|Native to||Faroe Islands, Denmark|
|Latin (Faroese alphabet)
Official language in
Recognised minority language in
|Regulated by||Faroese Language Board Føroyska málnevndin|
Faroese (føroyskt, pronounced [ˈføːɹɪst]) is a North Germanic language spoken as a native language by about 66,000 people, 45,000 of whom reside on the Faroe Islands and 21,000 in other areas, mainly Denmark. It is one of four languages descended from Old West Norse spoken in the Middle Ages, the others being Norwegian, Icelandic, and the extinct Norn, which is thought to have been mutually intelligible with Faroese. Faroese and Icelandic, its closest extant relative, are not mutually intelligible in speech, but the written languages resemble each other quite closely, largely owing to Faroese's etymological orthography.
- 1 History
- 2 Learning Faroese
- 3 Alphabet
- 4 Phonology
- 5 Faroese Words and Phrases in comparison to other Germanic languages
- 6 Grammar
- 7 Faroese numbers
- 8 See also
- 9 Further reading
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Around AD 900, the language spoken in the Faroes was Old Norse, which Norse settlers had brought with them during the time of the settlement of Faroe Islands (landnám) that began in AD 825. However, many of the settlers were not from Scandinavia, but descendants of Norse settlers in the Irish Sea. In addition, women from Norse Ireland, Orkney, or Shetland often married native Scandinavian men before settling in the Faroe Islands and Iceland. As a result, the Irish language has had some influence on both Faroese and Icelandic. There is some debatable evidence of Irish language place names in the Faroes: for example, the names of Mykines, Stóra Dímun and Lítla Dímun have been hypothesized to contain Celtic roots. Other examples of early-introduced words of Celtic origin are: "blak/blaðak" (buttermilk), cf. Middle Irish bláthach; "drunnur" (tail-piece of an animal), cf. Middle Irish dronn; "grúkur" (head, headhair), cf. Middle Irish gruaig; "lámur" (hand, paw), cf. Middle Irish lámh; "tarvur" (bull), cf. Middle Irish tarbh; and "ærgi" (pasture in the outfield), cf. Middle Irish áirge.
Between the 9th and the 15th centuries, a distinct Faroese language evolved, although it was probably still mutually intelligible with Old West Norse, and remained similar to the Norn language of Orkney and Shetland during Norn's earlier phase.
Until the 15th century Faroese had an orthography similar to Icelandic and Norwegian, but after the Reformation in 1536 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 used in written form.
This changed when Venceslaus Ulricus Hammershaimb and the Icelandic grammarian and politician Jón Sigurðsson published a written standard for Modern Faroese in 1854, which is still in existence. They set a standard for the orthography of the language, based on its Old Norse roots and similar to that of Icelandic. This had the advantage of being etymologically clear, as well as keeping the kinship with the Icelandic written language. The actual pronunciation, however, often differs from the written rendering. The letter ð, for example, has no specific phoneme attached to it.
In 1937, Faroese replaced Danish as the official school language, in 1938 as the church language, and in 1948 as the national language by the Home Rule Act of the Faroes. However, Faroese did not become the common language of media and advertising until the 1980s. Today Danish is considered a foreign language, though around 5% of residents on the Faroes learn it as a first language, and it is a required subject for students in third grade and up.
It is unusual for Faroese to be taught at universities outside the Faroe Islands, although it is occasionally included in Scandinavian studies. University College London, the University of Copenhagen, The University of Uppsala and The University of Helsinki have course options in Faroese for students reading Scandinavian Studies. Most students, therefore, learn it autodidactically from books, by listening to Faroese on radio, and through correspondence with Faroese people.
The University of the Faroe Islands offers an annual three-week Summer Institute which includes:
- Forty-five lessons of Faroese grammar and language exercises.
- Fifteen lectures on linguistics, culture (oral poetry and modern literature), society and nature.
- Two excursions to places of historical and geographical interest.
The Faroese alphabet consists of 29 letters derived from the Latin script:
|Majuscule forms (also called uppercase or capital letters)|
|Minuscule forms (also called lowercase or small letters)|
- Edd (ð) can never come at the beginning of a word, but can occur in capital letters in logos or on maps, such as SUÐUROY (Southern Isle).
