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Norwegian language

Norwegian language

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Spoken in: Norway
Total speakers: 4.8 million
Language family: Indo-European
  North Germanic
   East and West Scandinavian
Official status
Official language of: Norway
Regulated by: Norwegian Language Council
Language codes
ISO 639-1: no</tt> — Norwegian
ISO 639-2: nor</tt> — Norwegian
ISO/FDIS 639-3: variously:
nor — Norwegian
nob — Bokmål
nno — Nynorsk 

Norwegian is a Germanic language spoken primarily in Norway, where it is an official language. Norwegian is closely related to and generally mutually intelligible with Swedish and Danish. Together with these two languages as well as Faroese and Icelandic, Norwegian belongs to the North Germanic languages (also called Scandinavian languages). Due to isolation, Faroese and Icelandic are no longer mutually intelligible with Norwegian in their spoken form, because mainland Scandinavian has diverged from them.

As established by law and governmental policy, there are two official forms of written Norwegian — Bokmål (literally "book language") and Nynorsk (literally "new Norwegian"). The Norwegian Language Council recommends the terms "Norwegian Bokmål" and "Norwegian Nynorsk" in English, but these are seldom used.

There is no officially sanctioned spoken standard of Norwegian, but there is a de facto spoken standard of Bokmål known as Standard Østnorsk (Standard East Norwegian), spoken mainly by the urban upper and middle class in East Norway. Standard Østnorsk is the form generally taught to foreign students. <ref name="Kristoffersen">Kristoffersen, Gjert (2000). The Phonology of Norwegian. Oxford University Press, 6-11. ISBN 9780198237655.</ref>

From the 16th to the 19th centuries, Danish was the standard written language of Norway. As a result, the development of modern written Norwegian has been subject to strong controversy related to nationalism, rural versus urban discourse, and Norway's literary history. Historically, Bokmål is a Norwegianized variety of Danish, while Nynorsk is a language form based on Norwegian dialects and puristic opposition to Danish. The now abandoned official policy to merge Bokmål and Nynorsk into one common language called Samnorsk through a series of spelling reforms has created a wide spectrum of varieties of both Bokmål and Nynorsk. The unofficial form known as Riksmål is considered more conservative than Bokmål, and the unofficial Høgnorsk more conservative than Nynorsk.

Norwegians are educated in both Bokmål and Nynorsk, but around 86–90% use Bokmål as their daily written language, and 10–12% use Nynorsk, although most spoken dialects resemble Nynorsk more closely than Bokmål. Broadly speaking, Bokmål and Riksmål are more commonly seen in urban and suburban areas; Nynorsk in rural areas, particularly in Western Norway. The Norwegian broadcasting corporation (NRK) broadcasts in both Bokmål and Nynorsk, and all governmental agencies are required to support both written languages. Bokmål is used in 92% of all written publications, Nynorsk in 8% (2000). According to the Norwegian Language Council, "It may be reasonably realistic to assume that about 10–12% use Nynorsk, i.e. somewhat less than half a million people." [1] In spite of concern that Norwegian dialects would eventually give way to a common, spoken, Norwegian language close to Bokmål, dialects find significant support in local environments, popular opinion, and public policy.


[edit] History

Image:Old norse, ca 900.PNG
This is the approximate extent of Old Norse and related languages in the early 10th century. The red area is the distribution of the dialect Old West Norse; the orange area is the spread of the dialect Old East Norse. The pink area is Old Gutnish and the green area is the extent of the other Germanic languages with which Old Norse still retained some mutual intelligibility

The languages now spoken in Scandinavia developed from the Old Norse language, which did not differ greatly between what are now Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish areas. In fact, Viking traders spread the language across Europe and into Russia, making Old Norse one of the most widespread languages for a time. According to tradition, King Harald Fairhair united Norway in 872. Around this time, a runic alphabet was used. According to writings found on stone tablets from this period of history, the language showed remarkably little deviation between different regions. Runes had been in limited use since at least the 3rd century. Around 1030, Christianity came to Norway, bringing with it the Latin alphabet. Norwegian manuscripts in the new alphabet began to appear about a century later. The Norwegian language began to deviate from its neighbors around this time as well.

