Rigsdansk is the common term for standard Danish. Previously, it was the only variant of Danish that was allowed on radio and television. Since the 1970s, Rigsdansk has weakened, while the Danish dialects have increasingly approached Rigsdansk.
Around 1500, a common Danish written language standard developed in the chancellery and at the court. It was based on the dialects spoken by the bourgeoisie in Copenhagen and Malmö [now part of Sweden] and was therefore primarily based on Zealand with some influence from Skåne [now part of Sweden]. It also became important for the development of a Danish standard language that the first Danish Bible translation was made by the North Zealander Christiern Pedersen, whose written language was influenced by the Hillerød dialect.
A widely used definition of Rigsdansk is a Danish [spoken] that does not reveal from where the speaker comes from. In practice, this definition excludes the high-language variants of Danish spoken in the market towns as well as today’s Copenhagen from being Danish, although these variants are virtually no different from the traditional Rigsdansk in anything other than the tone of the sentence and the opening degrees of the vowels. If the definition is implemented in its extreme consequence, there are very few Rigsdansk speakers in Denmark. A more fruitful definition therefore accepts a certain range of language.
In any case, Rigsdansk is not static, but a language in rapid development, not least in the aural field:
- has been vocalized according to vowels.
- The vowel a has been closed (“flat”)
- Short o has been opened (= y).
- Most vowels have been opened considerably after and in front of r; the contrast between e/æ and a has been lifted in closed syllable in front of dentaler and labials, e.g. ret = rat, kræft = kraft.
- The difference between short and long vowels has been lifted in front of soft d.
- There is a growing difference between the Danish spelling and the current pronunciation of the language, more than in the neighbouring languages Swedish and Norwegian. The spelling was established in the 19th century (with minor revisions during the 20th), but it is based on a practice that has been fairly constant since the 16th century.