Norwegian belongs to the North Germanic group of Indo European languages. It has been highly influenced by the country’s union with Sweden and especially Denmark throughout history. Waves of immigrants and influence from English-speaking countries are right now changing the Modern Norwegian language in an interesting way. Regardless of the ongoing influence that has continued for centuries the language has some interesting traits that makes it unique.
1. Two written languages
As a result of the union with Denmark, the written language in Norway was Danish from around 1500 to 1850. The Norwegian upper class was speaking Danish while the rest of the population was speaking a lot of different Norwegian dialects. When Norway became its own nation in 1814 and they wanted their own written language, the people were divided between the two different written languages that were presented to them. Instead of choosing one of them, they were both considered equal.
Knud Knudsen made a Norwegian written language based on the variant written in Danish. Danish-Norwegian is called bokmål in Norway. If you read a Norwegian newspaper or book it will most likely be in bokmål.
Ivar Aasen traveled around Norway during the middle of the 1800th and made a written language based on the different dialects. Today, there is only a minority writing Nynorsk (New-Norwegian) as their first written language. It is a very beautiful language which is often used in poems and other literature but since the majority of people aren’t exposed to it that much they find it quite hard to write.
4. Æ, Ø and Å
The Norwegian alphabet ends with the three letters æ, ø and å. The Danish and Norwegian alphabets are completely the same, so the three letters can also be found in the Danish version.
Norway consists of a lot of mountains and valleys, so groups of people have been isolated from other groups throughout history. That is maybe the reason why there are so many different dialects in the country. If you drive a car a few hours away from were you originally were, there is a big chance that the people in your destination will speak quite differently. Norwegian people can actually have a pretty hard time trying to understand other Norwegians speaking a different dialect. It seems that mountainous regions spur on the birth of different dialects, since the same can be seen with German in the Alpine regions in Austria and Switzerland.
6. Kebab Norwegian
As a result of immigration from the East, an ethnolect called Kebab Norwegian appeared in Norway during the 1980s. People who talk “Kebab Norwegian” will mix in words from a variety of other languages, including Turkish, Arabic, Punjabi, Spanish, and even Japanese. Despite the arguably derogatory title, Kebabnorsk is a fascinating subject for linguists who consider it an insight into the changing identities and values of the population.
Since there are so many different dialects, there are also so many different slang terms all over the country. Some slang words like ” chille ” and ” hooke” are inspired from other languages. While others are made up by teenagers all over the country. A couple of examples are “brife = brag”, “Fet = cool”, “Konge = very good”.
8. Talking on inbreath
If you have ever talked to a Norwegian person, you might have noticed that they sometimes speak when they are breathing in. Especially when they are only saying one word like “yes” or “no”.
9. How English is influencing Norwegian
English is influencing the Norwegian language a lot! Norwegians are adopting English words at a quickening pace. This is certainly a part of a global trend that’s seeing English seep into other languages due to the influence of pop culture and the Internet. Examples of its influence are “smalltalk” and “bacon”. People will also mix in English sentences like “What’s up?” and “Come on” into their conversations.
10. Norwegian expressions
Norwegian comes with its own range of colourful expressions, such as: The taste is like the ass, it’s split in two. Don’t be so apple handsome. There are owls in the moss. Morning time has gold in the mouth. Don’t be so high on the pear.
It even has its own version of the children’s counting rhyme, eerily similar to Eeny, meeny, miny, moe: Elle melle, you tell. The ship goes. Out this year. Backing into the ridge. In tandem. Snip. Snap. Snout. You are out!
This article was written by Kristine E – our online Norwegian teacher based out of San Jose, Costa Rica.