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Norwegian language

Norwegian is a Germanic language spoken in Norway. Norwegian is closely related to, and generally mutually intelligible with Swedish and Danish. Together with these two languages, Norwegian belongs to the Northern, or Scandinavian group of the Germanic languages. Written Danish and Norwegian are particularly close, though the pronunciation of all three languages differs significantly. Proficient speakers of any of the three languages can understand the others.

Table of contents
1 Alphabet
2 Bokmål and Nynorsk
3 Grammar
4 Trivia
5 See also
6 External links


The Norwegian alphabet consists of 29 letters, the first 26 or which are the same as the Latin alphabet used in English. The three last letters are Æ, Ø and Å. In addition to the 29 official letters, there are several diacritical signs in use (somewhat more in Nynorsk than Bokmål): à ä ç é è ê ñ ó ò ô ü. The diacritical signs are not compulsory, but may alter the meaning of the word dramatically, e.g.: for (for), fór (have gone), fòr (meadow) and fôr (fodder).

Bokmål and Nynorsk

Two official written forms of the Norwegian language are in existence. Bokmål (literally "Book language", or Standard Norwegian) is used by the majority (86 %), while Nynorsk (literally "New Norwegian") is used by a significant minority (14 %). The unofficial form Riksmål is the same language as Bokmål with more conservative (closer to Danish) forms. Since the reforms of 1981 and 2003, the official Bokmål is almost identical with modern Riksmål.

In 1397, Norway entered a personal union with Denmark, which came to be the dominating part, and Danish was used as Norway's written language. In the 19th century, a nationalistic movement based in the western provinces strove for the development of a new written Norwegian, which was developed by Ivar Aasen. Nynorsk was based on the provincial dialects of some selected districts, mostly in the west of the country. Therefore, Nynorsk never became more than a minority language. The Danish language, as used in Norway, evolved into what is now Riksmål and Bokmål (used by 86 %).

Both the variants of Norwegian have survived until today. For a long period during the 20th century it was official policy to merge the two variants into a common form called Samnorsk (literally "Common Norwegian"). This resulted in massive protests and has now been given up as official policy.

Bokmål is used mostly in the eastern and northern parts of Norway and Nynorsk is used mainly in the western parts of Norway.

In national broadcasting all read (written) material is spoken in either Bokmål or Nynorsk, while interviews, talks etc. may be spoken in the dialect of the person speaking.

Below are a few sentences giving an indication of the differences between Bokmål and Nynorsk:

B: Jeg kommer fra Norge. (as in Danish: Jeg kommer fra Norge)
N: Eg kjem frå Noreg.
E: I come from Norway.

B: Hva heter han?
N: Kva heiter han?
E: What is his name?

B: Dette er en hest.
N: Dette er ein hest.
E: This is a horse.

B: Regnbuen har mange farger.
N: Regnbogen har mange fargar.
E: The rainbow has many colours.


The number of grammatical genders in Norwegian is somewhat disputed, but the official view is that Norwegian nouns fall into three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. The inflection of the nouns depends on the gender.

m.: en gutt     gutten        gutter     guttene
    (a boy)     (the boy)     (boys)     (the boys)
f.: en/ei dør   døren/døra    dører      dørene
    (a door)    (the door)    (doors)    (the doors)
n.: et hus      huset         hus        husene/husa
    (a house)   (the house)   (houses)   (the houses)

Note that feminine nouns can be inflected like masculine nouns in Bokmål. Riksmål and moderate Bokmål rejects the feminine gender and merges it with the masculine into a common gender, like in Danish.

m.: ein gut     guten         gutar      gutane
    (a boy)     (the boy)     (boys)     (the boys)
f.: ei dør      døra          dører      dørene
    (a door)    (the door)    (doors)    (the doors)
n.: eit hus     huset         hus        husa
    (a house)   (the house)   (houses)   (the houses)

Nynorsk has a greater difference in inflection between the genders than Bokmål.


Compound words are written together in Norwegian, which can cause words to become very long, e.g. sannsynlighetsmaksimeringsestimator (maximum likelihood estimator). However, because of the increasing influence the English language is having on Norwegian, this is often forgotten, sometimes with a humorous result. Instead of writing e.g. lammekoteletter (lamb chops), people make the mistake of writing lamme koteletter ("lame chops").

See also

External links