Viking explorers had begun to settle Iceland in the 9th century, carrying with them the Old Norse language. Over time, Old Norse developed into "Western" and "Eastern" variants. Western Norse covered Norway (including its overseas settlements in Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands and the Shetland Islands), while Eastern Norse developed in Denmark and south-central Sweden. The languages of Iceland and Norway remained very similar until about the year 1300, when they became what are now known as Old Icelandic and Old Norwegian.

In the period traditionally dated to 13501525, Norwegian went through a Middle Norwegian transition toward Modern Norwegian. The major changes were simplification of the morphology, a more fixed syntax, and a considerable adoption of Middle Low German vocabulary. Similar development happened in Swedish and Danish, keeping the dialect continuum in continental Scandinavia intact. This did however not happen in Faroese and Icelandic so these languages lost mutual intelligibility with continental Scandinavia.

In 1397, the Kalmar Union unified Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and from 1536 Norway was subordinated under the Kingdom of Denmark–Norway. Danish became the commonly written language among Norway's literate class. Spoken Danish was gradually adopted by the urban elite, first at formal occasions, and gradually a more relaxed variety was adopted in everyday speech. The everyday speech went through a koinéization process, involving grammatical simplification and Norwegianized pronunciation. When the union ended in 1814 the Dano-Norwegian koiné had become the mother tongue of a substantial part of the Norwegian élite, but the more Danish-sounding solemn variety was still used on formal occasions.

Norway was forced to enter a new personal union shortly after the liberation from Denmark, this time with Sweden. However, Norwegians began to push for true independence by embracing democracy and attempting to enforce the constitutional declaration of being a sovereign state. Part of this nationalist movement was directed to the development of an independent Norwegian language. Three major paths were available: do nothing (Norwegian written language, i.e. Danish, was already different from Swedish), Norwegianize the Danish language, or build a new national language based on Modern Norwegian dialects. All three approaches were attempted.

[edit] From Danish to Norwegian

From the 1840s, some writers experimented with a Norwegianized Danish by incorporating words that were descriptive of Norwegian scenery and folk life, and adopting a more Norwegian syntax. Knud Knudsen proposed to change spelling and inflection in accordance with the Dano-Norwegian koiné, known as "cultivated everyday speech". A small adjustment in this direction was implemented in the first official reform of Danish language in Norway in 1862 and more extensively after his death in two official reforms in 1907 and 1917.

Meanwhile, a nationalistic movement strove for the development of a new written Norwegian. Ivar Aasen, a self-taught linguist, began his work to create a new Norwegian language at the age of 22. He traveled around the country, comparing the dialects in different regions, and examined the development of Icelandic, which had largely escaped the influences Norwegian had come under. He called his work, which was published in several books from 1848 to 1873, Landsmål, meaning national language. The name "Landsmål" is sometimes interpreted as "rural language" or "country language", but this was clearly not Aasen's intended meaning.

The name of the Danish language in Norway was a topic of hot dispute through the 19th century. Its proponents claimed that it was a language common to Norway and Denmark, and no more Danish than Norwegian. The proponents of Landsmål thought that the Danish character of the language should not be concealed. In 1899, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson proposed the neutral name Riksmål, meaning national language like Landsmål, and this was officially adopted along with the 1907 spelling reform. The name "Riksmål" is sometimes interpreted as "state language", but this meaning is secondary at best, compare to Danish rigsmål from where the name was borrowed.

After the personal union with Sweden was dissolved in 1905, both languages were developed further and reached what is now considered their classic forms after a reform in 1917. Riksmål was in 1929 officially renamed Bokmål (literally "Book language"), and Landsmål to Nynorsk (literally "New Norwegian"). A proposition to substitute Dano-Norwegian for Bokmål lost in parliament by a single vote. The name Nynorsk, the linguistic term for Modern Norwegian, was chosen for contrast to Danish and emphasis on the historical connection to Old Norwegian. Today this meaning is often lost, and it is commonly mistaken as a "new" Norwegian in contrast to the "real" Norwegian Bokmål.

