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Languages in Faroe Islands


Languages in Faroe Islands

The native and official language of the Faroes is Faroese, which is a West Nordic or West Scandinavian language. It is one of three insular Scandinavian languages descended from the Old Norse language spoken in Scandinavia in the Viking Age, the others being Icelandic and the extinct Norn, which is presumed to have been mutually intelligible with Faroese. Speakers of modern Scandinavian languages such as Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and Icelandic may be able to puzzle out the written language, though spoken Faroese is generally not mutually intelligible with these languages. Until the 15th century, Faroese had a similar orthography to Icelandic and Norwegian, but after the Reformation 1538, the ruling Danes outlawed its use in schools, churches and official documents. The islanders continued to use the language in ballads, folktales, and everyday life. This maintained a rich spoken tradition, but for 300 years the language was not written. In 1854, Venceslaus Ulricus Hammershaimb published a written standard for Modern Faroese that exists to this day. He produced an orthography consistent with a continuous written tradition extending back to Old Norse. The letter ð, for example, has no specific phonemes attached to it. Also, although the letter 'm' corresponds to the bilabial nasal as it does in English, it corresponds to the alveolar nasal (English 'n') in the dative ending -um (rhymes wth English loon). In 1937, Faroese replaced Danish as the official school language, in 1938 as church language, and in 1948 as national language by the Home Rule Act of the Faroes. Today, Danish is considered a foreign language, though it is a required subject for students from third grade. English is also widely spoken. Other Nordic languages are also understood.

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Faroe Islands Travel Guide from Wikitravel. Many thanks to all Wikitravel contributors. Text is available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0, images are available under various licenses, see each image for details.

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