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Norwegian Nynorsk
Pronunciation [ˈnyːnɔʂk] or [ˈnyːnɔʁsk]
Native to Norway
Native speakers
(written only)
Early forms
Standard forms
Nynorsk (official)
Høgnorsk (unofficial)
Latin (Norwegian alphabet)
Official status
Official language in
Flag of the Nordic Council.svg Nordic Council
Regulated by Norwegian Language Council
Language codes
ISO 639-1 nn
ISO 639-2 nno
ISO 639-3 nno
Glottolog None
Linguasphere 52-AAA-ba to -be

Nynorsk (translates to New Norwegian[1] or New Norse[2]) is one of the two written standards of the Norwegian language, the other being Bokmål. From 1885, when the parliament declared them official and equal, until new voting in 1929, their names were Landsmål and Riksmål, the Landsmål language standard was constructed by the Norwegian linguist Ivar Aasen during the mid-19th century, to provide a Norwegian-based alternative to Danish, which was commonly written, and to some extent spoken, in Norway at the time. The official standard of Nynorsk has since been significantly altered. A minor purist fraction of the Nynorsk population has stayed firm with the Aasen norm, which is known as Høgnorsk (English: High Norwegian, analogous to High German).

In local communities, one quarter of Norwegian municipalities have declared Nynorsk as their official language form, and these municipalities account for about 12% of the Norwegian population. Of the remaining municipalities, half are neutral and half have adopted Bokmål as their official language form.[3] Four of Norway's nineteen counties, Rogaland, Hordaland, Sogn og Fjordane and Møre og Romsdal, have Nynorsk as their official language form. These four together comprise the region of Western Norway.[4]

Historical Nynorsk[edit]

The word Nynorsk also has another meaning; in addition to being the name of the present, official written language standard, Nynorsk can also refer to the Norwegian language in use after Old Norwegian, 11th to 14th centuries, and Middle Norwegian, 1350 to about 1550.[5] The written Norwegian that was used until the period of Danish rule (1536-1814), closely resembles Nynorsk (New Norwegian). A major source of old written material is Diplomatarium Norvegicum in 22 printed volumes.

Writing and speech[edit]

Map of the official language forms of Norwegian municipalities as of 2007 with Nynorsk in cyan and Bokmål in orange

Written Nynorsk is found in all the same types of places and for the same uses (newspapers, commercial products, computer programs, etc.) as other written languages. Bokmål has, however, a much larger basis in the cities and generally outside of the western part of the country.[6] Most Norwegians do not speak either Nynorsk or Bokmål as written, but a Norwegian dialect that identifies their origins. Nynorsk shares many of the problems that minority languages face.

In Norway, each municipality and county can choose to declare either of the two language standards as its official language or remain "standard-neutral", as of 2015, 26% (113) of the 428 municipalities have declared Nynorsk as their official standard, while 36% (158) have chosen Bokmål and another 36% (157) are neutral, numbers that have been stable since the 1970s.[3] At least 128 of the "neutral" municipalities are in areas where Bokmål is the prevailing form and pupils are taught in Bokmål, as for counties, three have declared Nynorsk: Hordaland, Sogn og Fjordane and Møre og Romsdal. Two have declared Bokmål: Østfold and Vestfold, the remaining fourteen are de jure standard-neutral. Few municipalities in "standard-neutral" counties use Nynorsk.

The main standard used in primary schools is decided by referendum within the local school district, the number of school districts and pupils using primarily Nynorsk has decreased from its height in the 1940s, even in Nynorsk municipalities. As of 2016, 12.2% of pupils in primary school are taught Nynorsk as their primary language.[4]

The prevailing regions for Nynorsk are the rural areas of the western counties of Rogaland, Hordaland, Sogn og Fjordane and Møre og Romsdal, where an estimated 90% of the population writes nynorsk. Some of the rural parts of Oppland, Buskerud, Telemark, Aust- and Vest-Agder also write primarily in nynorsk. Usage of Nynorsk in the rest of the country is scarce; in Sogn og Fjordane county and the Sunnmøre region of Møre og Romsdal, all municipalities have stated Nynorsk as the official standard, the only exception being the city of Ålesund, which remains neutral. In Hordaland, almost all municipalities have declared Nynorsk as the official standard – the city of Bergen being one of only three exceptions.

Ivar Aasen's work[edit]

Ivar Aasen (drawing by Olav Rusti).
The Norwegian romantic nationalism movement sought to identify and celebrate the genuinely Norwegian.