Bokmål and Nynorsk were made closer by a reform in 1938. This was a result of a state policy to merge Nynorsk and Bokmål into one language, called "Samnorsk" (Common Norwegian). A 1946 poll showed that this policy was supported by 79% of Norwegians at the time. However, opponents of the official policy still managed to create a massive protest movement against Samnorsk in the 1950s, fighting in particular the use of "radical" forms in Bokmål text books in schools. In the reform in 1959, the 1938 reform was partially reversed in Bokmål, but Nynorsk was changed further towards Bokmål. Since then Bokmål has reverted even further toward traditional Riksmål, while Nynorsk still adheres to the 1959 standard. Therefore a small minority of Nynorsk enthusiasts uses a more conservative standard called Høgnorsk. The Samnorsk policy had little influence after 1960, and was officially abandoned in 2002.

[edit] Sound system

The sound system of Norwegian is similar to Swedish. There is considerable variation among the dialects, but the variant generally taught to foreign students is Standard Østnorsk.

[edit] Consonants

Consonant phonemes of Eastern Norwegian
Bilabial/</br>Labiodental Dental/</br>Alveolar Retroflex/</br>Postalveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosives p b t d ʈ ɖ k g
Nasals m n ɳ ŋ
Fricatives f s ʃ ç h
Liquids ɾ, l ɽ, ɭ
Approximants ʋ j

Most of the retroflex (and postalveolar) consonants are mutations of [ɾ] or [l]+any other alveolar/dental consonant; rn /ɾn/ > [ɳ], rt /ɾt/ > [ʈ], rl /ɾl/ > [ɭ], rs /ɾs/ > [ʃ], etc. /ɾd/ across word boundaries (“sandhi”), in loanwords and in a group of primarily literary words may be pronounced [ɾd], e.g., verden [ˈʋæɾdn̩], but it may also be pronounced [ɖ] in some dialects. The most exotic of the retroflex consonants is the retroflex flap which is only found in a few languages worldwide. Most of the dialects in eastern and central Norway use the retroflex consonants. Most western and northern dialects do not have these retroflex sounds.

Traditionally, the retroflex flap has not been used in Standard Østnorsk, and still many (especially the higher classes in Oslo) consider it vulgar and don't use it, but in several words it must now be considered standard.<ref name="Kristoffersen"/> Many children and youths (especially in Oslo) don't master/use the palatal fricative.

In Southern and Western Norwegian more guttural realizations of the /r/-phoneme are very common. Depending on phonetic context voiceless ([χ]) or voiced uvular fricatives ([ʁ]) are used.

The unvoiced stops are regularly aspirated.

[edit] Vowels

Vowel phonemes of Standard Østnorsk
Orthography IPA Description
a /ɑ/ Open back unrounded
ai /ɑɪ/
au /æʉ/
e (short) /ɛ/, /æ/ open mid front unrounded
e (long) /e/, /æ/ close-mid front unrounded
e (weak) /ə/ schwa (mid central unrounded)
ei /æɪ/, /ɛɪ/
i (short) /ɪ/ close front unrounded
i (long) /i/ close front unrounded
o /u, o, ɔ/ close back rounded
oi /ɔʏ/
u /ʉ/, /u/ close central rounded (close front extra rounded)
y (short) /ʏ/ close front rounded (close front less rounded)
y (long) /y/ close front rounded (close front less rounded)
æ /æ/, /ɛ/ near open front unrounded
ø /ø/ close-mid front rounded
øy /øʏ/
å /ɔ/ open-mid back rounded

There are, of course, many variations in vowel pronunciation in different dialects and idiolects of Norwegian, as in any language. The above vowel chart is meant to be fairly representative of Standard Østnorsk.

Many don't consider the e (weak)/schwa to be a distinct vowel phoneme — but just an allophone of the e (short) in weak positions.

[edit] Accent

Norwegian is a pitch accent language with two distinct pitch patterns. They are used to differentiate two-syllable words with otherwise identical pronunciation. For example in many East Norwegian dialects, the word "bønder" (farmers) is pronounced using tone 1, while "bønner" (beans or prayers) uses tone 2. Though the difference in spelling occasionally allow the words to be distinguished in written language, in most cases the minimal pairs are written alike, since written Norwegian has no explicit accent marks. In most eastern low-tone dialects, accent 1 uses a low flat pitch in the first syllable, while accent 2 uses a high, sharply falling pitch in the first syllable and a low pitch in the beginning of the second syllable. In both accents, these pitch movements are followed by a rise of intonational nature (phrase accent), the size (and presence) of which signals emphasis/focus and which corresponds in function to the normal accent in languages that lack lexical tone, such as English. That rise culminates in the final syllable of an accentual phrase, while the utterance-final fall that is so common in most languages is either very small or absent.

