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Peter fra LASaturday 11th of September 2004 11:24:58 PM
Why I chose Norsk - This really belongs in this specific newsgroup so this is based upon a repost of another response. It gives you the logical run down of why I decided upon Norwegian.

Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish are linguistically very closely related and are generally mutually intelligible. This is due to the way the national boundaries have been in flux throughout Scandinavian history. Norway and Denmark were a single country for four centuries, until 1814. And after they split apart, Norway was under the rule of the Swedish crown until 1905. The movement for the recognition of a Norwegian language separate from Danish and Swedish led to the consequent formation of nynorsk.

I found it difficult to make out the words on the Danish language products and had to return them. (I later learned that even Swedish and Norwegian people have a hard time understanding Danes at times).

If take Norse(Norwegian) and you add or remove vocabulary and also add or remove the song/musical way of pronouncing those words you go from the Norwegian language to Danish and from Norwegian to Swedish. So to me, Norwegian is the middle-language that will give you a good chance of being understood by both Danes and Swedes. A good reward for the effort put into learning Norsk in my personal book.

Norway and Iceland have a special relationship, which they should when you take history into account about the colonization of Iceland. And Icelands isolation from the consequent influence of Danish, and then Swedish on the Norsk language gives it a special place in history.

Linguistically English from Old English is also tied into the history of Icelandic (more specificaly, Old Norse).

You might already know this history, but if not, here is a repost of a synopsis (If you know it, skip down below for a quick summary of the Norwegian language):

So what happened to Old English to make it Modern English? Well, Christianity happened, and the Normans brought French. The study of languages, linguistics, goes hand in hand with history. Here is a brief history of what happened.

Around 400 AD, present day England was ruled by the Roman Empire, but the fall of the Roman empire left Britain poorly protected from Celtic and Pictish tribes elsewhere in Great Britain. To protect themselves, the Britons hired Germanic mercenaries from tribes such as the Angles and the Saxons. This proved to be a good idea as the Germanic warriors did a good job defending Briton's borders. On the other hand, it proved to be a bad idea as the Germanic people decided Briton would be a nice place to live and, after a bit of a struggle, they made it their own.

Many Germanic colonists made the trip from continental Northern Europe (present day Germany and Holland) to their new land in Great Britain bringing their Germanic culture and language with them. Back then, the Germanic language was one language, someone from a Germanic tribe in what is now Sweden would've been able to understand someone from what is now Germany or France. They brought with them their culture consisting of elaborate historical and entertaining stories and poems, and a panoply of gods nearly identical to those we know of as the Norse Gods. This was the culture that grew into England, this was Anglo-Saxon Great Britain.

With isolation, the language spoken by these Germanic peoples began to differ from that of the other Germanic tribes, and it developed into Old English. Old English was primarily a spoken language although it did have a written component; runic inscriptions, or runes. Many samples of this early Germanic written language survive today, we can only wonder how much has been lost.

Anglo-Saxon culture and the English language suffered two serious blows. The conversion to Christianity and the eventual Norman Conquest.

Saint Augustine arrived around 600 AD and by around 650 the Anglo-Saxons had succumbed to Christianity. With this conversion came the death of the Germanic pantheon of gods for the Anglo-Saxons and the rich oral traditions that surrounded them and their history, now the main focus of their religious life would be the dealings of the Middle East as told in the Bible. As a small consolation, Christians had a tradition transmitting their stories in written form, thus we do have written samples of Old English and examples of heroic, Germanic legends like Beowulf.

The death blow for Old English came when England itself fell to the Normans, after English forces, weakened from battling the Norsemen at Stamford Bridge, fell to William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Then French, a romance language, like Italian and Spanish, became the official language and English was forced underground. Be aware, that those who brought French to Great Britain were of Germanic origin, having abandoned their Germanic tongue years before. So Germanic Old English was beaten by Germanic peoples who had switched to an Italic language.