- Ø, ø can also be written Ö, ö in poetic language, such as Föroyar (the Faroes) (cf. Swedish-Icelandic typographic/orthographic tradition vs. Norwegian-Danish). In handwriting Ő, ő is sometimes used. Originally both Ö and Ø were used: Ö was used for the vowel resulting from I-mutation of O, while Ø was used for the vowel resulting from U-mutation of A. The practice of differentiating the two has fallen out of use though, and now only Ø is used.
- While C, Q, W, X, and Z are not found in the Faroese language, X was known in earlier versions of Hammershaimb's orthography, such as Saxun for Saksun.
- While the Faroese keyboard layout allows one to write in Latin, English, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, etc., the Old Norse and Modern Icelandic letter þ is missing. In related Faroese words it is written as 〈t〉 or as 〈h〉, and if an Icelandic name has to be transcribed, 〈th〉 is common.
|Grapheme||Name||Short[falling or rising?]||Long|
|A, a||fyrra a [ˈfɪʐːa ɛaː] ("leading a")||/a/||/ɛaː/|
|Á, á||á [ɔaː]||/ɔ/||/ɔaː/|
|E, e||e [eː]||/ɛ/||/eː/|
|I, i||fyrra i [ˈfɪʐːa iː] ("leading i")||/ɪ/||/iː/|
|Í, í||fyrra í [ˈfɪʐːa ʊiː] ("leading í")||/ʊi/||/ʊiː/|
|O, o||o [oː]||/ɔ/||/oː/|
|Ó, ó||ó [ɔuː]||/œ/||/ɔuː/|
|U, u||u [uː]||/ʊ/||/uː/|
|Ú, ú||ú [ʉuː]||/ʏ/||/ʉuː/|
|Y, y||seinna i [ˈsaiːdna iː] ("latter i")||/ɪ/||/iː/|
|Ý, ý||seinna í [ˈsaiːdna ʊiː] ("latter í")||/ʊi/||/ʊiː/|
|Æ, æ||seinna a [ˈsaiːdna ɛaː] ("latter a")||/a/||/ɛaː/|
|Ø, ø||ø [øː]||/œ/||/øː/|
|EI, ei||ei [aiː]||/ai/||/aiː/|
|EY, ey||ey [eɪː]||/ɛ/||/ɛiː/|
|OY, oy||oy [oɪː]||/ɔi/||/ɔiː/|
As in several other Germanic languages, stressed vowels in Faroese are long when not followed by two or more consonants. Two consonants or a consonant cluster usually indicates a short vowel. Exceptions may be short vowels in particles, pronouns, adverbs, and prepositions in unstressed positions, consisting of just one syllable.
As may be seen on the table to the left, Faroese (like English) has a very atypical pronunciation of its vowels, with odd offglides and other features. For example, long í and ý sound almost like a long Hiberno-English i, and long ó like an American English long o.
Short vowels in endings
Although in other Germanic languages a short /e/ is common for inflectional endings, Faroese uses /a, i, u/. This means that there are no unstressed short vowels except for these three. Even if a short unstressed /e/ is seen in writing, it will be pronounced like /i/: áðrenn [ˈɔaːʐɪnː] (before). Very typical are endings like -ur, -ir, -ar. The dative is often indicated by -um, which is always pronounced [ʊn].
- [a] – bátar [ˈbɔaːtaɹ] (boats), kallar [ˈkadlaɹ] ((you) call, (he) calls)
|Unstressed /i/ and /u/ in dialects|
|Borðoy, Kunoy, Tórshavn||Viðoy, Svínoy, Fugloy||Suðuroy||Elsewhere (standard)|
|gulir (yellow pl.)||[ˈɡ̊uːləɹ]||[ˈɡ̊uːləɹ]||[ˈɡ̊uːløɹ]||[ˈɡ̊uːlɪɹ]|
|bygdin (the town)||[ˈb̥ɪɡ̊d̥ɪn]||[ˈb̥ɪɡ̊d̥ən]||[ˈb̥ɪɡ̊d̥øn]||[ˈb̥ɪɡ̊d̥ɪn]|
|bygdum (towns dat. pl.)||[ˈb̥ɪɡ̊d̥ʊn]||[ˈb̥ɪɡ̊d̥ən]||[ˈb̥ɪɡ̊d̥øn]||[ˈb̥ɪɡ̊dʊn]|
|Source: Faroese: An Overview and Reference Grammar, 2004 (page 350)|
- [ɪ] – gestir [ˈdʒɛstɪɹ] (guests), dugir [ˈduːɪɹ] ((you, he) can)
- [ʊ] – bátur [ˈbɔaːtʊɹ] (boat), gentur [dʒɛntʊɹ] (girls), rennur [ˈʐenːʊɹ] ((you) run, (he) runs).
