The Info List - Bokmål

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(literally "book tongue") is an official written standard for the Norwegian language, alongside Nynorsk. Bokmål
is the preferred written standard of Norwegian for 85% to 90%[2] of the population in Norway, and is most used by people who speak Standard Østnorsk. Bokmål
is regulated by the governmental Norwegian Language Council. A more conservative orthographic standard, commonly known as Riksmål, is regulated by the non-governmental Norwegian Academy for Language and Literature. The written standard is a Norwegianised variety of the Danish language. The first Bokmål
orthography was officially adopted in 1907 under the name Riksmål after being under development since 1879.[3] The architects behind the reform were Marius Nygaard and Jacob Jonathan Aars.[4] It was an adaptation of written Danish, which was commonly used since the past union with Denmark, to the Dano-Norwegian koiné spoken by the Norwegian urban elite, especially in the capital. When the large conservative newspaper Aftenposten
adopted the 1907 orthography in 1923, Danish writing was practically out of use in Norway. The name Bokmål
was officially adopted in 1929 after a proposition to call the written language Dano-Norwegian lost by a single vote in the Lagting (a chamber in the Norwegian parliament).[3] The government does not regulate spoken Bokmål
and recommends that normalised pronunciation should follow the phonology of the speaker's local dialect.[5] Nevertheless, there is a spoken variety of Norwegian that is commonly seen as the de facto standard for spoken Bokmål. In The Phonology
of Norwegian, Gjert Kristoffersen writes that

[...] is in its most common variety looked upon as reflecting formal middle-class urban speech, especially that found in the eastern part of Southern Norway
[sic], with the capital Oslo as the obvious centre. One can therefore say that Bokmål
has a spoken realisation that one might call an unofficial standard spoken Norwegian. It is in fact often referred to as Standard Østnorsk
('Standard East Norwegian').[6]

Standard Østnorsk
(Standard East Norwegian) is the pronunciation most commonly given in dictionaries and taught to foreigners in Norwegian language classes.


1 History 2 Controversy

2.1 Riksmål vs. Bokmål 2.2 Terminology

3 Characteristics

3.1 Differences from Danish 3.2 Differences from the traditional Oslo dialect

4 See also 5 References

History[edit] Up until about 1300, the written language of Norway, Old Norwegian, was essentially the same as the other Old Norse dialects. The speech, however, was gradually differentiated into local and regional dialects. As long as Norway
remained an independent kingdom, the written language remained essentially constant.[7] In 1380,[citation needed] Norway
entered into a personal union with Denmark. By the early 16th century, Norway
had lost its separate political institutions, and together with Denmark
formed the political unit known as Denmark– Norway
until 1814, progressively becoming the weaker member of the union.[citation needed] During this period, the modern Danish and Norwegian languages emerged. Norwegian went through a Middle Norwegian transition, and a Danish written language more heavily influenced by Low German
Low German
was gradually standardised. This process was aided by the Reformation, which prompted Christiern Pedersen's translation of the Bible into Danish. Remnants of written Old Norse and Norwegian were thus displaced by the Danish standard, which became used for virtually all administrative documents.[7][8] Norwegians used Danish primarily in writing, but it gradually came to be spoken by urban elites on formal or official occasions. Although Danish never became the spoken language of the vast majority of the population, by the time Norway's ties with Denmark
were severed in 1814, a Dano-Norwegian vernacular often called the "educated daily speech"[citation needed] had become the mother tongue of elites in most Norwegian cities, such as Bergen, Kristiania
and Trondheim. This Dano-Norwegian koiné could be described as Danish with regional Norwegian pronunciation (see Norwegian dialects), some Norwegian vocabulary, and simplified grammar.[9]

Knud Knudsen, often called the "father of Bokmål".

