Intro
Engelsk • English

Many dialects - two written forms of Norwegian

There are many ways of speaking Norwegian. In different parts of the country people speak different dialects, and there can be big differences between words, expressions and accents.

Ivar Aasen ©Universitetsbiblioteket i BergenIvar Aasen ©Universitetsbiblioteket i Bergen

Norway has two official written forms of Norwegian: Bokmål and Nynorsk. Why is this so?

Norway was in a union with Denmark from 1380 to 1814. Norwegians who could write therefore wrote in Danish. This resulted in the Norwegian written language gradually disappearing. In 1814, Norway got its own constitution, and the union with Denmark ended. Norway ended up in a union with Sweden, but Danish continued to be the written language in Norway. In many cities and towns the spoken language was also quite similar to Danish, while people who lived in the countryside largely spoke a variety of Norwegian dialects.

Knud Knudsen ©RiksantikvarenKnud Knudsen ©Riksantikvaren

Norway’s independence was often discussed in the 1800s and many people thought Norway ought to have its own written language. There were long and passionate debates about what the Norwegian language should be. Two language researchers in particular have left their mark on the development of the language.

Ivar Aasen (1813–1896) travelled around Norway listening to different dialects. He took something from every dialect and created the language we today call Nynorsk.

Knud Knudsen (1812–1895) wanted instead to make the Danish written language more Norwegian. The Danish written language in Norway developed into what we today call Bokmål.

Today, Bokmål and Nynorsk are on an equal footing. All Norwegian pupils have to learn to read and write both forms of written Norwegian.

Listen to dialects from different places.

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