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Self-Access Centre - Norwegian

Welcome to the Self-Access Centre materials database. Here you can find out about the Norwegian materials available in the SAC.

If you are interested in studying Norwegian at UCL, please click here.

The SAC is here to provide you with opportunities to study Norwegian outside class time. You may feel extra study is necessary in order to achieve the exam score you want, or you may just enjoy studying Norwegian. Either way, the SAC could be useful for you.

If you have a very clear idea of what you need to study in Norwegian, use the Resources menu above to look for the study topics which are of importance to you. If you need advice and guidance on what to study, you should talk to your class tutor, who will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and make recommendations on what to study.

We have a wide range of resources to help you study Norwegian on your own. In the Self-Access Centre you can find course books and dictionaries. You can watch online TV or listen to radio stations. You can also watch Norwegian films.

A bit about the language

Norwegian (norsk) is a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Norway, where it is the official language. Together with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian forms a continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional variants. These Scandinavian languages together with the Faroese language and Icelandic language, constitute the North Germanic or Scandinavian languages. Faroese and Icelandic are hardly mutually intelligible with Norwegian in their spoken form, because continental Scandinavian has diverged from them. As established by law and governmental policy, there are two official forms of written Norwegian – Bokmål (literally "book language") and Nynorsk (literally "new Norwegian"). The Norwegian Language Council recommends the terms "Norwegian Bokmål" and "Norwegian Nynorsk" in English. There is no officially sanctioned standard of spoken Norwegian, and most Norwegians speak their own dialect in all circumstances. The sociolect of the urban upper and middle class in East Norway, upon which Bokmål is primarily based, can be regarded as a de facto spoken standard for Bokmål. This so-called standard østnorsk ("Standard Eastern Norwegian") is the form generally taught to foreign students.

From the 16th to the 19th centuries, Danish was the standard written language of Norway. As a result, the development of modern written Norwegian has been subject to strong controversy related to nationalism, rural versus urban discourse, and Norway's literary history. Historically, Bokmål is a Norwegianised variety of Danish, while Nynorsk is a language form based on Norwegian dialects and puristic opposition to Danish. The now abandoned official policy to merge Bokmål and Nynorsk into one common language called Samnorsk through a series of spelling reforms has created a wide spectrum of varieties of both Bokmål and Nynorsk. The unofficial form known as Riksmål is considered more conservative than Bokmål, and the unofficial Høgnorsk more conservative than Nynorsk.

Norwegians are educated in both Bokmål and Nynorsk. A 2005 poll indicates that 86.3% use primarily Bokmål as their daily written language, 5.5% use both Bokmål and Nynorsk, and 7.5% use primarily Nynorsk. Thus 13% are frequently writing Nynorsk, though the majority speak dialects that resemble Nynorsk more closely than Bokmål. Broadly speaking, Nynorsk writing is widespread in Western Norway, though not in major urban areas, and also in the upper parts of mountain valleys in the southern and eastern parts of Norway. Today, not only is nynorsk the official language of 4 of the 19 Norwegian counties (fylker), but also of many municipalities in 5 other counties. The Norwegian broadcasting corporation (NRK) broadcasts in both Bokmål and Nynorsk, and all governmental agencies are required to support both written languages. Bokmål is used in 92% of all written publications, Nynorsk in 8% (2000). Norwegian is one of the working languages of the Nordic Council. Under the Nordic Language Convention, citizens of the Nordic countries who speak Norwegian have the opportunity to use their native language when interacting with official bodies in other Nordic countries without being liable to any interpretation or translation costs.

Written language

Alphabet

The Norwegian alphabet has 29 letters. The letters c, q, w, x and z are only used in loanwords. Some also spell their otherwise Norwegian family names using these letters. Some letters may be modified by diacritics: é, è, ê, ó, ò, and ô. The diacritics are not compulsory, but may in a few cases distinguish between different meanings of the word. Loanwords may be spelled with other diacritics, such as ü, á and à.

Bokmål and Nynorsk

Like some other European countries, Norway has an official "advisory board" — Språkrådet (Norwegian Language Council) — that determines, after approval from the Ministry of Culture, official spelling, grammar, and vocabulary for the Norwegian language. The board's work has been subject to considerable controversy throughout the years. Both Nynorsk and Bokmål have a great variety of optional forms. The Bokmål that uses the forms that are close to Riksmål is called moderate or conservative, depending on one's viewpoint, while the Bokmål that uses the forms that are close to Nynorsk is called radical. Nynorsk has forms that are close to the original Landsmål and forms that are close to Bokmål.

Current usage

About 86.2% of the pupils in the primary and lower secondary schools in Norway receive education in Bokmål, while the others receive education in Nynorsk. From the eighth grade onwards pupils are required to learn both. Out of the 431 municipalities in Norway, 161 have declared that they wish to communicate with the central authorities in Bokmål, 116 (representing 12% of the population) in Nynorsk, while 156 are neutral. Of 4,549 state publications in 2000 8% were in Nynorsk, and 92% in Bokmål. The large national newspapers (Aftenposten, Dagbladet and VG) are published in Bokmål or Riksmål. Some major regional newspapers (including Bergens Tidende and Stavanger Aftenblad), many political journals, and many local newspapers use both Bokmål and Nynorsk.

Dialects

  • Distribution of Norwegian forms

There is general agreement that a wide range of differences makes it difficult to estimate the number of different Norwegian dialects. Variations in grammar, syntax, vocabulary, and pronunciation cut across geographical boundaries and can create a distinct dialect at the level of farm clusters. Dialects are in some cases so dissimilar as to be unintelligible to unfamiliar listeners. Many linguists note a trend toward regionalization of dialects that diminishes the differences at such local levels; there is, however, a renewed interest in preserving distinct dialects.

