All Scandinavian languages: Are the languages moving away from each other?

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by Tech12, Oct 5, 2009.

  1. Tech12 Member

    With a dash of effort all Scandinavians should be able to understand each other. But will this be the case in the future as well?

    Does anyone know if any research has been done as to how the Scandinavian languages are changing compared to each other? Will Scandinavians be able to understand each other fairly easily 200 years from now?

    What about 1000 years from now? All speculation, I'm sure; but it's fun!
  2. blazek Senior Member

    English - US
    I don't have any research about the seperation of the languages. However, I did read a position recently from a Norwegian professor who claimed that the average Norwegian has no problem understanding Swedish, but the average Swede has difficulty with Norwegian.

    edit: NB The professor was also claiming that this is an indication of the "fact" that Norwegians are more intelligent than Swedes and he offered no supporting evidence for his opinion.
  3. Tech12 Member

    It's true that it's easier for a Norwegian to understand Swedish. It's kind of like how it's easier for a person speaking Portuguese to understand Spanish, than the other way around.

    I remember the statement by Finn-Erik Vinje as well, but it was pretty obvious that it was a joke that got blown out of proportion by sensationalistic newspapers.
  4. mezzoforte Senior Member

    English - Canada
    this is cool.... and that was a nice comparison with Portuguese/Spanish

    I was just listening to NRK radio, and they were talking about similarities/differences bt Norwegian and Danish (I didn't understand much, since I'm a n00b at Norwegian)
  5. mezzoforte Senior Member

    English - Canada
    I feel out of place having an opinion on this, but could the Norwegian/Swedish thing be because Norway has so many dialects that Norwegians have to get used to... consequently, Swedish feels more like "another Norwegian dialect"... while Norwegian feels more like another language, to Swedes.

    (I'm assuming that Swedish is not as varied.)

    One way to test this would be to compare how well Norwegian natives understand Swedish as opposed to Norwegians who grow up (perhaps were born) away from Scandinavia, but speak a dialect of Norwegian at home....
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2009
  6. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    I think it's odd about the Swedish / Norwegian thing.
    I think they will be very different, but maybe not too much.

    Swedish was East-Scandinavian and Norwegian was West-Scandinavian, so I would have expected that the closest similarities were Swedish / Danish.

    1,000 years ago it was (virtually) all the same language, that had just about broken into different dialects, this was before writing and standardisation that I think plays a crucial part in 'slowing down' at least written developments.

    So maybe the changes won't be as quick as they have been in the past, but I think languages will still continue to grow and split, that is unless stupid English doesn't takeover:(
  7. basslop

    basslop Senior Member

    A major factor is that Norway was under Danish rule from 1397-1814. It had major impact on the Norwegian language.
  8. mezzoforte Senior Member

    English - Canada
    I'm still wondering what other hypotheses there are as to why Norwegians understand Swedes better than the reverse...
  9. basslop

    basslop Senior Member

    One reason that my generation of Norwegians understands Swedish better than Swedes understand Norwegian: I grew up in the 60's. Norway began regular television broadcasts in 1960 while Sweden started in 1954. I live in the Oslo area, the most populous area in Norway, which is only about 100 km from the border to Sweden. We could receive Swedish broadcasts. On the Swedish side of the border, it is very sparsely populated, so virtually no Swedes looked at Norwegian TV. Moreover, Norway sent children's TV once a week while Sweden sent every day. Therefore I saw a lot more Swedish TV than Norwegian TV. I remember for instanc countless programs with Anita and Televinken.
  10. Södertjej

    Södertjej Senior Member

    Junto al Mediterráneo
    Spanish ES/Swedish (utlandssvensk)
    Which proves how serious his study was. Funnily enough the Swedish jokes about a silly guy always start: One Norwegian guy...
  11. Pteppic Senior Member

    Oslo, Norway
    Norway, Norwegian
    And all those jokes exist on the other side of the border as well, except "Norwegian" is replaced by "Swedish". In any case, if we really are speaking about Finn-Erik Vinje, as far as I know this wasn't an actual study, but a blog entry, which was mainly about how it's silly of Norwegian television to use subtitles for Swedes speaking standard Swedish (Scanian could well be a different matter). The title ("Why are the Swedes so stupid") was a 60 year old quote, and was supposedly used with irony, not that that was very clear.
  12. Södertjej

    Södertjej Senior Member

    Junto al Mediterráneo
    Spanish ES/Swedish (utlandssvensk)
    I know, again it proves how serious that text was. Anyway, I read the word "professor" and not "blog", but you could almost guess.
  13. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    I was once told that TV also plays a role - that Norwegians (and other Scandinavians too, for that matter) watch Swedish TV and Swedish films (as Swedish TV has the biggest market and the broadest spectrum of channels) while there are only a national and a private Norwegian TV station with only few channels.
    If this is true (I wouldn't be in a position to judge :)) it would only be to be expected that Norwegians would understand Swedish more easily - because they'd be more used to hearing Swedish (while Swedes, supposedly, mainly watch their own TV stations or insofar as they watch non-Swedish films then mainly English ones).

    But that's not the main point, right, as this is about wether Scandinavian languages were moving away from each other:
    When studying sociolinguistics I learned that the codification of nynorsk was intended to emphasise Norways independence from Danmark, but as we all know bokmål still is widely used and a diglossic situation has arisen.

    I think that this was behind the original question of Tech12:
    but please correct me if I'm wrong. :)

    Technically, to try and introduce a new standard language - nynorsk - which is more different from a former ruler's standard language (Danish) than the standard language institutionalised at the time - bokmål - is trying to make those two languages, Danish and Norwegian, more distant.

