Faroese language

From Academic Kids

Faroese (Føroyskt)
Spoken in: Denmark
Region: Faroe Islands, Denmark
Total speakers: 80,000
Ranking: Not in top 100
Genetic classification: Indo-European
  North Germanic
   West Scandinavian
Official status
Official language of: Faroe Islands
Regulated by: -
Language codes
ISO 639-1fo
ISO 639-2foe
See also: LanguageList of languages

Faroese is a West Nordic or West Scandinavian language spoken by about 80,000 people in two main groups, about 48,000 in the Faroe Islands and about 25,000 in Denmark. There are also around 5,000 speakers in Iceland. 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 said to have been mutually intelligible with Faroese.

Missing image
Some Faroese isoglosses


Missing image
This is the approximate extent of Old Norse and related languages in the early 10th century. The red area is the distribution of the dialect Old West Norse; the orange area is the spread of the dialect Old East Norse. The pink area is Old Gutnish and the green area is the extent of the other Germanic languages with which Old Norse still retained some mutual intelligibility

In the beginning the language being spoken in the Faroe Islands was Old West Norse, which Norwegian settlers had brought with them during the time of the Landnm, which started in 825 AD. However, many of the settlers weren't really Norwegians, but rather descendents of Norwegian settlers in the Irish Sea. As a result, Faroese, as well as Icelandic began to be influenced by Celtic, not only because of this fact, but also because of the fact that native Norwegian settlers often made a stop in the Irish Sea to take a wife, before settling in the Faroe Islands and Iceland. As an example of this, consider the fact that Faroese has two words for duck: dunna (from Celtic tunnagh) for the domestic duck, and ont for the wild duck.

Between the 9th and the 15th century a Faroese language slowly evolved, yet it was still intelligeble with the languages within the realm of the Norwegian Viking Empire spanning from Norway to North America.

Until the 15th century, Faroese had a similar orthography to Icelandic and Norwegian, but after the Reformation, the ruling Danes outlawed its use in schools, churches and official documents, which are the main places written languages survive in an essentially illiterate society. 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 down.

As a written language, Modern Faroese has only existed since a standard was published in 1854 by Venceslaus Ulricus Hammershaimb. Although this would have been an opportunity to create a phonetically true orthography, as in Welsh, he produced an orthography consistent with a continuous written tradition since the Old Norse. The letter , for example, has no phonemes attached to it. Also, although the letter 'm' corresponds to the bilabial nasal as it does in English, in the Dative ending -inum, it corresponds to the alveolar nasal 'n' due to phonological assimilation.

Hammershaimb's orthography met with some opposition for its complexity, and a rival system was devised by Jakob Jakobsen. Jakobsen's orthography was closer to the spoken language, but was never taken up by the masses.

In 1937, Faroese replaced Danish as the official language of the Faroe Islands.


The Faroese alphabet consists of 29 letters:

A, , B, D, , E, F, G, H, I, , J, K, L, M, N, O, , P, R, S, T, U, , V, Y, , ,

Further literature

  • W.B. Lockwood: An Introduction to Modern Faroese, Trshavn (Faroes) 1977 (no ISBN, 244 pages) (4th printing 2002) (http://www.framtak.com/books)
  • Hskuldur rinson, Hjalmar P. Petersen, Jgvan Lon Jacobsen, Zakaris Svabo Hansen: Faroese. An Overview and Reference Grammar. Trshavn 2004 ISBN 99918-41-85-7 (500 pages, most comprehensive book about Faroese) Faroese bookshop www.bokasolan.fo (http://www.bokasolan.fo/leitabok.asp?bokid=3844)

External links


cs:Faerština da:Frsk de:Frische Sprache es:Idioma feros eo:Feroa lingvo fo:Froyskt ml fr:Fringien it:Faroese la:Lingua Faroensis li:Faerers nl:Faerers nb:Frysk sprk nn:Frysk sprk pl:Język farerski se:Fearagiella sl:Ferščina fi:Frin kieli sv:Friska wa:Faeroys


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