Friday, July 1, 2016

Thoughts on Norwegian (Bokmål)

Thoughts on Norwegian (Bokmål)

So I casually decided to start learning Norwegian via duolingo--mainly because I'm reading the first volume of Knausgaard's Min Kamp

I still find it a bit mind-blowing that there are two different written versions of Norwegian, and then there are the many dialects,which people use for speech. Apparently Norwegians do not speak the way they write. Of course this is true of other languages, but it seems that Norwegians have taken this idea and made it official. To an outsider it seems confusing, but Norwegians probably navigate the issue fairly smoothly,except when they deliberately want to make it political. (From what I gather "Nynorsk" is a somewhat artificial attempt to lessen the influence of Danish on the language, since Bokmål is apparently close to Danish).  I have yet to find a definitive answer to the question "what language did Knausgaard write his books in?", although I think it was probably Bokmål

(Bokmål) Norwegian seems to be a very economical language – even minimalist, which conforms to my admittedly probably superficial notions of Scandinavian sparseness in terms of design or aesthetics. It of seems to get by with fewer words than English: Example:

Jentene leser avisene.  

The girls are reading the newspapers.

One reason for this is that it adds the definite article to the noun-sort of like an adjective ending in German,which is kind of cool. 

My favorite Norwegian words so far are: Gaffel (fork), and Edderkopp (spider). 

I’m learning it with duolingo—which seems to be a fun and game-like way to get started on a language. It in no way replaces classroom language learning but could be a nice supplement to what a student is learning in class.


  1. is there a similar convention in german, ie formal vs informal. the dutch and chinese speak to elders in a manner that is different from the way they address their friends.

    1. Hi Jac!

      Yes there is definitely a clear distinction between standard or"high" German and all the dialects, or more colloquial forms of German but it's not as "official" as it seems to be in Norwegian and it also isn't as clearly split into written versus spoken language. Plus it doesn't have the added issue of the standard language being "infected" by another language in this case Danish. Standard/high German is often also spoken German.