Norwegian: Bokmål or Nynorsk ?

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by SoyChino, Nov 10, 2006.

  1. SoyChino Member

    It is said there are two forms of Norwegian Bokmål and Nynorsk.Which one should I start with if I want to learn Norwegian?
  2. I would definitely opt for Bokmaal, unless you have some particular reason to study nynorsk. The latter is still much more local and the whole bulk of literature and printed matter is in Bokmaal. I have only once or twice met with the necessity to speak nynorsk while living in Norway. Plus, learning Bokmaal gives you an additional opportunity to practically master written Danish.
  3. SoyChino Member

    Thanks a lot,Setwale Charm!
  4. Lemminkäinen

    Lemminkäinen Senior Member

    Oslo, Norway
    Norwegian (bokmål)
    Just a small nitpick ;) You don't speak bokmål or nynorsk, you speak Norwegian. You write, however, in either one of them, as they're different written forms of the language.

    Otherwise I completely agree; just as you usually learn the eastern dialect from the Oslo area in spoken Norwegian, you learn the bokmål version of the written language.

    However, NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting) are required to publish 40% of their material in nynorsk, and to work for the government you have to know both of them, so they're definitely in use in other contexts too.

    It's true about the Danish; additionally, if you learn to speak Norwegian, putting a hot potato in your mouth will enable you to speak Danish as well :D

  5. An operation of extracting your tonsils performed by an inadequately qualified surgeon would help greatly too:D. But you can do that only once.
  6. panjabigator

    panjabigator Senior Member

    غریب الوطن
    Am. English
    So aside from dialectual differences, both people speak identically but write differently?
  7. Lemminkäinen

    Lemminkäinen Senior Member

    Oslo, Norway
    Norwegian (bokmål)
    Not really. Bokmål is closest to the dialect in Eastern Norway, especially in the Oslo areas, but it's used by most people in Eastern, Middle and Northern Norway, whose dialects are fairly different.

    Nynorsk is mostly used in Western and Southern Norway, where the dialect is closer to nynorsk than bokmål (Ivar Aasen, the father of nynorsk, spent a lot of time gathering things from the Telemark dialect, as it is the one closest to the Old Norse tongue. After the period of equalisation politics in the 70s though, bokmål and nynorsk have become more and more similar).

    But as I said above, you don't speak any of these, just write them. Your dialect is closer to the one than the other, but a Western dialect can have a lot of words used in bokmål and still write nynorsk.
  8. jazyk Senior Member

    Brno, Česká republika
    Brazílie, portugalština
    I think it would be interesting for us foreigners to see the same text written in Bokmål and in Nynorsk just to give us a very rough idea. I think three lines would suffice.
  9. Lemminkäinen

    Lemminkäinen Senior Member

    Oslo, Norway
    Norwegian (bokmål)
    Ok, here's article 1 from the Declaration of Human Rights (English first, for reference):

    All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

    Bokmål: Alle mennesker er født frie og med samme menneskeverd og menneskerettigheter. De er utstyrt med fornuft og samvittighet og bør handle mot hverandre i brorskapets ånd.

    Nynorsk: Alle menneske er fødde til fridom og med same menneskeverd og menneskerettar. Dei har fått fornuft og samvit og skal leve med kvarandre som brør.

    One of the most noticable features in nynorsk is how the bokmål suffixes an-, be-, -het and -else are very little used - they've been imported from German, something the language purists didn't like very much.
    Of course, this gets interesting with the bokmål word anbefalelse (recommandation) :D (Well, not really - it's anbefaling in nynorsk, which also is a synonym to anbefalelse in bokmål).

    Another example, the first six verses of the Genesis (the nynorsk is a bit conservative here):

    Bokmål: I begynnelsen skapte Gud himmelen og jorden. 2 Jorden var øde og tom, og mørke lå over havdypet. Men Guds Ånd svevet over vannet. 3 Da sa Gud: «Det bli lys!» Og det ble lys. 4 Gud så at lyset var godt, og han skilte lyset fra mørket. 5 Gud kalte lyset dag, og mørket kalte han natt. Og det ble kveld, og det ble morgen, første dag.

    Nynorsk: I opphavet skapte Gud himmelen og jorda. 2 Jorda var aud og tom, og mørker låg over havdjupet. Men Guds Ande sveiv over vatnet. 3 Då sa Gud: «Det verte ljos!» Så vart det ljos. 4 Og Gud såg at ljoset var godt, og han skilde ljoset frå mørkret. 5 Gud kalla ljoset dag, og mørkret kalla han natt. Og det vart kveld, og det vart morgon, fyrste dagen.

