Norwegian Language Blog

Northern Norwegian Posted by on Sep 28, 2010 in Uncategorized

Although I learned bokmål in college and lived in Oslo for 8 months, I came out of it all speaking nordnorsk (northern Norwegian) and I constantly have to explain why.  My best friend from college is half norsk, half amerikansk-norsk far og amerikansk mor. His father comes from a small bygd (a country settlement, smaller than a city, bigger than a village) a couple hours south of Tromsø.  The two of us studied in Oslo together with another one of our very good friends.  He and I decided to speak only norsk when it was just the two of us and would speak engelsk around the other international students who couldn´t speak norsk, or were very limited in their vocabulary, etc.  So, I guess I just kind of naturally adopted the nordnorsk dialect (one of them, to be more correct).  I must say though, that I adopted it med vilje (with will, intentionally) as I find it easier to speak and much more pleasant to the ear.

I will share with you some of the differences between bokmål and nordnorsk.   Nordnorsk is one of the 5 main dialects in Norway; that being said, there are MANY different nordnorsk dialekter.  I still have no idea why, but recently I was told that I sounded like I spoke a particular dialekt from a bygd I had never even heard of.  Another time someone actually guessed of which dialekt I spoke (where it comes from) because of the bred r (literally wide ´r´) they heard.  I find this fascinating.

Some of the main distinctions that are found in nordnorsk are pronouns and question words.  While in bokmål, one says jeg (I), hun (her), hans (his), dere (their), deres(theirs possessive), I say eg, ho, hannes, dåkker, demmes. In bokmål jeg is pronounced phonetically like my while in nordnorsk eg is pronounced similar to ag as in agriculture.  The word for you in bokmål and the nordnorsk I speak is the same in written form, but like eg, deg is pronounced like ag but with a d.

In bokmål the question words are hva (what), hvem (who), når (when), hvor (where), hvordan (how), hvilken (which) and in nordnorsk they are ka, kem, katti, kor, korsan, kordan. The word for not is also different- bokmål is ikke and the nordnorsk I speak is is ikkje pronounced similar phonetically to isha.

The biggest difference lies in intonation or tonefall.  While bokmål is very much song-like, nordnorsk is more avlsappet (relaxed) and has a milder tonefall, which is why I find it much more pleasant both to speak and listen to-no offense to anyone that speaks bokmål-just a personal preference!  If you´d like to see the many numerous different forms of nordnorsk and other dialekter, there are many websites you can go to, but good old Wikipedia has some good tables to look at:

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About the Author: kari

I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in Norwegian and History. During college, I spent almost a year living in Oslo, Norway, where I attended the University of Oslo and completed an internship at the United States Embassy. I have worked for Concordia Language Villages as a pre-K Norwegian teacher and have taught an adult Norwegian language class. Right now, I keep up by writing this Norwegian blog for Transparent Language. Please read and share your thoughts! I will be continuing this blog from my future residence in the Norwegian arctic!


  1. LGB:

    “eg” looks like more nynorsk than bokmål for me, but for sure, nynorsk/bokmål are just two official written form of Norwegian, the actual spoken language can be quite different from both. At least this is what I could get during my learning …

  2. BM:


    Nynorsk is more dialect-based. That standard was meant to be a “base” dialect from which all the other dialects would appear to “build” upon.

    Bokmål, by contrast, took it’s written Danish as its starting point, and changed the standard slowly but surely in order to better represent Standard East Norwegian, the prestigious sociolect of the time (and still today, to a certain degree).

  3. Stephan Lutter:

    På nordnorsk e det “Æ”.

  4. Char:

    does anyone know where i can learn Nordnorsk online?

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Char Can anyone help @char? Maybe you could try to google Tromsø university? And write them a kind e-mail?