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date: 24 February 2024

Norwegianlocked

Norwegianlocked

  • Agnete NesseAgnete NesseUniversity of Bergen, Department of Linguistic, Literary and Aesthetic Studies

Summary

Norwegian is mainly spoken in Norway and is represented in writing by two written languages, Bokmål (90%) and Nynorsk (10%). Both would work well as a written standard for the whole country but are to some extent regionally distributed. The distribution is partly based on the dialects and their likeness to one of the two written standards, and partly on tradition and ideology. There is no codified standard spoken Norwegian, so in formal settings the choice is either to approximate to one of the written standards, or to simply use dialect, which is most often the case.

Norwegian is part of the Scandinavian dialect continuum. Due to geography and historical developments in the region, most Norwegians easily understand spoken Swedish but sometimes struggle with written Swedish. Conversely, they easily understand written Danish but sometimes struggle with spoken Danish. Einar Haugen pinned the term Semi Communication to the almost mutual understanding between speakers of Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish. Between Norwegian and the insular Nordic varieties Icelandic and Faroese, there is no mutual intelligibility.

Norwegian has both synthetic and analytic language characteristics. Grammatical meaning is partly conveyed morphologically by endings and partly syntactically through word order. The vocabulary is, apart from a group of loanwords from Greek and Latin, almost solely Germanic. Due to the influence from German (Low and High), Danish, and English, parts of Norwegian vocabulary will be recognizable to speakers of other Germanic varieties. The influence caused by the century-long language contact between Sami, Finnish, and Norwegian has not led to great changes in the vocabulary, but, regionally, dialects have changed due to this contact. The part of Norwegian vocabulary that has been retained from Old Norse is to some degree recognizable to modern speakers, but Old Norse as such is not comprehensible to a modern Norwegian reader.

Typical grammatical features of Norwegian are

1. A relatively homogenous vowel inventory of nine vowels, and a heterogenous consonant system in which the dialects differ between 17 and more than 25 different phonemes.

2. Two distinctive tonemes in most dialects.

3. Suffixed definite article.

4. V2 word order

Subjects

  • Historical Linguistics
  • Language Families/Areas/Contact
  • Morphology
  • Sociolinguistics

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