In 1749, Erik Pontoppidan released a comprehensive dictionary of Norwegian words that were incomprehensible to Danish people, Glossarium Norvagicum Eller Forsøg paa en Samling Af saadanne rare Norske Ord Som gemeenlig ikke forstaaes af Danske Folk, Tilligemed en Fortegnelse paa Norske Mænds og Qvinders Navne.[7] Nevertheless, it is generally acknowledged that the first systematic study of the Norwegian language was made by Ivar Aasen in the mid 19th century, after the dissolution of Denmark–Norway and the establishment of the union between Sweden and Norway in 1814, Norwegians considered that neither Danish, by now a foreign language, nor by any means Swedish, were suitable written norms for Norwegian affairs. The linguist Knud Knudsen proposed a gradual Norwegianisation of Danish. Ivar Aasen, however, favoured a more radical approach, based on the principle that the spoken language of people living in the Norwegian countryside, who made up the vast majority of the population, should be regarded as more Norwegian than that of upper-middle class city-dwellers, who for centuries had been substantially influenced by the Danish language and culture,[1][8] this idea was not unique to Aasen, and can be seen in the wider context of Norwegian romantic nationalism. In the 1840s Aasen traveled across rural Norway and studied its dialects; in 1848 and 1850 he published the first Norwegian grammar and dictionary, respectively, which described a standard that Aasen called Landsmål. New versions detailing the written standard were published in 1864 and 1873, and in the 20th century by Olav Beito in 1970.[9]

During the same period, Venceslaus Ulricus Hammershaimb standardised the orthography of the Faroese language. Spoken Faroese is closely related to Landsmål and dialects in Norway proper, and Lucas Debes and Peder Hansen Resen classified the Faroese tongue as Norwegian in the late 17th century.[10] Ultimately, however, Faroese was established as a separate language.

Aasen's work is based on the idea that Norwegian dialects had a common structure that made them a separate language alongside Danish and Swedish, the central point for Aasen therefore became to find and show the structural dependencies between the dialects. In order to abstract this structure from the variety of dialects, he developed some basic criteria, which he called the most perfect form, he defined this form as the one that best showed the connection to related words, with similar words, and with the forms in Old Norwegian. No single dialect had all the perfect forms, each dialect had preserved different aspects and parts of the language. Through such a systematic approach, one could arrive at a uniting expression for all Norwegian dialects, what Aasen called the fundamental dialect, and Einar Haugen has called Proto-Norwegian.

The idea that the study should end up in a new written language marked his work from the beginning. A fundamental idea for Aasen was that the fundamental dialect should be Modern Norwegian, not Old Norwegian or Old Norse. Therefore, he did not include grammatical categories which were extinct in all dialects, at the same time, the categories that were inherited from the old language and were still present in some dialects should be represented in the written standard. Haugen has used the word reconstruction rather than construction about this work.

Nynorsk has been revised and reformed a number of times since Aasen's original publications, these reforms were intended to close the gap between Nynorsk and Bokmål, as policymakers sought to create one unified Norwegian language, samnorsk. This goal has now been abandoned.[1][11] Høgnorsk is a present-day alternative for purists who prefer Aasen's original norm. Ivar Aasen-sambandet is an umbrella organization of associations and individuals promoting the use of Høgnorsk, whereas Noregs Mållag and Norsk Målungdom advocate the use of Nynorsk in general.


From the outset, Nynorsk was met with resistance among those who believed that the Dano-Norwegian then in use was sufficient, with the advent and growth of mass media, exposure to the standard languages increased, and Bokmål's position is dominant in many situations. This may explain why negative attitudes toward Nynorsk persist, as is seen with many minority languages, this is especially prominent among students, who are required to learn both of the official written languages.

Some critics of obligatory Nynorsk and Bokmål as school subjects have been extremely outspoken about their views, for instance, during the 2005 election, the Norwegian Young Conservatives made an advertisement where a candidate for parliament threw a copy of the Nynorsk dictionary into a barrel of flames. After strong reactions to this book burning, they apologized and chose not to use the video.[12]


Nynorsk is a North-Germanic language, close in form to both Icelandic and the other form of written Norwegian. Nynorsk grammar is closer in grammar to Old West Norse than Bokmål is, as the latter developed from Danish.

Three grammatical genders[edit]

Grammatical genders are inherent properties of nouns, and each gender has its own forms of inflection.