History

Up until about 1300, the written language of Norway, Old Norwegian, was essentially identical to Old Icelandic. The speech, however, was gradually differentiated into local and regional dialects. As long as Norway remained an independent kingdom, the written language remained essentially constant. In 1380, Norway entered into a personal union with Denmark. By the early 16th century, Norway had lost its separate political institutions, and together with Denmark formed the political unit known as Denmark–Norway until 1814, progressively becoming the weaker member of the union. During this period written Norwegian was displaced by Danish, which was used for virtually all administrative documents.

Norwegians used Danish primarily in writing, but it gradually came to be spoken by the urban elite on formal or official occasions. Although Danish never became the spoken language of the vast majority of the population, by the time Norway's ties with Denmark were severed in 1814, a Dano-Norwegian vernacular often called the "educated daily speech" had become the mother tongue of parts of the urban elite. This new Dano-Norwegian dialect could be described as Danish with East Norwegian pronunciation, some Norwegian vocabulary, and a simplified grammar. Or as Kristoffersen puts it:

"Standard Østnorsk can be considered a sociolect that has developed as a result of tension between Danish as the official written, and in some contexts spoken, language used by the upper class before 1814, and the variety of Norwegian used by the lower social classes in the towns of Eastern Norway."

In 1814, when Norway was ceded from Denmark to Sweden, Norway defied Sweden and her allies, declared independence and adopted a democratic constitution. Although compelled to submit to a dynastic union with Sweden, this spark of independence continued to burn, influencing the evolution of language in Norway. Old language traditions were revived by the patriotic poet Henrik Wergeland (1808–1845), who championed an independent non-Danish written language. Haugen indicates that:

"Within the first generation of liberty, two solutions emerged and won adherents, one based on the speech of the upper class and one on that of the common people. The former called for Norwegianization of the Danish writing, the latter for a brand new start."

The more conservative of the two language transitions was advanced by the work of writers like Peter Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe, schoolmaster and agitator for language reform Knud Knudsen, and Knudsen's disciple, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, as well as a more cautious Norwegianization by Henrik Ibsen. In particular, Knudsen's work on language reform in the mid 1800s was important for the 1907 orthography and a subsequent reform in 1917, so much so that he is now often called the "father of Bokmål".

Norwegian literature

The history of Norwegian literature starts with the pagan Eddaic poems and skaldic verse of the 9th and 10th centuries. The arrival of Christianity around the year 1000 brought Norway into contact with European medieval learning, hagiography and history writing. Merged with native oral tradition and Icelandic influence this was to flower into an active period of literature production in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. Major works of that period include Historia Norwegie, Thidreks saga and Konungs skuggsjá.

  • Henrik Ibsen

The period from the 14th century up to the 19th is considered a dark age in the nation's literature though Norwegian-born writers such as Peder Claussøn Friis and Ludvig Holberg contributed to the common literature of Denmark-Norway. With the advent of nationalism and the struggle for independence in the early 19th century a new period of national literature emerged. The dramatist Henrik Wergeland was the most influential author of the period while the later works of Henrik Ibsen were to earn Norway a place in Western European literature. In the 20th century notable Norwegian writers include the two Nobel Prize winning authors Knut Hamsun and Sigrid Undset.

Henrik Ibsen was a major 19th-century Norwegian playwright, theatre director, and poet. He is often referred to as "the god father" of modern drama and is one of the founders of Modernism in the theatre. His plays were considered scandalous to many of his era, when Victorian values of family life and propriety largely held sway in Europe. Ibsen's work examined the realities that lay behind many facades, possessing a revelatory nature that was disquieting to many contemporaries. It utilized a critical eye and free inquiry into the conditions of life and issues of morality. Ibsen is often ranked as one of the truly great playwrights in the European tradition, alongside Shakespeare.

  • Knut Hamsun

Knut Hamsun was a Norwegian author. He was praised by King Haakon VII of Norway as Norway's soul. In 1920, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for the epic, Growth of the Soil. He insisted that the main object of modern literature should be the intricacies of the human mind, that writers should describe the "whisper of blood, and the pleading of bone marrow". Hamsun's literary debut was the 1890 psychological novel, Hunger, which some critics consider to have been an inspiration for Franz Kafka's classic short story, A Hunger Artist.

Hamsun's literary reputation was severely tarnished by his advocacy of Nazi Germany both before World War II and after Germany occupied Norway in April, 1940. He lionized leading Nazis and in 1943, in the middle of the war, he mailed his Nobel medal to Joseph Goebbels. Later, he visited Hitler and in a eulogy for the German leader published on May 7, 1945 — one day before surrender of the German occupation forces in Norway — Hamsun proclaimed, “He was a warrior, a warrior for mankind, and a prophet of the gospel of justice for all nations.” After the war, due to a finding that Hamsun was in mental decline, efforts to prosecute him for treason were dropped. Nearly 60 years after his death, a recent biographer told a reporter, “We can’t help loving him, though we have hated him all these years. That’s our Hamsun trauma. He’s a ghost that won’t stay in the grave.” In 2009, the Queen of Norway presided over the gala launching of a year long program of commemorations of the 150th anniversary of the author's birth. On August 4, 2009 a Knut Hamsun Centre (Hamsunsenteret) was opened in Presteid, Hamarøy island.

Source: adapted from www.wikipedia.org