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On the Two Norwegian Orthographies and Wasted Scottish Opportunities

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Room G.03

50 George Square

Edinburgh

EH8 9JU

United Kingdom

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Professor Øystein A. Vangsnes, Department of Language and Culture, UiT The Arctic University of Norway

Abstract

The historico-political developments in the 19th century gave Norway two official written varieties of the national language ‘Norwegian’: Bokmål, which is the outcome of a gradual norwegianisation of Danish, and Nynorsk which represents a re-establishment of a written code for the Norwegian oral language, in the middle of the 19th century after some 300 years with Danish as the official language in the Dano-Norwegian kingdom. Although both varieties enjoy the same judicial status at the national level, there is an imbalance between them insofar that Bokmål is far more used in the public and Nynorsk is used by some 10-15% of the 5.2 million Norwegian population. Still, Nynorsk represents a strong counter-culture in the Norwegian society, which challenges the power of the cultural and political centre of the country, and furthermore the mere existence of Nynorsk arguably boosts linguistic awareness and tolerance in the Norwegian population, which is quite different from what we see in most other European societies.

There are potentially interesting parallels to be drawn between the Bokmål-Nynorsk situation in Norway and the English-Scots situation in Scotland, the most obvious difference being that Scots does not enjoy the same status qua lesser-used language as Nynorsk does. What would be the consequences of attempting to alter that?

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Room G.03

50 George Square

Edinburgh

EH8 9JU

United Kingdom

View Map

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