Danish (// ( listen); dansk pronounced ( listen), dansk sprog ) is a North Germanic language spoken by around six million people, principally in Denmark and in the region of Southern Schleswig in northern Germany, where it has minority language status. Also, minor Danish-speaking communities are found in Norway, Sweden, Spain, the United States, Canada, Brazil, and Argentina. Due to immigration and language shift in urban areas, around 15–20% of the population of Greenland speak Danish as their first language.
Along with the other North Germanic languages, Danish is a descendant of Old Norse, the common language of the Germanic peoples who lived in Scandinavia during the Viking Era. Danish, together with Swedish, derives from the East Norse dialect group, while the Middle Norwegian language before the influence of Danish and Norwegian Bokmål are classified as West Norse along with Faroese and Icelandic. A more recent classification based on mutual intelligibility separates modern spoken Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish as "mainland Scandinavian", while Icelandic and Faroese are classified as "insular Scandinavian".
Until the 16th century, Danish was a continuum of dialects spoken from Schleswig to Scania with no standard variety or spelling conventions. With the Protestant Reformation and the introduction of printing, a standard language was developed which was based on the educated Copenhagen dialect. It spread through use in the education system and administration, though German and Latin continued to be the most important written languages well into the 17th century. Following the loss of territory to Germany and Sweden, a nationalist movement adopted the language as a token of Danish identity, and the language experienced a strong surge in use and popularity, with major works of literature produced in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, traditional Danish dialects have all but disappeared, though regional variants of the standard language exist. The main differences in language are between generations, with youth language being particularly innovative.
Danish has a very large vowel inventory comprising 27 phonemically distinctive vowels, and its prosody is characterized by the distinctive phenomenon stød, a kind of laryngeal phonation type. Due to the many pronunciation differences that set apart Danish from its neighboring languages, particularly the vowels, difficult prosody and "weakly" pronounced consonants, it is sometimes considered to be a difficult language to learn and understand, and some evidence shows that small children are slower to acquire the phonological distinctions of Danish. The grammar is moderately inflective with strong (irregular) and weak (regular) conjugations and inflections. Nouns and demonstrative pronouns distinguish common and neutral gender. Like English, Danish only has remnants of a former case system, particularly in the pronouns. Unlike English, it has lost all person marking on verbs. Its syntax is V2 word order, with the finite verb always occupying the second slot in the sentence.
Danish is a Germanic language of the North Germanic branch. Other names for this group are the Nordic or Scandinavian languages. Along with Swedish, Danish descends from the Eastern dialects of the Old Norse language; Danish and Swedish are also classified as East Scandinavian or East Nordic languages.
Scandinavian languages are often considered a dialect continuum, where no sharp dividing lines are seen between the different vernacular languages.
Like Norwegian and Swedish, Danish was significantly influenced by Low German in the Middle Ages, and has been influenced by English since the turn of the 20th century.