No to Nynorsk: Norwegian county of Rogaland moving towards doing away with Nynorsk in favour of Bokmål in order to strengthen the Norwegian language

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Here's an article from NRK today in Norwegian on a decision there to do away with Nynorsk (one of the two official forms of Norwegian, and the lesser-used one) in favour of Bokmål in order to present a unified front to strengthen the language. Rogaland is an especially interesting county for this to happen as it's the centre of the oil industry in the country, and has an unemployment rate of just 1.1 percent.

Nynorsk is in danger of losing the fight in the county of Rogaland in Vestland. Only one in four school students goes to school using Nynorsk in Rogaland today; of the 60 000 primary students in Rogaland, around 45 000 use Bokmål. Urbanization in the former Nynorsk county means that the Mållaget (Nynorsk federation) is at risk of giving up the fight against Bokmål.

According to the leader of the Mållaget in Rogaland (Kirsten Tegle Bryne): "We cannot get the entire Norwegian population, that 75 percent, to write Nynorsk. We can just forget about that. What is important now is to strengthen the Norwegian language and culture."

In traditional Nynorsk communities like Rennesøy and Klepp there is more and more bokmål. According to June Horpestad from a kindergarten in Klepp: "Most write in Bokmål. There are only two, three out of fourteen students that will use Nynorsk."

The Mållaget believes that Rogaland is about to become a city-county (i.e. more urbanized). More from Tegle Bryne: "There is a large movement to the county. I believe that we are in a fight against the English language, at least in the workplace. That makes Nynorsk the losing party."
Right now there are 84 comments below the article, and most seem to be in favour of doing away with Nynorsk. The first one for example:
And we can thank the Mållaget for that, they have fought against Riksmål and Bokmål, and are getting what they deserve. Now suddenly they want to protect us against English. Enough with the "enemy images" (i.e. creating enemies to fight against). English doesn't threaten Norwegian, Norwegian isn't threatened. Nynorsk is threatened because it is a hybrid language, not rooted in reality. I know Nynorsk people from NRK in real life, and they don't talk like they do on air...they have fought for their political rights, and shot themselves in the foot. I boycott all Nynorsk, thanks to its political coercion.

See this post to see the differences between Bokmål and Nynorsk. The two linguistic standards aren't really all that different, except that Nynorsk is slightly more complex and a tad more similar to Icelandic than l Bokmål is. The table of similarity goes as follows:

Icelandic >>>> Nynorsk > Swedish > Danish > Bokmål with 2 genders


Icelandic >>>> Nynorsk > Swedish > Bokmål with 3 genders > Danish

But note that the space between Icelandic and Nynorsk is huge in comparison to Nynorsk and the rest of the continental Scandinavian languages; Icelandic (plus Faroese) really is the odd man out with its maintenance of some pretty complex grammar compared to the rest (one plus for Icelandic though: almost no regional variation so the language you learn is the one you hear in practice).

One note on the 3 vs. 2 genders in Bokmål: Bokmål can be written using only two genders (common and neuter) and the city of Bergen never uses three, but even when three genders are used it's not a big problem for the student as the only real difference it makes in learning the language is that you'll sometimes see nouns ending in -a instead of -en (e.g. the book is boken with two genders, boka if you want to use the feminine form) and preceded with ei instead of en (en bok vs. ei bok). Taking a look at Wikipedia though you can see that en bok returns 288 000 results, while ei bok just 137. Boka (the book) returns about half the results of boken, so here again 2 genders is more common.


Kjetil said...

It's interesting that you rank both Swedish and Danish closer to Icelandic than Bokmål. Any particular reason for that?

I've always seen Norwegian(both) as closer to Icelandic than Swedish and Danish.

Me said...

That's actually from a textbook I have in my house in Korean, originally translated from Japanese, and also from the 1980s, so it may not be the most authoritative source. I'm not sure where the source comes from but note that it does have Bokmål with three genders as closer to Icelandic than the others. Maybe regularity of the plural and some other features have something to do with it?

Kjetil said...

After browsing Wikipedia a bit, I discovered that Bokmål sometimes does gets considered an Eastern Scandinavian language because of its Danish influence. It still sounds strange that Swedish would be closer to Icelandic though (and therefore closer to Nynorsk as well?), but it might be possible.

My understandings of Swedish only goes to "what comes natural" since I have Norwegian as mother tounge, so I have never really studied Swedish grammar.

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