The Norwegian language is spoken in the country of Norway, a Nordic nation whose coastline along the North Atlantic Ocean is the location of many beautiful and celebrated fjords. Norwegian is closely linked to, as well as reciprocally understood with, the Swedish and Danish languages. It is a Germanic language, specifically a North Germanic language, along with Swedish, Danish, Icelandic, and Faroese. In total, there are more than 4.5 million speakers of the Norwegian language in Norway, as well as in other regions around the world (including the United States).
Today, there are two written forms of the Norwegian language. The first, Bokmål, is known as the book language and the national language. The second, Nynorsk, is known as “New Norwegian”. These written forms of the language are as a result of government mandated policy and law. Bokmål is used principally in education and works of Norwegian literature. The Nynorsk form of Norwegian is derived from the native dialects that developed from the Old Norse language, and were not at all influenced by the Danish language. It was developed as a purely Norwegian form of language for the country. Nynorsk is spoken primarily in the rural areas of Norway. There has been some work done to fuse the two languages together, however unsuccessfully.
Norwegian (as well as the other Scandinavian languages) evolved from the Old Norse language, which was spread by Viking merchants. When King Harald Fairhair unified Norway in the year 872, the runic alphabet was used for written language. As Christianity made its way into the region (in the year 1030 after the Battle of Stiklestad), the Latin alphabet was then used. It is around this time when the language being spoken by the Norwegians began to move away slightly from other neighboring languages.
As the Vikings settled in the region (around the 9th century), the Old Norse language developed a few regional variants. These variants are known as Eastern Norse and Western Norse. Western Norse developed in Norway. The language spoken in Norway was comparable to the language spoken in Iceland until they splintered into Old Icelandic and Old Norwegian around the beginning of the 14th century.
When, in the year 1397, Norway united politically with Denmark (they shared a head of state though they were considered individual states) the Danish language began to be used as the written language in Norway. The union with Denmark lasted until 1814, when Norway was then required to enter another political union, this time with the country of Sweden. It was around this time that the Norwegian people began to push for autonomy, democracy, and their own written and spoken language that had not been determined by another nation.
A series of reforms and modifications have been applied to the grammar and spelling of the Norwegian language to make it less Danish and more Norwegian. In 1899, Riksmål, or the standard language, was implemented. Further adjustments to the language have occurred in recent years.
The Norwegian alphabet is a slightly altered version of the Latin alphabet, with a few characters added, totaling 29 letters. With regards to the spoken Norwegian language, there are several unique dialects spoken in the regions of Norway, many at the most rural levels. Due to the widespread nature of the different language variations, it is difficult to know exactly how many there are.
There are many sources of information available on the Internet for those who are interested in learning the Norwegian language. Full courses are accessible where a person can learn the language at his or her own pace, including grammar, vocabulary, spelling, and even pronunciation. Learning the Norwegian language, in addition to learning about the fascinating Norwegian history and culture, can be a fun and interesting activity.