Facts About the Norwegian Language

Norwegian belongs to the North Germanic languages in the Germanic language branch of the Indo-European language family. There are about five million speakers of Norwegian around the world: in the USA, Canada, and Norway, where it is the official language.

Norwegian is also one of the working languages of the Nordic Council.

Modern Norwegian shows strong influences of its neighbouring languages. In older times, it was impacted by the Low German language and later by Swedish, but from the Middle Ages until the breakup of the Kalman Union in 1524, it was dominated by Danish influences.

The three Nordic languages – Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish – are very close and similar. This can be attributed to the many changes in borders between the countries throughout the Scandinavian history.
The earliest written artefacts are runestones that date back to the 10th–11th century.

If in other countries publishing religious writings promoted the development of the national language, in Norway liturgical literature only strengthened the Danish influence, as it was the language the Bible was published in.
Since the 19th century, there have been two written forms of Norwegian: bokmål (the ‘book language’), which is based on Danish lexicology and grammar and Norwegian phonetics, and the so-called ‘new Norwegian’ (nynorsk), which emerged in the mid-19th century, fusing the different Norwegian dialects. Nynorsk was created by the linguist Ivar Aasen around 1850s.

For several decades linguists have struggled to merge the two writing systems but with no success. A survey conducted in 2005 reveals that 86.3% of people mainly use bokmål in their daily life, 5.5% use both, and 13% use the new Norwegian, while in speech Norwegians mostly use dialects that are the closest in resemblance to the new Norwegian language. 92% of publications are in bokmål, which leaves only 8% to nynorskBokmål is more prevalent in Oslo and other large cities, while nynorsk is mostly used in the western part of the country.

Norwegian has a plethora of dialects, which have formed due to geographic factors: thick forests, fjords, and the mountainous terrain, which prevented isolated communities from maintaining regular contact with each other.

Nowadays, Norwegian is characterised by many loans from the English language, mainly in the fields of economics and technologies. English as the first foreign language in Norwegian schools was introduced in 1935. The influence of English considerably increased after World War II. The fields with the most loan words are economics, finances, and business. Hybrid words, in which the first part is of English origin and the second part of Norwegian origin, are also common. It is estimated that up to 90% of neologisms are influenced by the English language.

Norwegian sentence structure is strictly organised – each part of the sentence has its own fixed place.

Nouns have only two cases, while verbs have no personal endings. The language uses articles.

The Norwegian alphabet is the same as the Danish: it consists of 29 letters, including 23 letters of the Latin alphabet as well as J, W, U, Æ, Ø, and Å.

Language code: ISO 639-1: no

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