has two official languages, both Scandinavian
in appearance. They
are virtually the same, and every Norwegian
will learn both.
, literally "book-language", is the urban-Norwegian variant of
-- the Danes ruled Norway
until 1814. Being also called
in textbooks, it is used by more than 80% of the population (late 20th C. figures; growing). It is the
predominant language in all Norwegian
cities, the primary language of
education for most Norwegian school children, and the language most frequently
used on TV and in newspapers.
The other "Norwegian" language is Nynorsk, or "New Norwegian" -- as
opposed to Old Norse (before 1500) -- and is a kind of common denominator of
everyday speech in all it dialects. Nynorsk has a much more rural base, and is
the predominant language in the western fjord area and the central mountain
districts. Growing urbanisation since the end of WWII has led to a marked
decrease in the number of speakers of Nynorsk, viz.: nearly one-third of all
school children used it as their primary language in the 1950s compared with
less than 15% today.
Yet, there is no problem for Norwegians speaking to each other. Aside from a
few grammatical or syntactical differences the two languages sound
remarkebly similar, and all Norwegians will understand both. Bokmål is
predominant in the daily papers, and a striking feature of the Norwegian
language -- whether Nynorsk or Bokmål is that many words have more than
one authorised spelling. For example the word "champagne" can be
spelled as in the french, or it can be sjampanje -- reflecting the
Like Danish the Norwegians use the characters å, æ, and ø, have uniform-conjugation of verbs, and suffixed definite articles. They do have three genders, however. In Bokmål the use of 3 is optional, however; one may use the old Danish common/neuter gender set-up.