The etymology of the word Scandinavia refers to the treacherous sandbanks in the passage between present-day Denmark and Sweden. In the Scandinavian countries the term is applied exclusively to Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, the national languages of which are mutually intelligible to the point that readers of one language can somewhat easily read the other two, and speakers of the three languages usually communicate orally by speaking their respective tongues to speakers of the other two languages. Finland, in which there is a culturally significant Swedish-speaking minority as well as the majority Finns, was a part of Sweden up to the year 1809 but is usually not included as part of Scandinavia. One reason for this exclusion is that Finnish is unrelated to Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish. Together with Estonian and, more distantly, Hungarian, Finnish belongs to the Finno-Ugric language group. Icelandic is closely related to the three major Scandinavian languages, as Iceland was populated mostly by Norwegians during the Viking era, but while there are significant similarities between modern written Icelandic and the written language of continental Scandinavia during the High Middle Ages, neither spoken nor written modern Icelandic is intelligible to users of modern Danish, Norwegian, or Swedish. Iceland was ruled by Denmark until 1944, and during the colonial period educated Icelanders were expected to also know Danish.
   In the English-speaking world, on the other hand, it is common to include Finland and Iceland in the term Scandinavia, and the Historical Dictionary ofScandinavian Literature and Theater follows this practice. Scandinavians use the term Norden to designate all five countries, and that term, as well as the adjective Nordic, is increasingly being used in English.
   1. Thomas A. DuBois, Nordic Religions in the Viking Age (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), 9-28 and passim.
   2. See Jan Sjavik, Readingfor the Truth: Rhetorical Constructions in Norwegian Fiction (Christchurch, New Zealand: Cybereditions, 2004), 38-48.
   3. Susan C. Brantly, Understanding Isak Dinesen (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2002), 305.
   4. An excellent discussion of modernism in Scandinavia can be found in Ellen Rees, On the Margins: Nordic Women Modernists of the 1930s (Norwich, U.K.: Norvik Press, 2005)
   First half of the 20th century
   Late 20th and early 21st centuries

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.


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