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Norwegian Nynorsk
norsk   •   nynorsk
Pronunciation [ny:nɔrsk] or [ny:nɔʂk]
Native to Norway
Region mostly western Norway
Native speakers None
some 600,000 users
Language family
Standard forms
Nynorsk (official)
Høgnorsk (unofficial)
Writing system Latin (Norwegian alphabet)
Official status
Official language in Norway
Nordic Council
Regulated by Norwegian Language Council
Language codes
ISO 639-1 nn
ISO 639-2 nno
ISO 639-3 nno
Linguist List Template:Infobox language/linguistlist
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Linguasphere 52-AAA-ba to -be

Nynorsk, Neo Norwegian or New Norwegian[1] is one of two official written standards for the Norwegian language, the other being Bokmål. The standard language was created by Ivar Aasen during the mid-19th century, to provide a Norwegian alternative to the Danish language which was commonly written in Norway at the time.

27% of the Norwegian municipalities have declared Nynorsk as their official language form, and these comprise about 12% of the Norwegian population. Nynorsk is the majority form of the four counties Rogaland, Hordaland, Sogn og Fjordane and Møre og Romsdal, which together comprise the region of Western Norway.[2]

The Norwegian Language Council recommends the name Norwegian Nynorsk when referring to this language in English.

Writing and speech

Spoken Norwegian, Swedish and Danish form a continuum of mutually intelligible dialects and sociolects. Nynorsk is the smallest of the four written standards in Scandinavia. Nynorsk is nevertheless found in all the same types of places (newspapers, commercial products, computer programs etc.) as the other Scandinavian standard languages. Bokmål has a much larger basis in the middle-class urban speech, especially that found in the eastern part of Southern Norway.[3] However, most Norwegians do not speak the so-called Standard Østnorsk, but other Norwegian dialects. As such, Nynorsk is not a minority language, though it shares many of the problems that minority languages face.

Each municipality and county can declare one of the two languages as its official language, or it can remain "language neutral". In Norway as a total, 26% of the municipalities (114 in all) making up 12% of the population have declared Nynorsk as their official language, while 36% (158) have chosen Bokmål and another 36% (157) have stayed Neutral. At least 128 of the "Neutral" municipalities are in areas where Bokmål is the prevailing form and pupils are taught in Bokmål. As for counties, three have declared Nynorsk; Hordaland, Møre og Romsdal and Sogn og Fjordane. Two have declared Bokmål: these are Østfold and Vestfold. All other counties are officially language neutral.

The main language used in primary schools normally follows the official language of its municipality, and is decided by referendum within the local school district. The number of school districts and pupils using primarily Nynorsk has decreased since the top in the 1940s, even in Nynorsk municipalities. As of 2011, 12.8% of pupils in primary school are taught Nynorsk as their primary language.[2]

The prevailing regions for Nynorsk are the rural areas of the western counties of Rogaland, Hordaland, Sogn og Fjordane and Møre og Romsdal, in addition to the western/northern parts of Oppland, Buskerud, Telemark, Aust- and Vest-Agder, where an estimated 90% of the population writes Nynorsk. Usage of Nynorsk in the rest of Norway, including the major cities and urban areas in the above stated areas, is scarce. In Sogn og Fjordane county and the Sunnmøre region of Møre og Romsdal, all municipalities have stated Nynorsk as the official language, the only exception being Ålesund that remains neutral. In Hordaland, all municipalities except three have declared Nynorsk as the official language.

Ivar Aasen's work

The first systematic study of the Norwegian language was done by Ivar Aasen in the mid 19th century. In the 1840s he traveled the country and studied the dialects. In 1848 and 1850 he published the first Norwegian grammar and dictionary, respectively, which described a standard Aasen called Landsmål. New versions detailing the written standard were published in 1864 and 1873.

Aasen's work is based on the idea that the dialects had a common structure that made them a separate language alongside Danish and Swedish. The central point for Aasen therefore became to find and show the structural dependencies between the dialects. In order to abstract this structure from the variety of dialects, he developed basic criteria, which he called the most perfect form. He defined this form as the one that best showed the connection to related words, with similar words, and with the forms in Old Norse. No single dialect had all the perfect forms, each dialect had preserved different aspects and parts of the language. Through such a systematic approach, one could arrive at a uniting expression for all Norwegian dialects, what Aasen called the fundamental dialect, and Einar Haugen has called Proto-Norwegian.

The idea that the study should end up in a new written language marked his work from the beginning. A fundamental idea for Aasen was that the fundamental dialect should be Modern Norwegian, not Old Norse. Therefore he did not include grammatical categories which were extinct from the dialects. At the same time, the categories that were inherited from the old language and were still present in some dialects should be represented in the written standard. Haugen has used the word reconstruction rather than construction about this work.


From the outset, Nynorsk has been met with resistance. With the advent and growth of the mass media, the exposure to the standard languages has increased, and Bokmål's dominant position has come to define what is commonly regarded as "normal". This may explain why negative attitudes toward Nynorsk are common, as is seen with many minority languages. This is especially prominent in school, which is the place most Bokmål-using Norwegians first and most extensively need to relate to the language.