In some dialects, unstressed /ʊ/ is realized as [ø] or is reduced further to [ə]. /ɪ/ goes under a similar reduction pattern so unstressed /ʊ/ and /ɪ/ can rhyme. This can cause spelling mistakes related to these two vowels. The table to the right displays the different realizations in different dialects.
- vowel + ð + vowel
- vowel + g + vowel
- vowel + vowel
Typically, the first vowel is long and in words with two syllables always stressed, while the second vowel is short and unstressed. In Faroese, short and unstressed vowels can only be /a/, /i/, /u/.
Ð and G as glides
|First vowel||Second vowel||Examples|
|i [ɪ]||u [ʊ]||a [a]|
|I-surrounding Type 1|
|i, y||[iː]||[j]||[j]||[j]||sigið, siður, siga|
|í, ý||[ʊiː]||[j]||[j]||[j]||mígi, mígur, míga|
|ey||[ɛiː]||[j]||[j]||[j]||reyði, reyður, reyða|
|ei||[aiː]||[j]||[j]||[j]||reiði, reiður, reiða|
|oy||[ɔiː]||[j]||[j]||[j]||noyði, royður, royða|
|U-surrounding Type 2|
|u||[uː]||[w]||[w]||[w]||suði, mugu, suða|
|ó||[ɔuː]||[w]||[w]||[w]||róði, róðu, Nóa|
|ú||[ʉuː]||[w]||[w]||[w]||búði, búðu, túa|
|I-surrounding Type 2, U-surrounding Type 2, A-surrounding Type 1|
|a, æ||[ɛaː]||[j]||[v]||–||ræði, æðu, glaða|
|á||[ɔaː]||[j]||[v]||–||ráði, fáur, ráða|
|e||[eː]||[j]||[v]||–||gleði, legu, gleða|
|o||[oː]||[j]||[v]||–||togið, smogu, roða|
|ø||[øː]||[j]||[v]||–||løgin, røðu, høgan|
|Source: Faroese: An Overview and Reference Grammar, 2004 (page 38)|
〈Ð〉 and 〈G〉 are used in Faroese orthography to indicate one of a number of glides rather than any one phoneme. This can be:
- "I-surrounding, type 1" – after /i, y, í, ý, ei, ey, oy/: bíða [ˈbʊija] (to wait), deyður [ˈdɛijʊɹ] (dead), seyður [ˈsɛijʊɹ] (sheep)
- "I-surrounding, type 2" – between any vowel (except "u-vowels" /ó, u, ú/) and /i/: kvæði [ˈkvɛajɛ] (ballad), øði [ˈøːjɛ] (rage).
- [w] "U-surrounding, type 1" – after /ó, u, ú/: Óðin [ˈɔʊwɪn] (Odin), góðan morgun! [ˌɡɔʊwan ˈmɔɹɡʊn] (good morning!), suður [ˈsuːwʊɹ] (south), slóða [ˈslɔʊwa] (to make a trace).
- "U-surrounding, type 2" – between /a, á, e, æ, ø/ and /u/: áður [ˈɔavʊɹ] (before), leður [ˈleːvʊɹ] (leather), í klæðum [ʊɪˈklɛavʊn] (in clothes), í bløðum [ʊɪˈbløːvʊn] (in newspapers).
- "A-surrounding, type 2"
- These are exceptions (there is also a regular pronunciation): æða [ˈɛava] (eider-duck).
- The past participles always have [j]: elskaðar [ˈɛlskajaɹ] (beloved, nom., acc. fem. pl.)