With the gradual subsequent process of Norwegianisation of the written language used in the cities of Norway, from Danish to Riksmål to Bokmål, the upper-class sociolects in the cities changed accordingly. In 1814, when Norway
was ceded from Denmark
to Sweden, Norway
defied Sweden and her allies, declared independence and adopted a democratic constitution. Although compelled to submit to a dynastic union with Sweden, this spark of independence continued to burn, influencing the evolution of language in Norway. Old language traditions were revived by the patriotic poet Henrik Wergeland
Henrik Wergeland
(1808–1845), who championed an independent non-Danish written language.[8] Haugen indicates that:

"Within the first generation of liberty, two solutions emerged and won adherents, one based on the speech of the upper class and one on that of the common people. The former called for Norwegianisation of the Danish writing, the latter for a brand new start."[7]

The more conservative of the two language transitions was advanced by the work of writers like Peter Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe, schoolmaster and agitator for language reform Knud Knudsen, and Knudsen's famous disciple, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, as well as a more cautious Norwegianisation by Henrik Ibsen.[7][10] In particular, Knudsen's work on language reform in the mid-19th century was important for the 1907 orthography and a subsequent reform in 1917, so much so that he is now often called the "father of Bokmål". Controversy[edit] Main article: Norwegian language
Norwegian language
conflict Riksmål vs. Bokmål[edit]

Poster from a campaign against mandatory Samnorsk (no), circa 1955.

The term Riksmål, meaning National Language, was first proposed by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson
Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson
in 1899 as a name for the Norwegian variety of written Danish as well as spoken Dano-Norwegian. It was borrowed from Denmark
where it denoted standard written and spoken Danish. The same year the Riksmål movement became organised under his leadership in order to fight against the growing influence of Nynorsk, eventually leading to the foundation of the non-governmental organisation Riksmålsforbundet
in 1907. Bjørnson became Riksmålsforbundet's first leader until his death in 1910. The 1917 reform introduced some elements from Norwegian dialects
Norwegian dialects
and Nynorsk
as optional alternatives to traditional Dano-Norwegian forms. This was part of an official policy to bring the two Norwegian languages more closely together, intending eventually to merge them into one. These changes met resistance from the Riksmål movement, and Riksmålsvernet (The Society for the Protection of Riksmål) was founded in 1919. The 1938 reform in Bokmål
introduced more elements from dialects and Nynorsk, and more importantly, many traditional Dano-Norwegian forms were excluded. This so-called radical Bokmål
or Samnorsk (no) (Common Norwegian) met even stiffer resistance from the Riksmål movement, culminating in the 1950s under the leadership of Arnulf Øverland. Riksmålsforbundet
organised a parents' campaign against Samnorsk
in 1951, and the Norwegian Academy for Language and Literature was founded in 1953. Because of this resistance, the 1959 reform was relatively modest, and the radical reforms were partially reverted in 1981 and 2005. Currently, Riksmål denotes the moderate, chiefly[citation needed] pre-1938, unofficial variant of Bokmål, which is still in use and is regulated by the Norwegian Academy and promoted by Riksmålsforbundet. Riksmål has gone through some spelling reforms, but none as profound as the ones that shaped Bokmål. A Riksmål dictionary was published in four volumes in the period 1937 to 1957 by Riksmålsvernet, and two supplementary volumes were published in 1995 by the Norwegian Academy. After the latest Bokmål
reforms, the difference between Bokmål
and Riksmål have diminished and they are now comparable to American and British English differences, but the Norwegian Academy still upholds its own standard. Norway's most popular daily newspaper, Aftenposten, is notable for its use of Riksmål as its standard language. Use of Riksmål is rigorously pursued, even with regard to readers' letters, which are "translated" into the standard.[citation needed] Terminology[edit]

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Map of the official language forms of Norwegian municipalities. Red is Bokmål, blue is Nynorsk
and gray depicts neutral areas.

In the Norwegian discourse, the term Dano-Norwegian is seldom used with reference to contemporary Bokmål
and its spoken varieties. The nationality of the language has been a hotly debated topic, and its users and proponents have generally not been fond of the implied association with Danish (hence the neutral names Riksmål and Bokmål, meaning state language and book language respectively). The debate intensified with the advent of Nynorsk
in the 19th century, a written language based on rural Modern Norwegian dialects and puristic opposition to the Danish and Dano-Norwegian spoken in Norwegian cities. Characteristics[edit] Differences from Danish[edit] Main article: Differences between Norwegian Bokmål
and Standard Danish The following table shows a few central differences between Bokmål and Danish.

