In comparison with other countries in the world, Denmark is just a tiny spot on the map. Some foreigners even think that Denmark is the capital of Sweden or a minor district of Germany.
In spite of the modest size of the country (43.000 km2) and a population of just 5.56 million inhabitants it is possible to find some very various dialects across the country.
The dialects have been developed during time and history and have been affected by for instance the geography of the regions. This is obvious in Southern Jutland where the spoken language reflects that Germany is just around the corner.
During times the dialects have faded and fewer Danes do nowadays speak with a distinctly Jutlandic or Funen dialect. The ‘decline’ of the dialects was released by the industrial development and the urbanisation in the 19. and the 20. centuries – the opportunity of transporting across the country appeared and a lot of people moved towards the bigger cities. This made it possible to live in Copenhagen and still speak with Jutlandic dialect, and almost all Danes speak with so little dialect that people from the other side of the country will be able to understand what they say.
Although the difference between the Danish dialects is decreasing there are still many imaginations, or even prejudices, about Danes who speak with very much dialect. The perception of persons with a very Jutlandic dialect is that they are calm, relaxed and maybe also a bit slow. The opposite is expected from persons with a distinct Zealandic dialect – these people are seen as fashionable, fast and ‘on the run’.
This imagination is not just a private or regional one – it is actually presented in entertainment media and advertisement. The “clever”, respected and serious characters in the Danish movies, series and ads do seldom speak with an obvious dialect, and if they do it is mostly a Zealandic dialect. The odd, old-fashioned or less clever characters do on the opposite often speak with a very Jutlandic or Funen dialect.
The representation of people with obvious dialects as less clever is not popular in the remote areas of Denmark.
Though, in an objective perspective, it is obvious that the entertainment industry is just using the dialects to add further humour to the movies, series, ads etc. – they do not want to harm anyone.
Considering whether this way of making funny entertainment is right or wrong, one should try to imagine Danish entertainment without characters who speak with a distinct dialect. From my opinion this would not be entertaining at all…