There are significant variations in pitch accent between dialects. Thus, in most of western and northern Norway (the so-called high-pitch dialects) accent 1 is falling, while accent 2 is rising in the first syllable and falling in the second syllable or somewhere around the syllable boundary. The pitch accents (as well as the peculiar phrase accent in the low-tone dialects) give the Norwegian language a "singing" quality which makes it fairly easy to distinguish from other languages. Interestingly, accent 1 generally occurs in words that were monosyllabic in Old Norse, and accent 2 in words that were polysyllabic.

[edit] Tonal accents and morphology

In many dialects, the accents take on a central role in marking grammatical categories. Thus, the ending (T1)—en implies determinate form of a masculine monosyllabic noun (båten, bilen, (den store) skjelven), whereas (T2)-en denotes either determinate form of a masculine bisyllabic noun or an adjectivised noun/verb ((han var) skjelven, moden). Similarly, the ending (T1)—a denotes feminine singular determinate monosyllabic nouns (boka, rota) or neutrum plural determinate nouns (husa, lysa), whereas the ending (T2)—a denotes the preterite of weak verbs (rota, husa), feminine singular determinate bisyllabic nouns (bøtta, ruta, jenta).

[edit] Monosyllabic tonal accents

In some dialects of Norwegian, mainly those from Nordmøre and Trøndelag to Lofoten, there may also be tonal opposition in monosyllables, as in [ˈbiːl] (‘car’) vs. [ˌbiːl] (‘axe’). In a few dialects, mainly in and near Nordmøre, the monosyllabic tonal opposition is also represented in final syllables with secondary stress, as well as double tone designated to single syllables of primary stress in polysyllabic words. In practice, this means that one gets minimal pairs like: [ˌhɑːniɲː] (‘the rooster’) vs. [ˌhɑˈːniɲː] (‘get him inside’); [ˈbryɲːa] (‘in the well’) vs. [ˈbryɲˈːa] (‘her well’); [ˈlænsmɑɲː] (‘sheriff’) vs. [ˈlænsˈmɑɲː] (‘the sheriff’). Amongst the various views on how to interpret this situation, the most promising one may be that the words displaying these complex tones have an extra mora. This mora may have little or no effect on duration and dynamic stress, but is represented as a tonal dip.

Other dialects with tonal opposition in monosyllabic words have done away with vowel length opposition. Thus, the words [ˌvɔːg] (‘dare’) vs. [ˌvɔgː] (‘cradle’) have merged into [ˌvɔːg] in the dialect of Oppdal.

[edit] Loss of tonal accents

Some forms of Norwegian have lost the tonal accent opposition. This includes mainly parts of the area around (but not including) Bergen; the Brønnøysund area; to some extent, the dialect of Bodø; and, also to various degrees, many dialects between Tromsø and the Russian border. Faroese and Icelandic, which have their main historical origin in Old Norse, also show no tonal opposition. It is, however, not clear whether these languages lost the tonal accent or whether the tonal accent was not yet there when these languages started their separate development.

[edit] Pulmonic ingressive

The word ja "yes" is sometimes pronounced with inhaled breath (pulmonic ingressive) in Norwegian — and this can be rather confusing for foreigners.

[edit] Written language

[edit] The alphabet

The Norwegian alphabet is as follows:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Æ Ø Å (29 letters)

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z æ ø å

The letters c, q, w, x and z are only used in loanwords. Some also spell their otherwise Norwegian family names using these letters.

Some letters may be modified by diacritics: é, è, ê, ó, ò, â, and ô. In Nynorsk, ì and ù and are occasionally seen as well. The diacritics are not compulsory, but may in a few cases distinguish between different meanings of the word, e.g.: for (for/to), fór (went), fòr (furrow) and fôr (fodder). Loanwords may be spelled with other diacritics, most notably ü, á and à.