Differences between Bokmål
and Danish

Danish Bokmål

Definite plural suffix either -ene or -erne the women the wagons yes kvinderne vognene no kvinnene vognene

West Scandinavian diphthongs heat hay no hede hø yes hei høy

Softening of p, t and k loss (noun) food (noun) roof (noun) yes tab mad tag no tap mat tak

Danish vocabulary afraid (adjective) angry (adjective) boy (noun) frog (noun) yes bange (also ræd) vred dreng (also gut) frø no redd sint or vred gutt frosk

Differences from the traditional Oslo dialect[edit] Most natives of Oslo today speak a dialect that is an amalgamation of vikværsk (which is the technical term for the traditional dialects in the Oslofjord area) and written Danish; and subsequently Riksmål and Bokmål, which primarily inherited their non-Oslo elements from Danish. The present day Oslo dialect is also influenced by other Eastern Norwegian dialects.[6] The following table shows some important cases where traditional Bokmål
and Standard Østnorsk
followed Danish rather than the traditional Oslo dialect as it is commonly portrayed in literature about Norwegian dialects.[6][11] In many of these cases, radical Bokmål
follows the traditional Oslo dialect and Nynorsk, and these forms are also given.

Differences between Bokmål
and the traditional Oslo dialect

Danish Bokmål/Standard Østnorsk traditional Oslo dialect Nynorsk1

traditional radical

Differentiation between masculine and feminine a small man a small woman no en lille mand en lille kvinde no en liten mann en liten kvinne yes en liten mann ei lita kvinne

Differentiation between masc. and fem. definite plural the boats the wagons no bådene vognene no båtene vognene yes båta vognene

Definite plural neuter suffix the houses -ene/erne husene -ene husene -a husa

Weak past participle suffix cycled -et cyklet -et syklet -a sykla

Weak preterite suffix cycled -ede cyklede

Strong past participle suffix written -et skrevet -i skrivi -e skrive

Split infinitive come lie (in bed) no komme ligge yes komma ligge

Splitting of masculines ending on unstressed vowel ladder round no stige runde yes stega runde no stige runde

West Scandinavian diphthongs leg (noun) smoke (noun) soft/wet (adjective) no ben røg blød no ben røk bløt yes bein røyk blaut

West Scandinavian u for o bridge (noun) no bro2 yes bru

West Scandinavian a-umlaut floor (noun) no gulv yes golv yes gølv yes golv

Stress on first syllable in loan words banana (noun) no /baˈnaˀːn/ no officially recognised standard pronunciation yes /ˈbɑnɑn/[with a short vowel?] no officially recognised standard pronunciation

Retroflex flap /ɽ/ from old Norse /rð/ table, board (noun) no /boˀːr/ yes /buːɽ/

Retroflex flap /ɽ/ from old Norse /l/ sun (noun) no /soˀːl/ yes /suːɽ/

1 Closest match to the traditional Oslo dialect. 2 However, Bokmål
uses ku "cow" and (now archaic) su "sow" exclusively. See also[edit]

language edition of, the free encyclopedia

Danish language Differences between Norwegian Bokmål
and Standard Danish History of Norway Norwegian language Norwegian language
Norwegian language
conflict Nynorsk


^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Norwegian Bokmål". Glottolog
3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.  ^ Vikør, Lars. "Fakta om norsk språk". Retrieved 2014-02-09.  ^ a b Lundeby, Einar. "Stortinget og språksaken". Archived from the original on 2013-02-22. Retrieved 2007-06-12.  ^ Halvorsen, Eyvind Fjeld. "Marius Nygaard". In Helle, Knut. Norsk biografisk leksikon (in Norwegian). Oslo: Kunnskapsforlaget. Retrieved 6 February 2010.  ^ "Råd om uttale". Retrieved 2009-03-15.  ^ a b c Kristoffersen, Gjert (2000). The Phonology
of Norwegian. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-823765-5.  ^ a b c d Haugen, Einar (1977). Norwegian English Dictionary. Oslo: Unifersitetsforlaget. ISBN 0-299-03874-2.  ^ a b Gjerset, Knut (1915). History of the Norwegian People, Volumes I & II. The MacMillan Company.  ^ Hoel, Oddmund Løkensgard (1996). Nasjonalisme i norsk målstrid 1848–1865. Oslo: Noregs Forskingsråd. ISBN 82-12-00695-6.  ^ Larson, Karen (1948). A History of Norway. Princeton University Press.  ^ Skjekkeland, Martin (1997). Dei norske dialektane. Høyskoleforlaget. ISBN 82-7634-103-9. 