    Here you see how it's jorden ('the earth' conjugated as masculine) in bokmål, but jorda (conjugated as feminine) in nynorsk - most dialects, except the Bergen dialect and western Oslo (including me :D ), would say jorda (and it's possible to write it like that in bokmål too, though the former is more conservative).
    In bokmål, most feminine words can be conjugated as masculine, but in nynorsk they need to be conjugated as feminine.
  10. panjabigator

    panjabigator Senior Member

    غریب الوطن
    Am. English
    It would also nice to see the same lines in Danish to see the comparison between Bokmål and Danish (and maybe even Swedish too!).
  11. Lemminkäinen

    Lemminkäinen Senior Member

    Oslo, Norway
    Norwegian (bokmål)
    As you ask, you shall receive ;)

    UN convention:

    Danish: Alle mennesker er født frie og lige i værdighed og rettigheder. De er udstyret med fornuft og samvittighed, og de bør handle mod hverandre i en broderskabets ånd.
    Swedish: Alla människor äro födda fria och lika i värde och rättigheter. De äro utrustade med förnuft och samvete och böra handla gentemot varandra i en anda av broderskap.

    The Bible:

    Danish: I begyndelsen skabte Gud himlen og jorden. Jorden var dengang tomhed og øde, der var mørke over urdybet, og Guds ånd svævede over vandene. Gud sagde: »Der skal være lys!« Og der blev lys. Gud så, at lyset var godt, og Gud skilte lyset fra mørket. Gud kaldte lyset dag, og mørket kaldte han nat. Så blev det aften, og det blev morgen, første dag.
    Swedish: I begynnelsen skapade Gud himmel och jord. Jorden var öde och tom, djupet täcktes av mörker och en gudsvind svepte fram över vattnet. Gud sade: ”Ljus, bli till!” Och ljuset blev till. Gud såg att ljuset var gott, och han skilde ljuset från mörkret. Gud kallade ljuset dag, och mörkret kallade han natt. Det blev kväll och det blev morgon. Det var den första dagen.

    Edit: As you can see, Danish has a lot of "soft" consonants (i.e. voiced) opposed to Swedish and Norwegian. Dyb instead of dyp/djup for instance. The dialects in south-western Norway are pretty similar in that aspect (though they write in nynorsk).
  12. betfry

    betfry Senior Member

    Norwich, England
    English - Great Britain
    So if somebody wrote you a letter in a mixture of Bokmål and Nynorsk, would you find it really weird, or not understand, or not mind/notice?

  13. Obil Tu Senior Member

    That would definitely be weird, yes. Although one would understand, unless the nynorsk were very archaic (but then many nynorsk users probably wouldn't understand either).

    Imagine the English US/GB differences being much bigger (and to a much larger extent incorporating grammar) and someone being completely inconsistent in using them... *Attempt at analogy*
  14. FMSaigon New Member

    Hong Kong
    English - mid-Atlantic
    I had a quick side trip to Norway (Oslo - Sognefjord) this summer, last trip more than 30 years ago. Default was English, back-up Swedish - just once with farmer about renting a cottage, it was fun to read TV subtitles and newspapers though. Can I assume all/most newspapers I saw i.e. in Oslo/ex-west/south would be in bokmål then? What would be the main nynorsk news outlets? Thanks
  15. sjiraff

    sjiraff Senior Member

    Scotland, UK
    I'm pretty sure that most Norwegian news sources all have some articles and content in nynorsk, I think there is a mandated percentage it has to be in nynorsk.
  16. AutumnOwl Senior Member

    The spelling äro dissapeared long ago from the Swedish language. Here is the modern version of the UN convention:

    Alla människor är födda fria och lika i värde och rättigheter. De har utrustats med förnuft och samvete och bör handla gentemot varandra i en anda av gemenskap.
  17. mosletha Senior Member

    Haugesund, Norway
    Nope. The state's media outlet NRK is obligated to represent the "nynorsk population", but the biggest private ones (Dagbladet and VG) actually have a policy against their writers using nynorsk at all. They'll only publish texts in nynorsk if they're produced by someone other than their own writers.
  18. sjiraff

    sjiraff Senior Member

    Scotland, UK
    Ahh I see, so it only applies to NRK then. I remember it used to freak me out a bit whenever I saw things in nynorsk, but eventually you realise it's just another way of writing and it's ok.
  19. More od Solzi

    More od Solzi Senior Member

    Not really true.
    Newspapers that have a fair share of Nynorsk: Klassekampen, Bergens Tidende, Sunnmørsposten
    [Newspapers using radical Bokmaal (instead of conservative): Klassekampen, Dagsavisen, Dagbladet...]

    Nowadays, the main opposition/conflict is not between Nynorsk and Bokmaal,
    but between radical (not conservative) Bokmaal and conservative Bokmaal (and/or Riksmaal).

    ''Conservatives'' don't feel imperiled by Nynorsk writers (since they are just too few),
    but they feel imperiledy by writers of ''radical'' Bokmaal (like Per Petterson, Mona Høvring and many more).
    Riksmaal and conservative Bokmaal using people think they have monopoly on Bokmaal,
    but this is not true.

    You see many Norwegians telling learners of Norwegian (and left wing leaning Norwegians) things like:
    husa, kvinna, blei, aleine, åssen etc. are not Bokmål.