[edit] Bokmål and Nynorsk

Like some other European countries, Norway has an official "advisory board" — Språkrådet (Norwegian Language Council) — that determines, after approval from the Ministry of Culture, official spelling, grammar, and vocabulary for the Norwegian language. The board's work has been subject to considerable controversy through the years, and much work lies ahead.

Both Nynorsk and Bokmål have a great variety of optional forms, particularly Bokmål. The Bokmål that uses the forms that are close to Riksmål is called moderate or conservative, depending on one's viewpoint, while the Bokmål that uses the forms that are close to Nynorsk is called radical. Nynorsk has forms that are close to the original Landsmål and forms that are close to Bokmål.

[edit] Riksmål

Opponents of the spelling reforms aimed at bringing Bokmål closer to Nynorsk have retained the name Riksmål and employ spelling and grammar that predate the Samnorsk movement. Riksmål and conservative versions of Bokmål have been the de facto standard written language of Norway for most of the 20th century, being used by large newspapers, encyclopedias, and a significant proportion of the population of the capital Oslo, surrounding areas, and other urban areas, as well as much of the literary tradition. Since the reforms of 1981 and 2003 (effective in 2005), the official Bokmål can be adapted to be almost identical with modern Riksmål. The differences between written Riksmål and Bokmål are today comparable to Commonwealth English vs American English.

Riksmål is regulated by the Norwegian Academy, which determines acceptable spelling, grammar, and vocabulary.

[edit] Høgnorsk

There is also an unofficial form of Nynorsk, called Høgnorsk, discarding the post-1917 reforms, and thus close to Ivar Aasen's original Landsmål. It is supported by Ivar Aasen-sambandet, but has found no widespread use.

[edit] Current usage

About 85.3% of the pupils in the primary and lower secondary schools in Norway receive education in Bokmål, while about 14.5% receive education in Nynorsk. From the eighth grade onwards pupils are required to learn both. Out of the 433 municipalities in Norway, 161 have declared that they wish to communicate with the central authorities in Bokmål, 116 (representing 12% of the population) in Nynorsk, while 156 are neutral. Of 4,549 state publications in 2000 8% were in Nynorsk, and 92% in Bokmål. The large national newspapers (Aftenposten, Dagbladet and VG) are published in Bokmål. Some major regional newspapers (including Bergens Tidende and Stavanger Aftenblad), many political journals, and many local newspapers use both Bokmål and Nynorsk.

[edit] Dialects

Main article: Norwegian dialects

There is general agreement that a wide range of differences makes it difficult to estimate the number of different Norwegian dialects. Variations in grammar, syntax, vocabulary, and pronunciation cut across geographical boundaries and can create a distinct dialect at the level of farm clusters. Dialects are in some cases so dissimilar as to be unintelligible to unfamiliar listeners. Many linguists note a trend toward regionalization of dialects that diminishes the differences at such local levels; but there is renewed interest in preserving distinct dialects.

[edit] Examples

Below are a few sentences giving an indication of the differences between Bokmål and Nynorsk, compared to the conservative (nearer to Danish) form Riksmål, Danish, as well as Old Norse, Swedish and Icelandic, the living language closest to Old Norse:

  • B=Bokmål
  • R=Riksmål
  • D=Danish
  • N=Nynorsk
  • H=Høgnorsk
  • O=Old norse
  • I=Icelandic
  • S=Swedish
  • E=English
  • F=Faroese

B/R/D: Jeg kommer fra Norge
N/H: Eg kjem frå Noreg.
O: Ek kem frá Noregi.
I: Ég kem frá Noregi.
S: Jag kommer från Norge.
E: I come from Norway.
F: Jeg komi frá Norra

B/R: Hva heter han?
D: Hvad hedder han?
N/H: Kva heiter han?
O: Hvat heitir hann?
I: Hvað heitir hann?
S: Vad heter han?
E: What is his name?
F: Hvat eitur hann

B/R/D: Dette er en hest.
N/H: Dette er ein hest.
O: Þetta er hross/Þetta er hestr.
I: Þetta er hross/hestur.
S: Detta är en häst.
E: This is a horse.
F: Hetta er eitt/ein ross/hestur

B: Regnbuen har mange farger.
R/D: Regnbuen har mange farver.
N: Regnbogen har mange fargar.
H: Regnbogen hev mange fargar. (Or better: Regnbogen er manglìta).
O: Regnboginn er marglitr.
I: Regnboginn er marglitur.
S: Regnbågen har många färger.
E: The rainbow has many colours.
F: Ælabogin er farvufíkur

[edit] Morphology

[edit] Nouns

Norwegian nouns are inflected or declined in definiteness (indefinite/definite) and number (singular/plural). In some dialects, definite nouns are furthermore declined in case (nominative/dative).

