Norwegian (norsk) is a North Germanic language spoken mainly in Norway, where it is the official language. Along with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian forms a dialect continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional varieties; some Norwegian and Swedish dialects, in particular, are very close. These Scandinavian languages, together with Faroese and Icelandic as well as some extinct languages, constitute the North Germanic languages. Faroese and Icelandic are not mutually intelligible with Norwegian in their spoken form because continental Scandinavian has diverged from them. While the two Germanic languages with the greatest numbers of speakers, English and German, have close similarities with Norwegian, neither is mutually intelligible with it. Norwegian is a descendant of Old Norse, the common language of the Germanic peoples living in Scandinavia during the Viking Era.
Today there are two official forms of written Norwegian, Bokmål (literally "book tongue") and Nynorsk ("new Norwegian"), each with its own variants. Bokmål developed from the Dano-Norwegian koiné language that evolved under the union of Denmark-Norway in the 16- and 17-century, while Nynorsk was developed based upon a collective of spoken Norwegian dialects. Norwegian is one of the two official languages in Norway. The other is Sami, spoken by some members of the Sami people, mostly in the Northern part of Norway. Norwegian and Sami are not mutually intelligible, as Sami belongs to the Finno-Ugric group of languages. Sami is spoken by less than one percent of people in Norway.
Norwegian is one of the working languages of the Nordic Council. Under the Nordic Language Convention, citizens of the Nordic countries who speak Norwegian have the opportunity to use their native language when interacting with official bodies in other Nordic countries without being liable to any interpretation or translation costs.
The approximate extent of Old Norse and related languages in the early 10th century:
Old West Norse dialect
Old East Norse dialect
Other Germanic languages with which Old Norse still retained some mutual intelligibility
Like most of the languages in Europe, the Norwegian language descends from the Proto-Indo-European language. As early Indo-Europeans spread across Europe, they became isolated and new languages evolved. In the northwest of Europe, the West Germanic languages evolved, which would eventually become English, Dutch, German, and the North Germanic languages, of which Norwegian is one.
Proto-Norse is thought to have evolved as a northern dialect of Proto-Germanic during the first centuries AD. It is the earliest stage of a characteristically North Germanic language, and the language attested in the Elder Futhark inscriptions, the oldest form of the runic alphabets. A number of inscriptions are memorials to the dead, while others are magical in content. The oldest are carved on loose objects, while later ones are chiseled in runestones. They are the oldest written record of any Germanic language.
Around 800 AD, the script was simplified to the Younger Futhark, and inscriptions became more abundant. At the same time, the beginning of the Viking Age led to the spread of Old Norse to Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands. Viking colonies also existed in parts of the British Isles, France (Normandy), North America, and Kievan Rus. In all of these places except Iceland and the Faroes, Old Norse speakers went extinct or were absorbed into the local population.
The Roman alphabet
Around 1030, Christianity came to Scandinavia, bringing with it an influx of Latin borrowings and the Roman alphabet. These new words were related to church practices and ceremonies, although many other loanwords related to general culture also entered the language.
The Scandinavian languages at this time are not considered to be separate languages, although there were minor differences among what are customarily called Old Icelandic, Old Norwegian, Old Gutnish, Old Danish, and Old Swedish.
Two centuries of Viking raids into Europe tapered off following the adoption of Christianity by King Olav TRYGGVASON in 994. Conversion of the Norwegian kingdom occurred over the next several decades. In 1397, Norway was absorbed into a union with Denmark that lasted more than four centuries. In 1814, Norwegians resisted the cession of their country to Sweden and adopted a new constitution. Sweden then invaded Norway but agreed to let Norway keep its constitution in return for accepting the union under a Swedish king. Rising nationalism throughout the 19th century led to a 1905 referendum granting Norway independence. Although Norway remained neutral in World War I, it suffered heavy losses to its shipping. Norway proclaimed its neutrality at the outset of World War II, but was nonetheless occupied for five years by Nazi Germany (1940-45). In 1949, neutrality was abandoned and Norway became a member of NATO. Discovery of oil and gas in adjacent waters in the late 1960s boosted Norway’s economic fortunes. In referenda held in 1972 and 1994, Norway rejected joining the EU. Key domestic issues include immigration and integration of ethnic minorities, maintaining the country’s extensive social safety net with an aging population, and preserving economic competitiveness.
Norway asserts a territorial claim in Antarctica (Queen Maud Land and its continental shelf); Denmark (Greenland) and Norway have made submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental shelf (CLCS) and Russia is collecting additional data to augment its 2001 CLCS submission; Norway and Russia signed a comprehensive maritime boundary agreement in 2010.
(End of excerpt from the CIA World FactBook text.)
Norwegian Language Learning Pack (Updated).
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