Standard Nynorsk and all Norwegian dialects, with the notable exception of the Bergen dialect, have three grammatical genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. The situation is slightly more complicated in Bokmål, which has inherited the Danish two-gender system. Written Danish only retains the neuter and the common gender. Though the common gender took what used to be the feminine inflections in Danish, it matches the masculine inflections in Norwegian, the Norwegianization in the 20th century brought the three-gender system into Bokmål, but the process was never completed. In Nynorsk these are important distinctions, in contrast to Bokmål, in which all feminine words may also become masculine (due to the incomplete transition to a three-gender system) and inflect using its forms, and indeed a feminine word may be seen in both forms, for example boka or boken (“the book”). The feminine forms of other words usually become inflected by the gender of the noun to which they belong, such as ei (“a(n)”), inga (“no”, “none”) and lita (“small”), are optional too (masculine is used when feminine is not). This means that en liten stjerne – stjernen (“a small star – the star”, only masculine forms) and ei lita stjerne – stjerna (only feminine forms) both are correct Bokmål, as well as every possible combination: en liten stjerne – stjerna, ei liten stjerne – stjerna or even ei lita stjerne – stjernen. Choosing either two or three genders throughout the whole text is not a requirement either, so one may choose to write tida (“the time” f) and boken (“the book” m) in the same work.

In Nynorsk, unlike Bokmål, masculine and feminine nouns are differentiated not only in the singular definitive form (in which the noun takes a suffix to indicate "the" in both Nynorsk and Bokmål), but also in the plural forms, for example:

Singular indefinite Singular definite Plural indefinite Plural definite
ein rev reven revar revane
a fox the fox foxes the foxes
ei løve løva løver løvene
a lion the lion lions the lions
eit hus huset hus husa
a house the house houses the houses

That is, nouns follow in general these patterns, where all definite articles/plural indefinite articles are suffixes:

Singular indefinite Singular definite Plural indefinite Plural definite
ein -en -ar -ane
ei -a -er -ene
eit -et - -a

The gender of each noun normally follows certain patterns, for instance will all nouns ending in -nad be masculine, like the word «jobbsøknad» (job application). Almost all nouns ending in -ing will be feminine, like the word «forventning» (expectation), the -ing nouns also get an irregular inflection pattern, with -ar and -ane in the plural indefinite and plural definite (just like the masculine) but is inflected like a feminine noun in every other way.


A grammatical gender is not characterized by noun inflection alone; each gender can have further inflectional forms. That is, gender can determine the inflection of other parts of speech which agree grammatically with a noun, this concerns determiners, adjectives and past participles.


Adjectives has to agree with the noun in both gender and number just like Bokmål. Unlike Bokmål, Nynorsk has a more completed system of adjective agreement comparable to that of the Swedish language (see Nynorsk past participles).

Predicative agreement
Norwegian English
Reven er liten The fox (masculine) is small
Løva er lita The lion (feminine) is small
Treet er lite The tree (neuter) is small

Just like in Bokmål, verbs has to agree after certain copula verbs, like in this case the verb for «to be»: vere («er» is present tense of vere). Other important copula verbs where predicative agreement happens are verte, bli (both means become). Other copula verbs are also «ser ut» (looks like), «kjennes» (feels) and so on. Are there other verbs used than these copula verbs, then the adjectives like in the example above will no longer be adjectives but an adverb, the adverb form of an adjective is the same as the neuter form of the adjective. For instance «Han gjør lite» (he does little). Adverbs are not inflected.

Attributive agreement
Norwegian English
Ein liten rev A small fox (masculine)
Ei lita løve A small lion (feminine)
Eit lite tre A small tree (neuter)

Most adjectives will follow this pattern of inflection for adjectives, which is the same as in Bokmål[13]:

The most common inflection
Masculine/feminine neuter Plural/definite
- -t -e

Examples on words that follow this pattern is words like fin (nice), klar (ready/clear), rar (weird).

Adjectives/perfect participles that ends on a diphthong (like the word «grei», which means straightforward/fine) will follow this inflection pattern:

Inflection for adjectives ending on diphtong
Masculine/feminine neuter Plural/definite
- -tt -e
Examples, adjective inflections
Norwegian English
Løypa er fin The trail is nice
Været er fint The weather is nice
Løypa er nokså grei The trail is pretty straightforward
Det er greitt It is fine

All adjective comparison follow this pattern:

Verb comparison
Positive Comparative Superlative
- -are -ast
Example, verb comparison
Positive Comparative Superlative
fin (nice) finare (nicer) finast (nicest)

Past participles[edit]

Past participles of verbs, which are when the verb functions as an adjective, are inflected just like an adjective. This is very similar to the system of agreement in Swedish.

