FAROESE – a Northern Germanic Language
Background and status
Faroese is a North Germanic language with around 47,000 speakers in the Faroe Islands. It is closely related to Icelandic and the dialects of western Norway, though as a result of the isolation, the Faroe language has a distinctive character of its own. Faroese has been spoken in the Faroe Islands for about 600 years, when it separated itself from Old Norse. Grammatically Faroese is closest to Icelandic, but in its vocabulary it is closest to many Western Norwegian dialects, although most loan words come from Danish and German. The Faroe-people are multilingual. Besides Faroese, Danish must be learned, and English lessons start in the 5th grade. As all Faroese know Danish, they also understand Norwegian and Swedish.
The Faroese language is considered one of the most important aspects of Faroe cultural identity and Faroe Islanders are conscious of the need to preserve the Faroese language by keeping it resilient in the face of global influences. Research and development of the Faroese language is one of the priorities of the Faroe government. In the twentieth century Faroese became the official language in the Faroe Islands, and has been used in all matters - also within business, administration, political and cultural life except the courts which is still mainly Danish. The laws of the Løgting (the Faroese Parliament) are published in Faroese, but with a Danish parallel text. The endeavours to strengthen the position of the Faroese language within all aspects of society, led in the1960s to the establishment of The Faroese Academy. The aim was to create a scientific environment which should be the framework of the exploration of Faroese language and literature and teach these disciplines at university level. Their efforts have not been in vain, as there is a new surge of young people developing film, theatre and literature in the Faroese language.