Norway to take steps to protect the Norwegian language

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

There's a short article here today in Norwegian that doesn't go into too many details, but it seems that the Norwegian parliament has approved the forming of a new language law to protect the Norwegian language from becoming taken over by English (i.e. being reduced to a secondary language in its own country). The new language law will make certain Norwegian's official status as the official and national language in Norway, and sign language is also now recognized as a full language. The biggest single step will the the creation in the upcoming year of a Norwegian language bank, which will cost between 80 and 100 million krone ($12 - $15 million USD), and which will hold all information on the Norwegian language in order to serve as a tool for developing software in Norwegian for example.

There was an article a month back that also touched on this issue. Microsoft was looking for beta testers that knew Norwegian to test out the beta version of Windows 7, and as would be expected with software, there's always a debate over whether to use English terms as is or whether to use Norwegian expressions, like:

What is discussed among other things are Norwegian IT words such as cyber (kyber), debug (avluse), webcam (videoøye), and other words and expressions that are problematic in Norwegian.
If this new language bank is comprehensive enough it should help out here. Lest anyone think that Norway has too small a population to resist the overwhelming influence of English, just take a look at Iceland: only 300,000 people and a strong tradition of linguistic the only question is whether the people themselves intend to use the English loanword as is, or go with a more "pure" form.

You can see the press release from the relevant department here (automatically translated here), but note a peculiarity with Google Translate: the native name of a language is almost always translated as "English", so when it says "American Sign Language" for example it actually means Norwegian Sign Language. Mouseover anything that looks suspicious to make sure that the original document says what the automatic translation says it does.


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