For instance, the verb «skrive» (to write, strong verb) has the following forms

Skrive (to write, strong verb)
Masculine/feminine Neuter Plural and definite
skriven skrive skrivne
Examples, strong verb
Norwegian English
Protokollen er skriven The protocol (masculine) is written
Boka er skriven The book (feminine) is written
Brevet er skrive The letter (neuter) is written
Bøkene er skrivne The books are written
Ein skriven protokoll A written protocol (masculine)
Ei skriven bok A written book (feminine)
Eit skrive brev A written letter (neuter)
To skrivne brev Two written letters
Det skrivne brevet The written letter

All strong verbs are conjugated in this pattern:

Strong verbs
Masculine/feminine Neuter Plural and definite
-en -e -ne

Some of the weak verbs have to agree in only number (just like in Bokmål), while many has to agree in both gender and number (like in Swedish), the weak verbs are inflected according to their conjugation class (see Nynorsk verb conjugation).

All a-verbs get the following inflections:

Masculine/feminine Neuter Plural and definite

All e-verbs (with -de in preterite) and j-verbs get the following inflections:

e-verbs (-de in preterite), j-verbs
Masculine/feminine Neuter Plural and definite
-d -t -de

All other e-verbs (those with -te in preterite) get the following inflections:

e-verbs (-te in preterite)
Masculine/feminine/neuter Plural and definite
-t -te

All short verbs get the following inflections:

Short verbs
Masculine/feminine Neuter Plural and definite
-dd -dd/-tt -dde
Examples, weak verbs
Norwegian English
Boka er seld The book (feminine) has been sold
Bordet er selt The table (neuter) has been sold
Ein vald president An elected president (masculine)
Eit utvalt barn A chosen child (neuter)
Målet er oppnått The goal (neuter) has been achieved
Grensa er nådd The limit (female) has been reached


The determinatives has inflection patterns quite similar to Bokmål, the only difference being that the masculine form is often used for the feminine in Bokmål.

Possessive Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Mine Min Mi Mitt Mine
Your Din Di Ditt Dine
Its Sin Si Sitt Sine
Our Vår Vår Vårt Våre
English: «own» (determinative)
Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
eigen eiga eige eigne
English: «no» (determinative)
Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
ingen inga inkje ingen
Determinative examples
Norwegian English
Min eigen rev My own fox (masculine)
Mi eiga løve My own lion (feminine)
Mitt eige tre My own tree (neuter)
Mine eigne barn My own children (plural)
Eg har ingen barn I have no children (plural)
Eg har inga kone I have no wife (feminine)
Vår eiga hytte Our own cabin (feminine)

Usage changes too from dialect to dialect, for example en liten rev, min egen rev but e lita løve, mi ega løve or ein liten rev, min eigen rev men ei liti løve, mi eigi løve.

Verb conjugation[edit]

As in other continental Scandinavian languages, verb conjugation is quite simple as they are not conjugated in person, unlike English and other European languages. Verbs are divided into two conjugation classes; strong and weak verbs. Unlike Bokmål, Nynorsk has a more marked difference between strong and weak verbs which is very common in dialects all over Norway. It's a system which resembles the Swedish verb conjugation system.

Weak verbs
Infinitive Imperative present preterite present perfect Conjugation class
å kaste (to throw) kast kastar kasta har kasta a-verb
å kjøpe (to buy) kjøp kjøper kjøpte har kjøpt e-verb (-te preterite)
å byggje (to build) bygg byggjer bygde har bygt e-verb (-de preterite)
å krevje (to demand) krev krev kravde har kravt j-verb
å bu (to live) bu bur budde har budd/butt short verb

To identify what conjugation class a verb pertains to; j-verbs will have -je/-ja in the infinitive. e-verbs has -er in present tense. a-verbs has -ar in the present tense and -a in the preterite.

Strong verbs
Infinitive Imperative present preterite present perfect
å drikke (to drink) drikk drikk drakk har drukke
å skrive (to write) skriv skriv skreiv har skrive
å drepe (to kill) drep drep drap har drepe
å lese (to read) les les las har lese
å tillate (to allow) tillat tillèt tillét har tillate

All strong verbs have no ending in the present and preterite forms (and often umlaut between the two).

All users can choose to follow a system of either an -e or an -a ending on the infinitives of verbs, that is, one can for instance choose to write either «å skrive» or «å skriva» (the latter is common in west norwegian dialects). There is also a system where one can use both -a endings and -e endings at certain verbs, this system is known as «kløyvd infinitiv».