- "A-surrounding, type 1" – between /a, á, e, o/ and /a/ and in some words between <æ, ø> and 〈a〉: ráða [ˈʐɔːa] (to advise), gleða [ˈɡ̊leːa] (to gladden, please), boða [ˈboːa] (to forebode), kvøða [ˈkvøːa] (to chant), røða [ˈʐøːa] (to make a speech)
The so-called "skerping" (Thráinsson et al. use the term "Faroese Verschärfung" – in Faroese, skerping /ʃɛʂpɪŋɡ/ means "sharpening") is a typical phenomenon of fronting back vowels before [ɡv] and monophthongizing certain diphthongs before [dʒː]. Skerping is not indicated orthographically. These consonants occur often after /ó, ú/ (ógv, úgv) and /ey, í, ý, ei, oy/ when no other consonant is following.
- [ɛɡv]: Jógvan [ˈjɛɡvan] (a form of the name John), Gjógv [dʒɛɡv] (cleft)
- [ɪɡv]: kúgv [kɪɡv] (cow), trúgva [ˈtʂɪɡva] (believe), but: trúleysur [ˈtʂʉuːlɛisʊɹ] (faithless)
- [ɛdʒː]: heyggjur [ˈhɛdʒːʊɹ] (high, burial mound), but heygnum [ˈhɛiːnʊn] (dat. sg. with suffix article)
- [ʊdʒː]: nýggjur [ˈnʊdʒːʊɹ] (new m.), but nýtt [nʊiʰtː] (n.)
- [adʒː]: beiggi [ˈbadʒːɪ] (brother)
- [ɔdʒː]: oyggj [ɔdʒː] (island), but oynna [ˈɔidnːa] (acc. sg. with suffix article)
|Stop||p pʰ||t tʰ||tʃ tʃʰ||k kʰ|
There are several phonological processes involved in Faroese, including:
- Liquids are devoiced before voiceless consonants
- Nasals generally assume the place of articulation and laryngeal settings of following consonants.
- Velar stops palatalize to postalveolar affricates before /j/ /e/ /ɛ/ /i/ /ɪ/ and /ɛi/
- /v/ becomes /f/ before voiceless consonants
- /sk/ becomes /ʃ/ after /ɛi, ai, ɔi/ and before /j/
- /ɹ/ retroflexes itself as well as following consonants in consonant clusters, yielding the allophones [ʂ ɭ ʈ ɳ] while /ɹ/ itself becomes [ɻ], example: <rd> [ɻʈ]; preaspirated consonats devoice the rhotic: example:
|Faroese||Norwegian (bokmål)||Norwegian (nynorsk)||English||Frisian||Icelandic||Danish||Swedish||German||Dutch|
|Farvæl||Farvel||Farvel||Farewell||Farwol||Far vel; Farðu heill||Farvel||Farväl||Lebewohl||Vaarwel|
|Hvussu eitur tú?||Hva heter du?||Kva heiter du?||What's your name?||Wat is dyn namme||Hvað heitir þú?||Hvad hedder du?||Vad heter du?||Wie heißt du?||Hoe heet je?|
|Hvussu gongur?||Hvordan går det?||Korleis gjeng/går det?||How's it going?||Hoe giet it||Hvernig gengur?||Hvordan går det?||Hur går det?||Wie geht's?||Hoe gaat het?|
|Hvussu gamal(m)/gomul(f) ert tú?||Hvor gammel er du?||Kor gamal er du?||How old are you?||Hoe âld bist||Hversu gamall ertu?||Hvor gammel er du?||Hur gammal är du?||Wie alt bist du?||Hoe oud ben je?|
|Faroese edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia|
|For a list of words relating to Faroese language, see the Faroese language category of words in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Faroese edition of Wikisource, the free library|
- Føroysk orðabók (the Faroese–Faroese dictionary of 1998 online)
- Sprotin (complete English-Faroese/Faroese-English and Danish–Faroese online dictionary – requires a subscription)
- Faroese online syntactic analyser and morphological analyser/generator
- FMN.fo – Faroese Language Committee (Official site with further links)
- 'Hover & Hear' Faroese pronunciations, and compare with equivalents in English and other Germanic languages.
- Useful Faroese Words & Phrases for Travelers
- How to count in Faroese