Modern Language: FAEROESE

Indo-European > Germanic > North Germanic > West Norse > Faroese

The language of the Faeroe Islanders is descended from Old Norse, the language of the Vikings who settled there over a thousand years ago, many of whom had migrated from Norse settlements in the Irish Sea, bringing (philologists believe) some traces of Celtic vocabulary with them. While it closely resembles its West Norse cousin Icelandic, Faeroese (føroyskt; also spelled 'Faroese') shares more mutual intelligibilty with spoken nynorsk of Norway. It is the first tongue of approximately 45,000 islanders, plus about 20,000 or so in Denmark, which still nominally governs the isles.

The Faeroes were for many centuries ruled by the kingdoms of Norway and Denmark, and the use of Faeroese for official purposes was suppressed in favour of Danish. For several centuries Faeroese was not written down, but in the mid-nineteenth century a new written standard was published by one Venceslaus Hammershaib. The new orthography was designed to resemble Old Norse, containing the letter ð (which is usually silent), but not the dental fricative þ (found in Icelandic). It also contains the æ and ø of Danish. Slowly the language gained official recognition, eventually replacing Danish in schools and in the media.

Given the historical importance of Danish, Faeroese literature was non-existant until the past century or so. The medieval Færinga Saga (‘Saga of the Faeroes’) is Old Icelandic, while Faeroese ballads (kvæði) and tales (ævintyr) were passed down orally for centuries. With the revival of the written language more writers began to emerge, notably the poets Nólsoyar-Poul Poulson (19th C), William Heinesen and Rói R. Patursson (late 20th C). The first monolingual dictionary did not appear until 1998, but Faeroese writing has continued to grow with the advent of the internet. Vocabulary-wise it has, predictably, not given English many words, save 'skua', which is a type of gull.

examples of faeroese

Tú alfagra land mítt, mín dýrasta ogn!
á vetri so randhvítt, á sumri við logn,
tú tekur meg at tær so tætt í tín favn.
Tit oyggjar so mætar, Gud signi tað navn,
sum menn tykkum góvu, tá teir tykkum sóu.
Ja, Gud signi Føroyar, mítt land!

Mítt Alfagra land”, Faeroes national anthem, by Símun av Skarði c.1906
(Translation: "My land, oh most beauteous, possession most dear,
Thou drawest me to thee, embracing me near;
becalmed in the summer, in winter snow covered,
magnificent islands, by God named beloved.
The name which men gave thee when they thee discovered,
Oh, God bless thee, Faeroes my land".)

Eg eri ein föroyskur nasjonalistur.
Undir fótunum túsund ára bonska heimlandið,
millum fingrarnar pennurin,
í munnklovanum ein sigarett og ein skón av tugdum orðum,
og eg havi ongar ætlanir um at stinga í sekkin.
Eg eri ein föroyskur nasjonalistur,
og tað sum pínir,
er at föroyingar sjálvir tola ikki gronina á sínum
frælstu landsmonnum.

"Eg eri ein föroyskur nasjonalistur", Joanes Nielsen, c.1980s ("I am a Faeroese Nationalist")

a short faeroese bibliography

  • to follow

some faeroese links


At 20:02, Blogger Ragnar Olsen said...

Nice that you include the faroese language :)

At 01:02, Anonymous petescully said...

thanks! it's an interesting language.

At 07:18, Blogger Bryce said...

Nice to see that someone else knows what they're talking about when it comes to Faeroese. Here's a great website that you might enjoy:

Føroyskt wiki browser


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