Identification. The Faroe Islands are a culturally distinct, monoethnic, internally self-governing dependency of Denmark.
Location. Comprising seventeen inhabited islands and several islets, the Faroes lie between 62°24′ and 61°20′ N and 7°41′ and 6°15′ W. The land is mountainous and treeless, with rocky outcroppings seaming upland reaches of moor, meadow, and fen. Settlements lie amid hayfields along the shores of fjords or sandy bays. Elsewhere, the land ends in sea cliffs up to 600 meters high. The highest point on the islands is 882 meters. The average temperature ranges from 2.6° C in January to 10.7° C in July and August. The average yearly Precipitation is 159 centimeters. Winter storms are frequent.
Demography. The Faroese population is 46,313. (1986 figures are used here and throughout.) The live birthrate is 17.1 per thousand; the death rate is 8.0 per thousand. Tór-shavn, the capital and by far the largest town, has 13,905 inhabitants. Eight other townships, including Tórshavn's suburbs, have more than 1,000 inhabitants.
Linguistic Affiliation. Faroese is a linguistically Conservative descendant of Old West Scandinavian akin to Icelandic and the western dialects of Norwegian. Having passed out of written use in the sixteenth century, it was given an orthography resembling that of Icelandic in 1846 and has been the primary official language since 1948. Danish is taught in the schools and may be used for many official purposes but is rarely spoken.