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Norwegian: The language that goes up and down

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10 facts about the Norwegian language

01

Norwegian is a Scandinavian language. It set itself apart from the Danish in the 19th century as part of its independence.

02

Norwegian is written using two different styles; Bokmål and Nynorsk are the two official forms of written Norwegian today.

03

There are approximately 5.32 million native Norwegian speakers.

04

Norwegian has several dialects which are divided into eastern and western dialects. There are also distinctions between rural and urban dialects.

05

Norwegian words are unusually lengthy. For example, menneskerettighetsorganisasjoner means “human rights organizations.”

06

Like its landscape, the inflections of the Norwegian language go up and down. It is a tonal language.

07

Norwegian, like Swedish, is a pitch-accent language with two different pitch patterns.

08

New Norwegian, or Nynorsk, is taught to all Norwegians, but approximately only 20% use it as their primary written language.

09

Compared to other Scandinavian languages, the letters "c", "d", "j", and "x" are primarily shunned in Norwegian.

10

Norwegian shares similarities with other European languages, specifically Danish and Swedish.

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Origin of the language

The Norwegian language originated in Scandinavia and is derived from Old Norse, a Germanic language.

Norway

History of the language

It is thought that Norwegian originated in the 8th century.

Norway

Learning the language

It takes 575 hours to learn Norwegian as an English speaker.

Norwegian language diversity

Norwegian is the official language in Norway. There are two standard methods of writing Norwegian – Bokmål and Nynorsk. Nynorsk is a synthesis and mixture of primarily western Norwegian regional dialects that was established in the 1850s.

Officially, both Bokmål and Nynorsk have the same status. The languages are not dissimilar, but they do represent significant geographical variations. Bokmål is spoken by the majority of Norwegians, and it is especially popular in eastern Norway.
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Did you know?

Norwegian is one of the Nordic Council's working languages.

Norwegian adjectives reflect gender, number and comparison.

Only about 10%–15% of the population in Norway speaks Nynorsk, primarily on the west coast.

Norwegian has been significantly influenced by French, German and English.

English is the primary source of loanwords for Norwegian, with words such as rappers and email.

There is a historical basis for the split of Norwegian between Bokmål and Nynorsk.

Language for beginners

Ten basic words to start learning in Norwegian:

True: ekte
New: ny
Hello, Hi: Hallo, Hei
Come: komme
Love: kjærlighet
Good: god
Goodbye: Ha det
Thank you: takk skal du ha
Sad: Lei seg
Beautiful: Vakker

Quotes

The strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.

Henrik Ibsen

Playwright and theatre director

Progress is man’s ability to complicate simplicity.

Thor Heyerdahl

Adventurer and ethnographer

Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master.

Christian Lous Lange

Christian Lous Lange

Fun facts about the Norwegian language

Intelligible with Danish and Swedish

In terms of vocabulary, Norwegian is more similar to Danish. Its pronunciation, however, is closer to that of Swedish.

A surprising number of loanwords

Norwegian has incorporated many loanwords, but it has actually loaned English a few words as well. Some examples are berserk, lemming and slalom.

Various versions of Norwegian

The Norwegian language has many regional varieties but also several forms; the most notable of these forms are Bokmål (Book Norwegian, official), Nynorsk (New Norwegian, official), Riksmal (national language) and Hognorsk (High Norwegian).

A tonal language

Norwegian is a tonal language with a pitch accent, making it sound musical and a little different from the other European languages.

Reading Norwegian

Since Norwegian has such a high number of cognates, reading a basic newspaper item is actually fairly easy for anyone. Some terms are identical to those in the English language, such as bank, over and problem.

The word “please” does not exist in Norwegian

The Norwegian language lacks a literal equivalent of the word “please.” However, there are phrases that more or less mean the same, such as vennligst (in a most friendly manner) and ver så venleg (be so kind).

Protection of local dialects

Because this is important to Norwegians, the regional dialects are protected by the Norwegian government. Norwegian legislation, for example, mandates that pupils be allowed to use their native tongue in class.

Word for weekend binge drinking

A decent dosage of weekend drinking is affectionately termed helgefylla to make it a genuine event rather than one of those things that just "happens."

Untranslatable words

Norwegian has a lot of words or phrases that are untranslatable, such as glad i deg (you matter to me, in the sense of platonic love), takk for sist (thanks for the last, or nice to see you again) and pålegg (in addition to, but in various contexts).

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