Our language-pick of the month is Norwegian, the official language of Norway, a Scandinavian country encompassing mountains, glaciers and deep coastal fjords. If you’re thinking of the seafaring Scandinavians back in the Viking Age, who raided and settled coastal sites in the British Isles around the medieval period, in between rowing boats and decapitating enemies, you’ve spotted it correctly on the map folks! Let us read a little more about this Scandinavian language!
Norwegian – What’s that?
Norwegian (norsk) is a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Norway, from the Scandinavian language group (which includes Danish, Swedish, Icelandic and Faroese) and is very closely related to Swedish and Danish. In fact, these three languages developed from Old Norse which used to be spoken in the areas of Scandinavia that are now Norway, Denmark and Sweden. While Norwegian is the official language of Norway, it is also spoken in the U.S., Canada and Sweden. It is estimated that today there are 4,741,780 Norwegian speakers worldwide.
As for the fun facts
Did you know that there are two official forms of written Norwegian – Bokmål (literally “Book Language”) and Nynorsk (literally “New Norwegian”)? They enjoy the same legal recognition, although “Bokmal” is increasingly more popular. It is spoken by about 5 million people in Norway and is derived from the Danish-influenced Norwegian used in the eastern region.
A product of the national Romantic Movement, Nynorsk, or “New Norwegian” was constructed in the nineteenth century from peasant dialects to create an authentic Norwegian written language. Nynorsk was hence created in the 1850s, and is a compilation of some regional dialects. The two languages are not very far apart, but do reflect the large regional differences.
Tracing back the links
Back in the day, the Viking traders carried the Old Norse language with them across Europe and into Russia. According to writings found on stone tablets from this period in history, the language showed remarkably little deviation between the different regions. Around 1030, with the onset of Christianity and the Latin script in Norway, new alphabet appeared in the Norwegian manuscripts about a century later, and that is the time when the Norwegian language began to deviate from its neighbours as well.
Factor in Globalisation
Norwegians today are known to enjoy a highly developed welfare state with egalitarian values and other than the 250 year Viking-rule, the region is also pretty well known for fishing, hiking, skiing, Norwegian brown cheese and “mountain jazz”.
By far the largest part of the modern vocabulary of Norwegian dates back to Old Norse. But on the whole, Norwegian remains a Germanic language, as is English, which makes it very easy for an English speaker to pick it up. While English has certainly lent some words like rapper, e-mail, catering, juice and bag, some everyday phrases à la European include “Ja” which means yes, and “God Morgen” which means Good Morning!