Norwegian is one of the North Germanic languages. It is spoken in Norway and has around 5 million speakers.
Norwegian (along with Danish and Swedish) is descended from Old Norse which in turn derived from Proto Norse. Proto Norse originally deriving from proto-Germanic itself descended from proto-Indo-European.
Norwegian holiday phrases ordered by topic.
Phrases illustrating grammatical points.
Masculine nouns. Singular and plural, Feminine nouns. Singular and plural, Neuter nouns. Singular and plural, Examples of pronouns, Regular verbs, Irregular verbs 1, Irregular verbs 2, Irregular verbs 3, Subject pronouns.
Fader vår, du som er i himmelen!
La ditt navn holdes hellig. La ditt rike komme.
La din vilje skje på jorden som i himmelen.
Gi oss i dag vårt daglige brød.
Forlat oss vår skyld, som vi og forlater våre skyldnere.
Led oss ikke inn i fristelse, men frels oss fra det onde.
For riket er ditt, og makten og æren i evighet.
English is also within the West Germanic group and so related to Norwegian. This relationship can be seen in similarities between sentence structure and ‘deep’ vocabulary, i.e. old words which can be shown to have a common origin. Later borrowings also provide useful common ground between the two languages.
There is a close relationship between Norwegian and the other two Scandinavian languages. All three are mutually intelligible, but this does not apply to Icelandic and Faroese from which they have diverged too far.
There are a number of important Norwegian dialects with a markedly regional distribution, but the written language has two official forms, Bokmål and Nynorsk. Bokmål is the version used by over 80% of Norwegians as their written language and it is taught in the majority of primary schools. Spoken Norwegian is strongly shaped by regional dialects with the influence of Bokmål strongest in the North and East, and that of Nynorsk in the West. Bokmål is the version of choice for foreigners learning the language.
Norwegian, like the other members of the North Germanic family, developed from a common Old Norse language. This was the language spoken by the Vikings whose raiding and trading activities meant that Old Norse was spoken over a wide area, and left extensive traces in the form of runic inscriptions across Northern Europe and into Russia and the Black Sea region.
Records, initially written in the runic alphabet and later, with the arrival of Christianity in the early 11th century, written in the Latin alphabet, indicate that Old Norse remained stable with little variation across the region until about 1300 A.D.
A transitional phase between Old Norse and Modern Norwegian, referred to as ‘Middle Norwegian’, is described between 1350 and 1525. During this phase the Scandinavian region as a whole imported a large number of words from Middle Low German. Norwegian also underwent changes induced by the influence of Danish.
In 1397 the Kolmar Union of Norway, Sweden and Denmark had formalised a degree of union between the three countries under a single monarch. However there were conflicts of interest between Sweden and Denmark which eventually led to a series of rebellions and re-conquests, culminating after the infamous Stockholm massacre of 1520 in Sweden’s independence and the de facto end of the Kolmar Union.
After 1536 Norway remained as a subordinate member of the Danish-Norwegian kingdom and, as a result, Danish became the language of officialdom and hence of the Norwegian literate classes. By the time Norway gained independence from Denmark in 1814, the Norwegian élite spoke a variant language closer to Danish than that used by their rural compatriots.
This ‘Dano-Norwegian’ variant gave rise to Bokmål , while Nynorsk was based on an attempt to create a form of Norwegian purged of centuries of Danish influence. This approach was pioneered in the mid-19th century by a self-taught Norwegian linguist, Ivar Aasen, who studied Norwegian dialects and compared them with Icelandic, which had been relatively unaffected by Danish influences.
Aasen’s work promoted Landsmål, meaning ‘language of the country’ or ‘national language’ which was officially named Nynorsk in 1929 at the same time that the name Bokmål (‘book language’) was given to its ‘Dano-Norwegian’ counterpart.