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About The Danish Language Council

A governmental research institution engaged in all aspects of the development and usage of Danish, through research, codification and providing advice and information.

The tasks of Danish Language Council

The Danish Language Council is a governmental research institution under the Danish Ministry of Culture.

The Council was established in 1955.

The Danish Language Council has three main functions:

  • to monitor the development of the Danish language, for example, by collecting new words
  • to answer questions about the Danish language and language use
  • to investigate the accepted conventions regarding the orthography of the Danish language, and to edit and publish the official dictionary of Danish standard orthography (Retskrivningsordbogen).

More information about Danish language policy in English.

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Legal framework

The Language Council’s functions are stipulated in:

The following older executive orders can be viewed in pdf-format:

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Monitoring the Danish language

The Danish Language Council employees monitor the development of the Danish language by reading newspapers, magazines and books, and by listening to the radio and watching television. Employees register new words and quotations with new words in an electronic word database. The database contains approximately 1 million examples of 300 000 different words, so there are several examples of every word. The database grows by 2 000-3 000 words and examples a year. 

The word database is a kind of living dictionary which shows important aspects of the Danish language development since the mid 1950s when the first excerpts were stored in the Language Council’s card index system which was digitized in 2008. The word database gives an impression of which words are actually being used in the Danish language, without commenting on whether the words are good or bad, correct or incorrect. However, when new words are entered into the word database it does not mean that they have been approved by the Danish Language Council.

The Danish Language Council’s word database is central to the Council’s work. Internally, it is first and foremost used by the Council’s employees in their work with regard to informing, advising and researching. But it is also used externally by, for example, dictionary editors, students and researchers who want to study the latest developments within the Danish vocabulary.

The manually collected words and expressions in the database are supplemented by  large text collections, such as KorpusDK and InfoMedia (The Danish print media database), and by consulting the archives of some of the largest Danish newspapers. 

The Language Council uses advanced language technology in order to exctract information about new words and other information about language use from these collections.

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Providing advice and information on Danish

The language helpdesk

If you are uncertain about anything in the Danish language, you can get help at the Language Council help desk (call +45 33 74 74 74).

For example, you can ask

  • how a word is spelt
  • what a word means
  • how a word is pronounced
  • which expression is correct
  • where a word originates from
  • how a sentence should be understood

The Language Council receives approximately 8 000 questions a year, mainly by phone. Most frequently, private companies and public institutions address the Language Coucil. But there are also private individuals who ask the Language Council for advice.

Everybody can get answers from the Language Council, and it is free.

Publications

The Danish Language Council publishes information, research papers and books, mostly in Danish, some research publications, however, are also published in English and can be found on the personal websites of each researcher.

Websites

The Danish Language Council is maintaining the following webservices:

See descriptions of the various resources below .

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Codifying the official Danish standard orthography

The Language Council codifies Danish orthography by editing and publishing the official dictionary of Danish standard orthography (Retskrivningsordbogen). The most recent edition is the 4th edition 2012 (3rd edition, 2001, 2nd edition, 1996, 1st edition, 1986). You can browse older editions back to 1872 by using ROhist - Danish Orthographic Dictionaries through History.

The Danish Orthographic Dictionary is mandatory for all public institutions and schools, but nearly everyone – also companies and the private sector – complies with it. Paragraph 2 of the Act of Parliament for orthography describes in detail who has to use the official orthography (Danish only).

In the Danish Orthographic Dictionary one can see how approximately 64.000 words are spelt and conjugated (only in special cases it is explained what they mean). Additional to the alphabetic dictionary the Danish Orthographic Dictionary contains the official Danish orthographic rules, i.e. the rules regarding the use of upper-case and lower-case letters, rules for hyphenation, punctuation and so forth.

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Fundamental principles for Danish orthography

The key phrases in the guidelines which the Danish Language Council must follow when codifying the Danish orthography, are the tradition principle and the usage principle.  The Language Council must take these two fundamental principles into consideration when describing the language and codifying the orthography. 