As in most Indo-european languages (English language is an exception), nouns are classified by gender, which has consequences for the declension of agreeing adjectives and determiners. Norwegian dialects have three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter, except the Bergen dialect which has only two genders: common and neuter. Bokmål and Standard Østnorsk traditionally have two genders like Danish (and the Bergen dialect), but so called radical varieties have three genders.

Noun forms
båt (boat) in Bokmål
Singular Plural
Indefinite Definite Indefinite Definite
båt båten båter båtene

The declension of regular nouns depends on gender. Some dialects and variants of Nynorsk furthermore have different declension of weak and strong feminines and neuters.

m. gutt
(a boy)
(the boy)
(the boys)
f. dør
(a door)
(the door)
(the doors)
n. hus
(a house)
(the house)
(the houses)
m. gut
(a boy)
(the boy)
(the boys)
f. sol
(a sun)
(the sun)
(the suns)
(a church)
(the church)
(the churches)
n. hus
(a house)
(the house)
(the houses)
(a heart)
(the heart)
(the hearts)

[edit] Adjectives

Norwegian adjectives have two inflectional paradigms. The weak inflection is applicable when the argument is definite, the strong inflection is used when the argument is indefinite. In both paradigms the adjective is declined in comparison (positive/comparative/superlative). Strong, positive adjectives are furthermore declined in gender and number in agreement with their argument. In some southwestern dialects, the weak positive is also declined in gender and number, with one form for feminine and plural, and one form for masculine and neuter.

Weak adjecive forms
grønn (green) in Bokmål
Positive Comparative Superlative
grønne grønnere grønneste
Strong adjective forms
(grønn (green) in Bokmål)
Positive Comparative Superlative
Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
grønn grønn grønt grønne grønnere grønnest

[edit] Verbs

Norwegian finite verbs are inflected or conjugated in mood: indicative/imperative/optative. The optative mood is constrained to a handful of verbs. The indicative verbs are conjugated in tense, present / past. In Bokmål and Standard Østnorsk, the present tense also has a passive form. In some dialects, indicative verbs are also conjugated in number. Conjugation in gender is lost in Norwegian.

There are four non-finite verb forms: infinitive, passive infinitive, and the two participles perfective/past participle and imperfective/present participle.

The participles are verbal adjectives. The imperfective participle has no further declension, but the perfective participle is declined in gender (not in Bokmål and Standard Østnorsk) and number like strong, positive adjectives. The definite form of the participle is identical to the plural form.

As with other Germanic languages, Norwegian verbs can be either weak or strong.

Verb forms in Nynorsk
leva (to live)
Finite Non-finite
Indicative Optative Imperative Verbal nouns Verbal adjectives (Participles)
Present Past Infinitive Imperfective Perfective
Active Passive Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural/Def
lever levde leve lev leva levast levande levd levd levt levde
Verb forms in Bokmål
leve (to live)
Finite Non-finite
Indicative Optative Imperative Verbal nouns Verbal adjectives (Participles)
Present Past Infinitive Imperfective Perfective
Active Passive Active Passive Singular Plural/Def
lever leves levde leve lev leve leves levende levd levde

[edit] Pronouns

Norwegian personal pronouns are declined in case, nominative / accusative. Some of the dialects that have preserved the dative in nouns, also have a dative case instead of the accusative case in personal pronouns, while others have accusative in pronouns and dative in nouns, effectively giving these dialects three distinct cases.

In the most comprehensive Norwegian grammar, Norsk referansegrammatikk, the categorization of personal pronouns by person, gender, and number is not regarded as inflection. As with nouns, adjectives must agree with the gender and number of pronoun arguments.