    But probably Norways position towards Sweden also played a role there - I am not very well informed about Scandinavian history.

    Anyway, the point is, as far as I am concerned, that both paths are possible - it is both possible that Scandinavian languages will drift away from each other (because people want them to, so for nationalistic reasons), or that they're becoming more similar (because of mass media and influence of Swedish TV, to offer just one possible reason).

    Of course I wouldn't know which is more likely - you tell us. :)
  14. Södertjej

    Södertjej Senior Member

    Junto al Mediterráneo
    Spanish ES/Swedish (utlandssvensk)
    The only clear trend we have is that people in Sweden include more and more English words in their vocabulary, so the main trend is Swenglish, with Swedish endings and a strong Swedish accent, of course
    That's the right answer: We can't possibly know, only speculate. Specially about how things will be like in 1 thousand years. Any psychic around?
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2009
  15. mezzoforte Senior Member

    English - Canada
    I agree, Nynorsk is different from Danish, and had a nationalistic movement supporting it. But one thing I read is that Nynorsk is only spoken by a handful of old people.... is there any truth to this?

    (I've read also that Norwegian kids aren't really learning the Norwegian sounds properly, and are merging kj with sj. Also, those who know Nynorsk eventually learn Bokmal — which is also easier because of less dialectical variation — and "forget" about Nynorsk? Any sort of truth to these?

    Kids are the future representatives of spoken language....)
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2009
  16. Tech12 Member

    This used to be the case back in the day. According to SSB (Norwegian Statistics Bureau) 35% of those who had the ability to watch Swedish television did so on an average day in 1971 (8 % of all Norwegians). However, with the fall of the monopoly and availability of more channels, the number fell to 3% (and 1 % of the entire population) in 2003. With the (over)saturation of the market in recent years I wouldn't be surprised if it has fallen even more.

    When I was younger (born in 1983) I watched cartoons dubbed into Swedish on the Scandinavian channel TV3 all the time. These days no children's programming is shown in Swedish. I wonder if it's going to make a difference down the line.

    You're right. It should be noted though, that only about 10 % (perhaps even less, and sinking every year) of the population use nynorsk, so it's not a huge movement.

    I also think nationalism is pretty much a dead topic when it comes to Norwegian as it relates to the other Scandinavian languages. The English influence is probably a much greater "fear". You won't hear anyone (or at least extremely few) say "our language needs to be less like Danish" in 2009, although that was a commonly held belief years ago.

    In any case, it seems like languages have a tendency to diverge. Just look at everything that spawned from for instance Latin. Would that have happened these days as well, with globalisation? It's interesting to ponder at least.
  17. Tech12 Member

    It's true, but this has happened with all languages since time immemorial.

    Not that long ago I would have used a þ ( to distinguish between þak and tak, whereas today they are both written and pronounced tak. Certainly a shade of meaning has been lost and I'm sure my ancestors would grumble about "young people these days", but that's just how it goes sometimes. :)
  18. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Tech, are you saying that Thorn (þ) was in the Norwegian alphabet in your lifetime?
    I thought for that thorn was used only used in Icelandic (in the modern world) and that its uses in other languages ended a few hundred years ago?

    I'm curious:) I wish English still had thorn þ and eth ð.
  19. Tech12 Member

    No, you're right, it disappeared ages ago. "Not that long ago" is relative, I guess. ;) I just meant that if the kj-sound that mezzoforte mentioned suffers the same fate it's not because children are lazier in modern times.
  20. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Ah ok! I understand now.... things die out in languages from time to time indeed, but I think in our times laziness maybe might have some part to play:p
  21. mezzoforte Senior Member

    English - Canada
    Is that a th sound like in Thursday? or like these? or neither?
  22. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    It's the Thursday one :)
  23. missTK Senior Member

    Also perhaps relevant, a theory (excuse?) given to me by a Swede: Norway's population lives, on average, closer to the border, with the highest population density being in the southeast. Sweden has its highest density in the west and south, which is further away from Norway.
  24. kirsitn

    kirsitn Senior Member

    Oslo, Norway
    Norway, Norwegian
    Neither nynorsk nor bokmål is spoken by anyone (except perhaps newsreaders on TV/radio) - they are only standards for written language.

    In general you can say that dialects in the western part of Norway are closer to nynorsk, dialects in the east are closer to bokmål, and dialects in the north are a mixture of nynorsk and bokmål. (In my dialect the conjugation of verbs and nouns is similar to nynorsk, but the vocabulary itself is more like bokmål.)
  25. savolax New Member

    Finland - finsk
    My wild guess:

    All these 3 are becoming more and more alike english.
    And by that also alike each others.
  26. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    One dialect of Norwegian is said to have such similarity with Danish or some Danish dialect that one can hardly hear any difference.

    Does anyone her know about this? Which dialects would that be?

    And further:
    about 200 years ago it was assumed by many linguists that the English language in North America and on the British Isles had already changed so much in different directions that Americans and British/Irish within a century or two would not be able to understand each other. That did not happen.

    I don't know about Norwegian, but Swedish is definitely influencing the Danish language - probably also viceversa - and now that the whole southern region with the Danish Capital Copenhagen on one side and Malmö on the other side - only a 3o min. commuter train ride away - are growing together to something like some kind of a "small megacity" I do not expect this influence to decrease.
  27. mezzoforte Senior Member

    English - Canada
    Might I ask what "ð (eth)" sounds like? Is that the th in these?
  28. Pteppic Senior Member

    Oslo, Norway
    Norway, Norwegian

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