According to the traditional principle, words and word forms are written in accordance with the practice laid down in the legal notice on orthography from 1892, and expressed in the dictionaries of the Danish Language Council since 1955

This means that

  • The spelling of words is fixed, except for changes that follow from the usage principle, i.e. words are spelled the way they used to be spelled
  • loan words that have become common in Danish are written in accordance with the rules for originally Danish words and older loans (mainly words of Greek, Latin and French origin).
  • Words from other languages are usually written as in the language of origin, notably English.
The usage principle on the other hand states that words and word forms are written in accordance with the practice followed in the written usage of competent language users.
Other important principles are the phonetic principle and the principle of sign constancy

The phonetic principle

  • This principle that one letter corresponds to one phoneme (or language sound), is common to all alphabetic writing systems
  • Danish orthography is quite ”deep” in this respect, due to an increasing discrepancy between the orthographical tradition and the development of Danish pronunciation – like English and unlike Finnish or Italian

  krage (’crow’), krave (’collar’) are prounced the same way: ~ krau
 
noget (’something), nåde (’grace’), nåede (’reached’) are pronounced the same way:  ~ noeth

The principle of sign constancy
  • the principle that a sign is always written in the same way, irrespective of pronunciation differences in different contexts:
 
  flag (’flag’) vs. flagstang (’flag pole’) flag is pronounced differently:  ~ flae and ~flau

The Language Council law contains directives for which orthographical changes the Danish Language Council can make on its own, and which changes require authorisation from the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education. The first are called “changes and updating of a non fundamental character”, while the others are called “changes of a fundamental character” (paragraph 2, articles 2 and 3). This is elaborated on in Henrik Galberg Jacobsen’s article ‘Ordnede forhold. Om retskrivningsloven og sprognævnsloven’ (text in Danish).

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Organisation

The Danish Language Council consists of a board of representatives, a board of directors and a research and information institute.

Board of representatives

The board of representatives consists of 40 representatives from different institutions and organisations, who are either language experts or engage in acitivites that may affect the development of the Danish language; for example, The Prime Minister’s Office, The Danish Ministry of Justice, The Ministry of Education, the universities, radio and television and the teachers’, journalists’, writers’ and actors’ unions. In addition, the board of representatives can choose up to 3 personal members, who are selected because of their special expertise on the Danish language. Members are appointed for 4 years at a time.

The board of representative has appointed a number of subcommittees that interact with the research and information institute on important issues such as the editing of the orthographic dictionary, publication of information and on  language for special purposes and language technology

The board of representatives meets at least twice a year.

Members of the board of representatives 2013-2016.

The board of directors

The board of directors has responsibility for the economy and development strategies of the Language Council. 1 member of the board of directors is appointed by the Ministry of Culture Denmark, 5 members are appointed by the board of representatives and 1 member is appointed by the members of the research and information institute.

Members of the board of directors 2013-2016

The research and information institute

The research and information institute is responsible for the daily research and information activities. In addition, the institute is the secretariat for the board of representatives, for the working committee  and for the Danish Sign Language Council.

Employees at the research and information institute

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Language Resources and electronic word lists

Databases

The word database

The Danish Language Council employees monitor the development of the Danish language by reading newspapers, magazines and books, and by listening to the radio and watching television. Employees register new words and quotations with new words in an electronic word database. The database contains approximately 1 million examples of 300 000 different words, so there are several examples of every word. The database grows by 2 000 - 3 000 words and examples a year. 

The word database is a kind of living dictionary which shows important aspects of the Danish language development since the mid 1950s when the first excerpts were stored in the Language Council’s card index system which was digitized in 2008. The word database gives an impression of which words are actually being used in the Danish language, without commenting on whether the words are good or bad, correct or incorrect. However, when new words are entered into the word database it does not mean that they have been approved by the Danish Language Council.

The Danish Language Council’s word database is central to the Council’s work. Internally, it is first and foremost used by the Council’s employees in their work with regard to informing, advising and researching. But it is also used externally by, for example, dictionary editors, students and researchers who want to study the latest developments within the Danish vocabulary.