Other pronouns have no inflection.

The so called possessive, demonstrative and relative pronouns are no longer regarded to be pronouns.

Pronouns are a closed class.

Pronoun forms
du (you)
Nominative Accusative
du deg

[edit] Determiners

The closed class of Norwegian determiners are declined in gender and number in agreement with their argument. Not all determiners are inflected.

Determiner forms
eigen (own) in Nynorsk
Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
eigen eiga eige eigne

[edit] Particle classes

Norwegian has five closed classes without inflection, i.e. lexical categories with grammatical function and a finite number of members that may not be distinguished by morphological criteria. These are interjections, conjunctions, subjunctions, prepositions, and adverbs. The inclusion of adverbs here, requires that traditional adverbs that are inflected in comparison are classified as adjectives, as is sometimes done.

[edit] Compound words

In Norwegian compund words, the head, i.e. the part determining the compound's class, is the last part. Only the first part has primary stress. For instance, the compund tenketank (think tank) has primary stress on the first syllable and is a noun (some sort of tank).

Compound words are written together in Norwegian, which can cause words to become very long; for example sannsynlighetsmaksimeringsestimator (maximum likelihood estimator) and menneskerettighetsorganisasjoner (human rights organisations). Another example is the title høyesterettsjustitiarius (originally a combination of supreme court and the actual title, justiciar). Note also the translation En midtsommernattsdrøm (A Midsummer Night's Dream).

If they are not written together, each part will naturally be read with primary stress, and the meaning of the compound is lost. This is sometimes forgotten, occasionally with humorous results. Instead of writing, for example, lammekoteletter (lamb chops), people make the mistake of writing lamme koteletter (paralyzed, or lame, chops). The original message can even be reversed, as when røykfritt (no smoking, i.e. "free from smoking") becomes røyk fritt (smoke freely).

Other examples include:

  • Terrasse dør ("Terrace dies") instead of Terrassedør ("Terrace door")
  • Tunfisk biter ("Tuna bites", verb) instead of Tunfiskbiter ("Tuna bits", noun)
  • Smult ringer ("Lard rings", verb) instead of Smultringer ("Doughnuts")
  • Tyveri sikret ("Theft guaranteed") instead of Tyverisikret ("Theft proof")
  • Stekt kylling lever ("Fried chicken lives", verb) instead of Stekt kyllinglever ("Fried chicken liver", noun)
  • Pult ost ("Fucked cheese") instead of Pultost ("Soft cheese")

These misunderstandings occur because most nouns can be interpreted as verbs or other types of words. Similar misunderstandings can be achieved in English too. The following are examples of phrases that both in Norwegian and English mean one thing as a compound word, and something different when regarded as separate words:

  • stavekontroll (spellchecker) or stave kontroll (spell "checker")
  • kokebok (cookbook) or koke bok (boiling a book)
  • ekte håndlagde vafler (real handmade waffles) or Ekte hånd lagde vafler. (a real hand made some waffles.)

[edit] Vocabulary

By far the largest part of the modern vocabulary of Norwegian dates back to Old Norse. The largest source of loanwords is Middle Low German, which had a huge influence on Norwegian vocabulary from the late middle ages onwards partially even influencing grammatical structures, such as genitive constructions. At present, the main source of new loanwords is English e.g. rapper, e-mail, catering, juice, bag (originally a loan word to English from Old Norse). Some loanwords have their spelling changed to reflect Norwegian pronunciation rules, but in general Norwegianised spellings of these words tend to take a long time to sink in: e.g. sjåfør (from French chauffeur) and revansj (from French revange) are now the common Norwegian spellings, but juice is more often used than the Norwegianised form jus, catering more often than keitering, service more often than sørvis, etc.

[edit] See also

[edit] References


  • Rolf Theil Endresen, Hanne Gram Simonsen, Andreas Sveen, Innføring i lingvistikk (2002), ISBN 82-00-45273-5

[edit] External links

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Major Modern Germanic languages
Afrikaans | Danish | Dutch | English | German | Norwegian | Swedish | Yiddish
Minor Modern Germanic languages
Faroese | Frisian | Icelandic | Luxembourgish
Reg. acknowledged Germanic languages/dialects
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