Well, it took awhile, but eventually English reasserted itself as the language spoken in England, but in recovering, it had to borrow a huge number of words from French, changing it so much that it is now known as Middle English, to distinguish it from Old English. So now a lot of its words now had 'Latin' roots. Even after its recovery, 'Latin' classics were now studied in England, and Latin gained even a stronger foothold. So now you can see why Latin is studied so much among English-speakers (compared to Old Norse).

My ancestors, like those of all people of Germanic descent, spoke a Proto-germanic language. and those who are bilingual will know that to learn a language you really have to learn to think in that language, and the language has a big effect on how you think of things. Therefore, to really know what it was like to be in those early Germanic times, I should really learn their language, how they organized thoughts and related tales.

Reading Phrases really won't do, so much alliteration, puns, and emphasis through word order is lost when you read a translation. To really understand something you must read it in its original language.

Early Germanic people had a rich oral tradition (Edda), filled with all kinds of Gods, villains, monsters and heroes, we know this from some surviving 'catalogs of heroes'. The stories themselves have for the most part been lost, all the German ones, all the Gothic ones (and sadly, they were supposed to be the richest), all the Anglo-Saxon ones, except for Beowulf. Now I did say, 'for the most part', brace yourselves, there really is a big vein of early German culture that survived, thanks to Icelanders.

Iceland, that fair sized island in the North Atlantic, was settled by Norwegians around the 900's. And one thing these new settlers did that no other Germanic people had done, is they wrote. Boy, did they ever write. they wrote down many of the stories, and historical accounts (Sagas), they wrote of the marvelous type of strict poetry that had arisen in Germanic culture, they wrote of the Gods and Goddesses and monsters that had so shaped their culture and view of the world. (Mind you, by this time they were Christians, so they didn't believe in these Gods.) They wrote in a certain blunt, yet powerful style that is tremendous and something really to be experienced and unlike any other type of writing, and they used many kennings, or metaphorical phrases for things (of which the most common English example is calling a camel 'the ship of the desert', there aren't a lot of kennings in English. They wrote all this marvelous stuff in Old Norse, and it survives until today, and you can read it for yourself.)




Quick Breakdown on Norwegian:

Norwegian, Norsk

o Most closely related to Icelandic and Faroese, Norwegian hangs of the northern Germanic branch of the Indo-European family tree.

o 5,000,000 speakers

o Norwegian is spoken in Norway, where it is the official language, and in parts of Denmark and Sweden.

o Norwegian uses the Latin alphabet plus the three characters æ, ø, å. (less new characters than Icelandic)

o Although roots can be traced back to Old Norse, modern Norwegian consists of two written forms: Nynorsk, literally new Norwegian, and Bokmål, book language. Nynorsk was formulated in the 19th century by a self-educated peasant called Ivar Aasen, and he gave examples in Prøver af Landsmaalet I Norge (Specimens of the Norwegian National Language), 1853. Bokmål is a variation of Danish, also formally developed in the 19th century.

(Don't let this confuse you, Bokmål is all you need concern yourself with, Nynorsk is more for what would be considered the language of "country folk". Sticking with Bokmål and an Oslo dialect accent will be your goal if you study Norsk.)

o Norwegian and Swedish are among the few European tonal languages, that is a language where the tone in a syllable of two otherwise identical words can change their meaning.


And the last peice of information I took into account was the vast resources avaialable to learn Norsk for English speaking people compared to Icelandic. There is a Norsk Language Council that promotes the language, and their effort shows. I have ammased an amazing array of links and web resources as well as books and audio products for Norsk. I had very little to show when I researched tools to help me learn Icelandic.

As a consolidation, there is more tools avaialble if you speak Norsk to learn Icelandic. And by then you get most of Icelandic for free by already having learned Norsk. You just learn the differences between the two.

Now that you have information, you are better equiped to make your own decisions.

HisGirlFridayFriday 24th of September 2004 07:12:05 PM
wow..what about me? - Peter, you're always so insightful! I chose Norwegian to learn because of being a fangirl of A-ha and other Norske musikk for many years! and then when i started Norwegian, i was like: hey, i can make so many connections to English here.
So basically chose it, like Peter said, it's an easy langauge to learn. But yeah, my main reason is because of a Norwegian fetish i have...