The collection of excerpts and the database are accessible to the public by appointment.

Database of language (questions and) answers.

The Danish Language Council answers approximately 8000 questions a year. This special service is one of the Council’s most prominent activities. 

The answer database contains answers which are especially relevant; for example, because they contain information about Danish language usage which cannot be found in standard dictionaries or handbooks, or because they reflect developments in language norms and language problems. Since the establishment of the Danish Language Council, in 1955, these answers have been registered in a card index format which was digitized in 2010. The database grows yearly with approximately 200 answers. The answers often represent research and explorative studies, and the database is an important resource for researching into the development of linguistic norms. 

Online Dictionaries

The official dictionary of Danish standard orthography (Retskrivningsordbogen).

ROplus Retskrivningsordbogen as a webapp with adavanced search facilities for use online and offline.

The Dictionary of New Words (Nye ord i dansk (NOID))

NOID is an online dictionary that describes the use and origin of new words that have recently been observed in the Danish Language. The database can be browsed and filtered by various descriptors such as the word, the year of the first observation and the language of origin. It is supplemented by approx. 200 new words every year,

Danish Orthographic Dictionaries through History (ROhist)

ROhist enables you to browse older editions of the official dictionaries of orthography back to 1872 and to compare the vocabulary they contain. Only the editions back to 1955 are simultaneously searchable and allow for direct comparison. Later editions are indexed as searchable pdf-files.

Language Portals

sproget.dk

The site sproget.dk is the place on the internet where you can find guidance, information and answers to questions about the Danish language and language matters in Denmark.

The purpose of the website is to:

  • provide a single point of access to official and authoritative references
  • provide professional language help in the form of advice and guidance about language problems, and to explain topics in an understandable manner
  • create increased language awareness with regard to nuances, accuracy and the language’s impact through, among other things, using the internet
  • draw attention to and spread knowledge about the Danish language.

sproget.dk is the result of collaborative work with the Ministry of Culture’s two institutions for language and literature: The Danish Language Council and The Society for Danish Language and Literature.

More about sproget.dk in English

Nordsvar

Nordsvar contains questions and answers on various language topics collected from the Danish, Norwegian and Swedish langauge councils. You can browse the answers through full text search or via a taxonomy that connects the answers across the languages so that you can compare answers on similar topics between languages. 

Electronic word lists and full form dictionaries

The words of the latest edition of the Offiicial Dictionary of Danish Standard Orthography (Retskrivningsordbogen) are made available in various formats to be used in language technology and for other purposes.

  • A complete list of the lemmas of the dictionary with part-of-speech information can be downloaded for free: RO2012.opslagsord.med.homnr.og.ordklasse.zip
  • A version of the dictionary containing inflected forms and part-of-speech information only, is available for 10.000 DKK + 25 % tax. Sample list

  • A complete word list with xml-markup inclucing inflected forms etc. is available for 100.000 DKK + 25 % tax. 

The word lists It may be integrated into any LT-product, except for a standalone Danish dictionary of orthography (printed or electronic). For more information, please write to adm@dsn.dk.

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The Danish Sign Language Council

The Danish Sign Language Council was established through a change in the law on the Danish Language Council on May 13th 2014. The new law is LBK nr 217 af 13/02/2015.

The Danish Sign Language Council has the task of providing principles and guidelines for monitoring and following the development of Danish sign language and to give advice and information on the use of Danish sign language. The research and information institute of the Danish Language Council acts as the secretariat of the Danish Sign Language Council. 

More about the Danish Sign Language Council in English. 

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Contact

Address:

Dansk Sprognævn/Danish Language Council
Worsaaesvej 19, 4. sal
1972 Frederiksberg C
Email: adm@dsn.dk
Phone: +45 33 74 74 00

Language questions: +45 33 74 74 74
Opening hours for questions: Monday till Thursday 10-12 and 13-15.

Vores hovedopgaver

Sprognævnet er en forskningsinstitution der skal 1) følge det danske sprog, 2) svare på spørgsmål om sproget og 3) fastlægge retskrivningen i Retskrivningsordbogen.

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