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People, Language & Religion


The population of Denmark proper is of indigenous northern European stock, and the Danes are among the most homogeneous peoples of Europe. The population is comprised of Scandinavian, Inuit (Eskimo) and Faroese peoples. There is also a small German minority in southern Jutland and small communities of Turks, Iranians and Somalis.


Danish is the universal language. In addition to the letters of the English alphabet, it has the letters ae, ø and å. A spelling reform of 1948 replaced aa by å, but English transliteration usually retains the aa. There are many dialects, but they are gradually being supplanted by standard Danish. Modern Danish has departed further from the ancient Nordic language of the Viking period than have Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish (to which Danish is closely related), and there is a substantial admixture of German and English words. Danish may be distinguished from the other Scandinavian languages by its change of k, p, and t to g, b, and d, in certain situations and by its use of the glottal stop. Faroese and Greenlandic (an Eskimo dialect) are also used. Many Danes have a speaking knowledge of English and German, and many more are capable of understanding these languages.


Religious freedom is provided by the constitution. Over 86% of the people are members of the official religion, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, which is supported by the state and headed by the sovereign. Muslims are the next largest group with about 2% of the population. Protestants and Roman Catholics together make up another 3% of the population. About 9% of the population claim no religious affiliation.

In 1999 an independent four-member council appointed by the government published guidelines and principles for official approval of religious organisations. The guidelines establish clear requirements that religious organisations must fulfill, including providing a full written text of the religion's central traditions, descriptions of its rituals, an organisational structure accessible for public control and approval, and constitutionally elected representatives who can be held responsible by authorities. The guidelines also forbid organisations to 'teach or perform actions inconsistent with public morality or order.'