while the Danish spoken in Copenhagen isn't very different from the Norwegian spoken in Oslo, the Danish spoken in southern Jutland and the Norwegian spoken somewhere like Sogn of Fjordane are probably too different that you can consider them to be dialects of the same language, and comprehension would probably be pretty low (of course, such groups don't come in direct contact very often).

    Things have also changed a lot relatively recently in that people from the more peripheral parts of the countries have become more likely to understand and even speak the standard varieties of their respective languages. Using the same example as above, it's my understanding that a lot of Danes from southern Jutland no longer speak the proper dialect Southern Jutlandic, but rather just standard Danish with a Jutlandic accent. Similarly, people from Sogn are nowadays less likely to speak the dialect Sognamål, or at least to speak a very leveled version of it. Obviously this makes it easier for outsiders to understand the people from these regions.

    This doesn't even take into account the issue of dialects that can't easily be said to be a dialect of the one language or the other, such as Scanian which lies somewhere between Swedish and Danish, and Jamtlandic which lies somewhere in between Swedish and Norwegian.

    Okay, I guess this ended up not being particularly short after all. It's a pretty complex and interesting topic, and responses like "I don't know what the problem is, I understand all three languages easily!" don't really get to the heart of the issue.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2008
  4. oskhen

    oskhen Senior Member

    As has been already said, this has been discussed at length, so I don't really plan to give a proper answer. But I suppose it's quite telling that at my university, we're expected to read both Swedish and Danish works. And that even though Norwegians don't learn either of the languages in school. Lecturers from Denmark and Sweden also lecture in their own language.
  5. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    I think, one of the few things that have not been said in previous threads on this theme is that wheras native Danes, Swedes, Norwegians have a good chance of understanding each other while speaking their respective languages, non-native speakers often are less well off. I'd say, that is not only a phonetic problem. The point is, when listen to a person speaking Norwegian, I discover that I have a huge passive vocabulary partly consisting of archaic words in Danish that are similar to many of the words in Norwegian. That is sometimes the key to understanding the language. A non-native usually does not have this passive vocabulary.
  6. Magiciangirl131 New Member

    A Little Town In The Middle of Nowhere
    English (American and British)
    Thank you Wilma, I searched for such forum but alas, my searching skills have failed me once gain.

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