The New International Encyclopædia/Norwegian Language

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The New International Encyclopædia
Norwegian Language
Edition of 1905. See also Norwegian language on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

NORWEGIAN LANGUAGE. The language which, together with Icelandic and Faroese, forms the West Norse division of the Scandinavian group. Like the other members of this group division, the Norwegian is more homogeneous than either Danish or Swedish. Chiefly as a result of phonetic changes its inflections are less original than those of Icelandic, although it retains the three genders. Its common Scandinavian characteristics are the suffixed definite article, the medio-passive, and the neuter-ending -t. Norwegian was divided at an early period into two main dialect-groups, the Eastern, including the Gudbrandsdal and the Drontheim, which resembles the Swedish, and the Western, represented by Hardanger, Voss, Sogn, and Sætersdal, which approaches the Icelandic. A subdivision of the West Norwegian, spoken along the coast, resembles the Danish.

The early period of the language is similar to that of Icelandic (q.v.). During the period from 1350 to 1530 Norwegian was strongly influenced first by the Swedish and later by the Danish. As a result of the Union of Calmar (1397), by which Norwegian independence was lost, Danish was substituted for the native language for purposes of literature and public business, although the Norwegian survived in the country districts in various dialects, and was used for social intercourse and the composition of folk tales and ballads. The modern standard language shows many divergencies both in forms, in vocabulary, and in syntax from the Danish of Denmark, and is generally distinguished from it as Dano-Norwegian. By the Norwegians themselves the dialects and the standard language are alike called Norse, but this usage is not recognized by scholars. During the last fifty years efforts have been made to emphasize the Norwegian character of the language by adapting its orthography to local pronunciation, and by introducing forms from the native speech. Dano-Norwegian has been described as Danish with a Swedish pronunciation.

A peculiar language movement in Norway is attracting attention throughout Scandinavia. It is no less than the creation and spread of a new form of Scandinavian speech, called by its originator, Ivar Aasen (q.v.), Landsmaal (national tongue). It is a written language, not used for social intercourse, and is based upon the existing dialects of Norway. At first this artificial language was used exclusividy in poetry, but in 1858 the first newspaper in the Landsmaal appeared, and since then it has spread rapidly. In 1868 a society for the propagation of the new idea was established, branches of which now exist all over Norway. A number of acts have been passed by the Parliament in favor of the Landsmaal, among which may be mentioned that founding a chair in that subject at the University of Christiania. At present all acts of Parliament are published both in Dano-Norwegian and the Landsmaal. The principal literary supporter of the movement is the novelist Arne Garborg. Consult: Sargent, Grammar of the Dano-Norwegian Language (Oxford, 1892); Groth, Danish and Dano-Norwegian Grammar (Boston, 1894); Poestion, Lehrbuch der norwegischen Sprache (2d ed., Vienna, 1900); Noreen, Altisländische und altnorwegische Grammatik (2d ed., Halle, 1892); Aasen, Norsk Grammatik (Christiania, 1864), and Norsk Ordbog, with a supplement by Ross (ib., 1872-90); Larsen, Oversigt orer de norske Bygdemaal (ib., 1898); Larsen, Dictionary of the Dano-Norwegian and English Languages (3d ed., Copenhagen, 1897); Brynildsen, Dictionary of the English and Dano-Norwegian Languages (ib., 1900—); Falk and Torp, Etymologisk Ordbog orer det norske og det danske Sprog (Christiania, 1901—).