Alternative name(s): norvégien (fr), Noors (nl), norsk (no), norska (sv)
Language family: Indo-European
Language Group: Germanic
Geographical use: Norway
Information: Just as other Scandinavian
languages, Norwegian is derived from an old common Scandinavian language
which can be reduced to the rune inscriptions
up to the 3rd century BC. During the Viking period (800-1050) several
dialects emerged, among which Old Norwegian. This language not only occurred
in Norway, but was also spoken in Iceland and other parts of the Atlantic
Ocean via migration.
With the rise of christianity the rune signs were replaced by the Roman alphabet. In the subsequent centuries Norwegian was influenced by Danish, Low German and Swedish. The Danish influence was very strong between 1380 and 1814 when Norway and Denmark were united under Danish crown. Danish became the written language for Norwegian in the 16th century. It was mainly spoken by the higher classes, while lower classes and the countryside people spoke local dialects. In the 19th century spoken Danish developed into a language called Danish-Norwegian. This language had a Danish structure and vocabulary, but was pronounced in the Norwegian way. This language was later called the Riksmål, the official language of Norway. It was mainly used by literary people such as the poet Henrik Ibsen.
Under nationalism and romanticism influence the linguist Ivar Aasen developed a new language, called Landsmål, and based on the Norwegian dialects without Danish influence. His attempt succeeded and it became an important second language.
Under pressure of Landsmål advocates, the Riksmål underwent radical changes (in 1907, 1917 and 1938) during which the Norwegian pronunciation and spelling were underligned. Also the name of both languages changed: the Riksmål became Bokmål (book language) and Landsmål became Nynorsk (New Norwegian). Legally both languages are equal and both should be educated in schools. Bokmål is mostly used in the southeastern part of the country, which is the most populated area and includes the capital Oslo, while Nynorsk rules in the western part. Norwegian also has a lot of dialects (only in spoken language), most of which are close to Nynorsk rather than Bokmål.
However, it should be noted that if non-Norwegian people talk about or learn Norwegian, they always refer to the Bokmål language.