The Danish Voices-project started in summer 2014 and it will come to its end in summer 2018 (however, we have data and scientific curiosity enough to last much longer). In so far, we do not have any final results yet, but we can safely conclude that the Danish language has developed differently in North America and Argentina and that Argentine Danish and North American Danish (of course) differ from homeland Danish. See our publications.

Danish in North America and Argentina: A case of fast and a case of slow language shift

The following points set out from the migrants who settled in the Americas from the middle of the 19th century and until ca. 1950. They are based on the investigations into our data, our impressions while during fieldwork in Argentina and literature about the topic.

Whereas Danish language was given up typically in the 1. or at the latest in the 2. American born generation, Danish in Argentina has been passed on until the 4th and occasionally until the 5th generation and still is spoken today. But also in Argentina, Danish is by now on its way to extinction as an autochthonous heritage language of the country. The Danish Argentine groups are no longer as closed as they has been before, and through friendships and marriage with non-Danish speaking people the relevance of Danish language is reduced. One of our younger consultants who has grown up with Danish in his home says: “I don’t know how well my peers speak Danish. We speak Spanish with each other.” With regard to learning Danish as a foreign language, English as the international lingua franca is a far more attractive option today.

Based on our data, we can conclude that Danish in Argentina and Danish in North America show typical features of heritage languages: Danish is/was used in specific linguistic domains (at home, in church, maybe in school) and language competence in other linguistic domains (work, politics) is often much more unstable. The speakers of heritage Danish do/did not necessarily master written Danish, and the eldest children in the families are the most competent speakers whereas the younger do not acquire the language as well. 

About Argentina Danish and North American Danish

Heritage Danish in Argentina and in North America differ from homeland Danish mostly due to the influence from English and Spanish. Spanish and English discourse markers (in particular ‘well’, ‘bueno’ and ‘este’) is used consistently in Danish speech along with code-switching (fx ’Da jeg gik i secundario...’, ’Vi skulle spare enough penge til at skynde os hjem igen’). Further, some features which only exist in the host country do not have an adequate Danish match, e.g. Argentinean ‘el campo’ (in the country, field, surrounding area, hinterland) which in Argentine Danish is rendered as ‘campen’ or ‘på jorden’. Also word order can change due to the influence of the surrounding language, e.g. American Danish ’Og part af tiden jeg boede i den østlige part’ (in homeland Danish the verb should have followed the subject). Read more about the grammatical and lexical features of Argentine Danish and North American Danish in our publications.

The maintenance of older dialect features in language islands has often been reported. But although we do find Danish dialect in our recordings from Argentina and North America, these features do not represent fossilized dialect. In Argentina, we sometimes we have noticed the maintenance of some old-fashioned expressions (e.g., ’isskab’ for ’køleskab’), but in general the Danish language in North and South America is contemporary.