Some critics of Nynorsk have been quite outspoken about their views. For instance, during the 2005 election, the Norwegian Young Conservatives made an advertisement that included a scene where a copy of the Nynorsk dictionary was burned. After strong reactions to this book burning, they chose not to show it.[4]


Nynorsk is a North-Germanic language, close in form to the other form of written Norwegian (Bokmål), and Icelandic. It thus has North-Germanic grammatical forms, and Nynorsk grammar may be compared to Bokmål Norwegian, but it is closer in grammar to Old West Norse than Bokmål, which was influenced by Danish much more heavily than Nynorsk.

Three genders

Genders are inherent categories of nouns, and each gender has its own forms of inflection.

With the exception of the Bergen dialect, standard Nynorsk and dialects have three grammatical genders; masculine, feminine and neuter. The situation is a bit more complicated in Bokmål, which has inherited the Danish two-gender system. Written Danish only retains the neuter and the common gender. Though the common gender took what used to be the feminine inflections in Danish, it matches the masculine inflections in Norwegian. The Norwegianization in the 20th century brought the three-gender system into Bokmål, but the process was never completed. In Nynorsk these are important distinctions, in contrast to Bokmål, in which all feminine words may also become masculine (due to the incomplete transition to a three-gender system) and inflect using its forms, and indeed a feminine word may be seen in both forms, for example boka or boken (“the book”). The feminine forms of other words usually inflected by the gender of the noun they belong to, such as ei (“a(n)”), inga (“no”, “none”) and lita (“small”), are optional too (masculine is used when feminine is not). This means that en liten stjerne – stjernen (“a small star – the star”, only masculine forms) and ei lita stjerne – stjerna (only feminine forms) both are correct Bokmål, as well as every possible combination: en liten stjerne – stjerna, ei liten stjerne – stjerna or even ei lita stjerne – stjernen. Choosing either two or three genders throughout the whole text is not a requirement either, so one may choose to write tida (“the time” f) and boken (“the book” m) in the same work.

In Nynorsk (unlike Bokmål), masculine and feminine nouns are differentiated not only in the singular definitive form (in which the noun takes a suffix to indicate "the"), but also in the plural forms (which they would not be in Bokmål), for example:

Singular Definitive singular Plural Definitive plural
rev reven revar revane
fox the fox foxes the foxes
løve løva løver løvene
lion the lion lions the lions
hus huset hus husa
house the house houses the houses

This differentiation is expressed in distinctive ways in the dialects, for example reva/revan(e) and løve/løven(e), revær/revane and løver/løvene or rever/reva and løver/løvene.

Conjugation: adjectives and demonstrative pronouns

That which characterises a grammatical gender is though not noun inflection, for each gender can have more inflectional forms. The gender determines the inflection of other words which conjugate or inflect with the noun. This concerns determiners and adjectives. For example:

Masculine example: ein liten rev min eigen rev a small fox my own fox
Feminine example: ei lita løve mi eiga løve a small lion my own lion

Usage changes too from dialect to dialect, for example en liten rev, min egen rev men e lita løve, mi ega løve eller ein liten rev, min eigen rev men ei liti løve, mi eigi løve.

T as final sound

One of the past participle and the preterite verb ending in Bokmål is -et. Aasen originally included these t's in his Landsmål norms, but since these often are silent in the dialects, it was struck out in the first officially issued specification of Nynorsk of 1901.

Examples may compare the Bokmål forms skrevet ('written', past participle) and hoppet ('jumped', both past tense and past participle), which in written Nynorsk are skrive or skrivi (Landsmål skrivet) and hoppa (Landsmål hoppat). The form hoppa is also permitted in Bokmål.

Other examples from other classes of words include the neuter singular form anna of annan ('different', with more meanings) which was spelled annat in Landsmål, and the neuter singular form ope of open ('open') which originally was spelled opet. Bokmål, in comparison, still retains these t's through the equivalent forms annet and åpent.

Word forms compared with Bokmål Norwegian

Many words in Nynorsk are similar to their equivalents in Bokmål, with differing form, for example:

Nynorsk Bokmål other dialectical forms English
eg jeg (pronounced jei) e(g), æ(g), æ(i), (e)i, je(i), jæ(i) I
ikkje ikke ikkje, inte, ente, itt(e), itj, ikkji etc. not

The distinction between Bokmål and Nynorsk is that while Bokmål has for the most part derived its forms from the written Danish language or the common Danish-Norwegian speech, Nynorsk has its orthographical standards from Aasen's reconstructed "base dialect", which are intended to represent the distinctive dialectical forms.

See also


External links

  • Noregs Mållag is the major organization promoting Nynorsk.
  • Norsk Målungdom is Noregs Mållag's youth organization.
  • Ivar Aasen-tunet The Ivar Aasen Centre is a national centre for documenting and experiencing the Nynorsk written culture, and the only museum in the country devoted to Ivar Aasen's life and work.
  • Norsk programvareblogg computer programmes in Nynorsk.
  • Bokmål) on the state of Nynorsk and Bokmål in Norwegian secondary schools.

Template:Norwegian language forms

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