Norwegian Dialects Posted by kari on Apr 13, 2010 in Culture, Language
The question: ”Snakker du norsk?” (”Do you speak Norwegian?”) should almost always be followed by another question: ”Hvilken dialekt?” (”Which dialect?”). There are 2 official written Norwegian languages, bokmål (literally book language) and nynorsk (literally new Norwegian). Although Norwegian dialects are commonly organized in 5 main groups: nordnorsk (northern Norwegian), trøndersk (Trøndelag Norwegian), innlandsmål (Midland Norwegian), vestnorsk (western Norwegian), and østnorsk (easter Norwegian)….who knows how many dialekter there are, hundreds perhaps.
Hundreds of years ago the Norwegian landscape, coupled with the lack of sophisticated modes of transportation resulted in little contact between people in different communities. Fjellene og fjordene (the mountains and the fjords) separated people. Therefore, each community developed their own form of spoken Norwegian. Grammar, vocabulary, syntax, and accent are all features that differ from dialekt to dialekt.
Unlike the many different accents in the United States (Texas, Boston, New York, Louisiana, Minnesota, etc.), Norwegian dialekter can differ so much that even Norwegians have difficulty understanding other Norwegians, depending on the dialekt. For instance, there was a girl in my history class at the University of Oslo who was from Valdres (which is considered Midland Norwegian) and it was extremely difficult for me to understand her. Some of the words she used were completely foreign to me. I remember hearing about how different dialekter can be, but I didn’t really understand it until I lived there, heard many different dialekter, and struggled to understand some.
If you speak bokmål and have spent any time in Oslo, perhaps you’d be interested in taking a quiz to find out which Oslo-dialekt you speak. Two Norwegian grad students at the University of Oslo, Karine Stjernholm and Ingunn Indrebø, are conducting a research project that will shed light on the spoken languages in Oslo. Some questions that the girls hope the study provides answers to are: Is Oslo still a split language city? Do people from the eastern part of Olso and the western part of Oslo say certain words differently? How have newcomers to the city contributed to change in the dialkter spoken in Oslo?
Indrebø and Stjernholm, both Linguists, explain that ‘språk lager identitet’ (language makes identity). We all speak differently depending on the situation we are in. I know that I speak differently around my friends than I do when I’m at work or talking to an elderly relative. If I changed jobs, I would probably speak a little different yet. Language often reflects sociodemographics, gender, education, industry. The two girls are especially curious to find out how slang differs from area to area within the city of Oslo. Slang in the eastern part of the city is heavily influenced by Arabic and Turkish, for example. In the west, English is very influential.
Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.