v t e

Norwegian language

Alphabet Orthography

Æ Ø Å Scandinavian Braille

Phonology Norwegian language
Norwegian language




Bokmål Nynorsk Samnorsk


Høgnorsk Riksmål


West and south

Arendalsk Bergensk Sandnesmål Sognamål Stavangersk etc.

East (no)

Bohusmål (no) Gudbrandsdalsmål Hallingmål-Valdris Särna-Idremål (sv) Urban East Norwegian Vikværsk etc.


Herjedalsk (sv) Jemtlansk Medalsk Trondheimsk etc.

North (no)

Brønnøymål etc.


Kebabnorsk Modern Norwegian Svorsk


Old West Norse Old Norwegian Middle Norwegian Dano-Norwegian Russenorsk

Other topics

Comparison of Norwegian Bokmål
and Standard Danish Exonyms Literature Profanity Sign language "Kjell"


Language Council of Norway Noregs Mållag Norwegian Academy Riksmål Society

v t e

Languages of Norway

Official languages


Bokmål Nynorsk


Southern Ume Pite Lule Northern

Minority languages

Kven Romani Scandoromani

Sign languages

Norwegian Sign Language

v t e

Germanic languages
Germanic languages
and dialects

West Germanic

Anglo- Frisian



dialects Yola Fingallian



East Frisian

Saterland Frisian Wangerooge Frisian Wursten Frisian

North Frisian

Söl'ring Fering Öömrang Heligolandic Mooring Halligen Frisian Strand Frisian Eiderstedt Frisian

West Frisian

Clay Frisian Wood Frisian

Low German

East Low German

Mecklenburg-Western Pomeranian

Mecklenburgish West Pomeranian

Brandenburgisch East Pomeranian-West Prussian

Western East Pomeranian Eastern East Pomeranian Bublitzisch Pommerellisch

Central Pomeranian

West Central Pomeranian

Low Prussian

Mennonite Low German

West Low German

Dutch Low Saxon

Stellingwarfs Tweants Gronings Drèents Gelders-Overijssels

Achterhooks Sallaans Urkers


Northern Low Saxon

East Frisian Low Saxon Schleswigsch Holsteinisch Hamburgisch Ollnborger North Hanoveranian Dithmarsch Emsländisch

Westphalian Eastphalian

Low Franconian

Standard variants

Dutch Afrikaans

West Low Franconian

Hollandic West Flemish

French Flemish

Zeelandic East Flemish Brabantian Surinamese Dutch Jersey Dutch Mohawk Dutch Stadsfries Bildts Yiddish

East Low Franconian



Southeast Limburgish

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Low Dietsch

High German



Namibian German Namibian Black German Brazilian German Unserdeutsch Barossa German Belgranodeutsch Parana Volga German


Eastern Western Litvish Poylish Ukrainish Galitzish Scots Yiddish Alsatian Yiddish Klezmer-loshn Ganovim Balagole Katsoves Lachoudisch

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Northern Bavarian Central Bavarian

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Standard German

German Standard German Austrian Standard German Swiss Standard German

North Germanic

West Scandinavian



Bergensk Kebabnorsk Sognamål Trøndersk Valdris Vestlandsk Vikværsk


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East Scandinavian


Åland Estonian Finlandic Gotlandic Jamtlandic Kalix Kiruna Luleå Norrland Ostrobothnian Småländska South Swedish


Stockholm Rinkeby Uppländska Västgötska Westrobothnian


Bornholmsk Gøtudanskt Insular Danish Jutlandic South Jutlandic Perkerdansk


East Germanic


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Burgundian Vandalic

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