    The only authority to say what Bokmål is and what it is not is
    Norwegian language council (Språkrådet) and their normative dictionary of Bokmål (Bokmålsorboka): ... ok=bokmaal

    Queen Sonja, Aftenposten , Riksmålsforbundet , Norwegian Academy and Norsk ordbok (Riksmål) are not authority on Bokmål, contrary to what many Norwegians think.

    Most local newspapers in southeastern Norway (except for those in West Oslo and Bærum) use ''radical''
    Bokmål (the one close to the way people in cities of Southeastern and Southern Norway talk, for example: Gjøvik, Lillehammer, Larvik, Skien, Kristiansand )

    and not conservative Bokmål, for example Rommerikes Blad, Oppland Arbeiderblad, Varden, Agderposten, Telemarksavisa, Hamar Arbeiderblad, Romsdals Budstikke, Ringerikes Blad, Eidsvoll Ullensaker Blad...

    domains of:
    1) conservative Bokmål: national newspapers (except for Klassekampen and maybe Dagsavisen), translated books, some textbooks, Norwegian literature of ''police/criminal'' genre
    2) non-conservative (radical Bokmål): local newspapers (expect for those from West Oslo, Bærum, Bergen), books written by many fine Norwegian writers of today, many textbooks

    radical Bokmål uses feminine gender, -a past tense of weak verbs, sometimes even -a forms of neutral nouns (dyra, åra),
    and original Norwegian words like bru, dau, djup, fram, golv, jamn, likning, mage, mjuk, sju, sjuk, sjøl, tjukk, tjuveri, tru...
    Even in Bergen, one can find ''radical'' forms like aleine and sjøl...

    Norwegian courses produced outside Norway are very consiervative (like Colloquial Norwegian or Hugo Norwegian in 3 months), bordering on Riksmål,
    Norwegian courses produced in Norway (like Ny i Norge) are pretty radical.

    Nynorsk you see in NRK subtitles of foreign movies is very ''radical'' (as closest to Bokmål as possible),
    you can see words like bruker or skole (instead of brukar or skule),
    this is something that annoys users of Nynorsk from the Nynorsk core region (Hordaland, Sogn og Fjordane, Sunnmøre),
    since it looks like sidemåls(k) Nynorsk or samnorsk.

    NRK's language policy is that of
    conservative Bokmål and radical Nynorsk,
    one could say these were results of the samnorsk policy,
    Riksmaal is new (old) Bokmaal, and Nynorsk is new radical Bokmaal (old samnorsk).

    Norwegians were never really law-abiding when it comes to language:
    a) even in the Nynorsk high, many NRK newscasters used Norge instead of Noreg on newscasts in Nynorsk
    b) even when word like gulve and syv were forbidden in Bokmaal, all Bokmaal-media was using them (even by Norwegian-Serbian dictionary from 1970ies
    published by UIO did not respect the official orthography of that time favoring gulv instead of golv, and syv intead of sju).

    In my opinion Nynorsk has its poetic charm only if it sticks to Nynorsk-original words (which are many times shorter than
    loans from Bokmaal, for example løyndom instead of hemmelegheit), and Nynorsk wording (focusing on exact and swift verbal expressions and not being affected by substantivsjuke that Bokmaal inherited
    from Danish which had imported it from Germaan). (I'm against extremes though, and I think allowing for more use of - 's genitive would work great in modern Nynorsk since would make the text flow even more dynamic).
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2014
  20. NorwegianNYC

    NorwegianNYC Senior Member

    New York, NY, USA
    Most Norwegian dialect, many Eastern dialects included, are closer to written Nynorsk than to Bokmål. The reason Bokmål "triumphed" is not because it is closer to Danish, or closer to the dialects in the Oslo area, but because it proved to be more flexible and moldable than Nynorsk. Nynorsk was conceived as a 'near perfect' tongue that should be the norm for Norwegian speakers.
    Bokmål was never normative. Bokmål tagged along and adapted to what people actually said. Actually, Bokmål has changed far more over the past 120 years than Nynorsk has, and has actually borrowed quite a lot from Nynorsk. Nynorsk on the other hand, was never as flexible in this respect. Ivar Aasen's goal was never to create a tongue based on Norwegian dialects, but find and use the 'purest' forms, that had survived without foreign 'pollution'.

    It is a testament to the adaptability of Bokmål that the once endangered 3-gender system is now used more than ever in writing. Preterit-a is allowed in all cases of verb 1. The s-possessive is almost gone even in the more conservative variants of the language, and is replaced by prepositional possessive and determinant possessive.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2014
  21. More od Solzi

    More od Solzi Senior Member

    You are right,
    for example, you can find words like framhaldsskole in Norsk ordbok (which is a dictionary of conservative Bokmål and Riksmål)
    instead of fortsettelsesskole.

    Nynorsk is not very difficult, except for the verbal system
    (it seems that every other verb is irregular, especially in the present and the past tense).
    Even in dialects of people living in Vestlandet, many of those verbs became more Bokmål-like, that is ''regular''ized
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2014

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