Norwegian Language Facts

Norwegian Language Facts

1. The Origins

Norwegian is a North Germanic language and is originally derived from Old Norse. It differentiated itself from Danish in the 19th century, as part of the independence movement in Norway. Norwegian is mutually intelligible with Danish and Swedish.

2. The Speakers

Norwegian is primarily spoken in Norway, where it is an official language. There are around 5 million native Norwegian speakers.

3. The Two Forms

Norwegian has two official forms of written language: Bokmål (literally “book tongue”) and Nynorsk (literally “new Norwegian”):

  • Bokmål is the most widely used form of written Norwegian;
  • Nynorsk is used by around 10% of Norway’s population.

Both forms are regulated by the Norwegian Language Council. Other forms of Norwegian include Riksmal (“national language”) and Hognorsk (“High Norwegian”).

4. The Similarities

On one hand, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish are mutually intelligible owing to their common history. Icelandic, on the other hand, is not mutually intelligible with Norwegian, despite the two languages being related. If both Iceland and Norway have been dominated by the Danish for centuries, Iceland was less influenced by Danish due to its isolation.

5. The Tones

Norwegian is a tonal language, making it sounding lyrical. Tones are rare in Indo-European languages, and are more commonly found in Asian languages such as Chinese.


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