Ergative verbs[edit]

There is ergative verbs in both Bokmål and Nynorsk. A verb in Norwegian that is ergative has two different conjugations, either weak or strong, the two different conjugation patterns, though similar, has two different meanings. A verb with a weak conjugation as in the section above, will have an object, that is, the weak conjugated verb is transitive, the verb with strong conjugation will not have an object. The strongly conjugated verbs are intransitive, the system of ergative verbs is more pronounced in Nynorsk than in Bokmål. An ergative verb in Bokmål will often just have two different conjugations for the preterite tense. Ergative verbs in Nynorsk has different conjugation for all tenses (just like Swedish), this is very common in Norwegian dialects, like in the following example.

Ergative verb «brenne» (to burn)
Infinitive present preterite present perfect perfect participle, masc/fem perfect participle, neuter
å brenne brenn brann har brunne brunnen brunne
å brenne brenner brende har brent brend brent
Example, ergative verb «brenne»
Norwegian English
Låven brenn The barn is burning
Hytta brann The cabin was burning
Eg brenner ned huset I'm burning down the house
Eg brende ned treet I burned down the tree

T as final sound[edit]

One of the past participle and the preterite verb ending in Bokmål is -et. Aasen originally included these t's in his Landsmål norms, but since these are silent in the dialects, it was struck out in the first officially issued specification of Nynorsk of 1901.

Examples may compare the Bokmål forms skrevet ('written', past participle) and hoppet ('jumped', both past tense and past participle), which in written Nynorsk are skrive or skrivi (Landsmål skrivet) and hoppa (Landsmål hoppat). The form hoppa is also permitted in Bokmål.

Other examples from other classes of words include the neuter singular form anna of annan ('different', with more meanings) which was spelled annat in Landsmål, and the neuter singular form ope of open ('open') which originally was spelled opet. Bokmål, in comparison, still retains these t's through the equivalent forms annet and åpent.


The personal pronouns are the only case inflected part of the language, just like English.

Subject form Object form Possessive
eg (I) meg (me) min, mi, mitt (mine)
du (you) deg (you) din, di, ditt (yours)
han (he)

ho (she)

det (it, that)

han (him)

henne/ho (her)

det (it, that)

hans (his)

hennar (hers)

vi/me (we) oss (us) vår, vårt (our)
de/dokker (you, plural) dykk/dokker (you, plural) dykkar/dokkar (yours, plural)
dei (they) dei (them) deira (theirs)

Notice that the words for «mine», «yours» etc. has to agree in gender with the object, see the determiners section.

Like in German (and unlike Bokmål), you would refer to nouns by «han», «ho», «det» (he/she/her) after what gender the noun is, like the following:

Nynorsk Bokmål English
Kor er boka mi? Ho er her Hvor er boka mi? Den er her Where is my book? It is here
Kor er bilen min? Han er her Hvor er bilen min? Den er her Where is my car? It is here
Kor er brevet mitt? Det er her Hvor er brevet mitt? Det er her Where is my letter? It is here

Word forms compared with Bokmål Norwegian[edit]

Many words in Nynorsk are similar to their equivalents in Bokmål, with differing form, for example:

Nynorsk Bokmål other dialect forms English
eg jeg eg, æg, e, æ, ei, i, je, jæ I
ikkje ikke ikkje, inte, ente, itte, itj, ikkji not

The distinction between Bokmål and Nynorsk is that while Bokmål has for the most part derived its forms from the written Danish language or the common Danish-Norwegian speech, Nynorsk has its orthographical standards from Aasen's reconstructed "base dialect", which are intended to represent the distinctive dialectical forms.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Vikør, Lars S. (2015). "Norwegian: Bokmål vs. Nynorsk". Språkrådet. Språkrådet. Retrieved 7 January 2017. ... two distinct written varieties: Bokmål (‘Book Language’) and Nynorsk (‘New Norwegian’). 
  2. ^ Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1 ed.). Random House, Inc. ;
  3. ^ a b "Ivar Aasen-tunet" (in Norwegian Nynorsk). Nynorsk kultursentrum. 2015. Retrieved 13 November 2015. 
  4. ^ a b "Språkstatistikk – nokre nøkkeltal for norsk". Retrieved 2007-09-12. 
  5. ^ "Nynorsk som talemål". Språkrådet. Retrieved 8 January 2017. [Nynorsk] kan i tillegg bety ‘norsk språk i nyere tid (etter 1500)’, altså etter gammelnorsk og mellomnorsk. 
  6. ^ Kristoffersen, Gjert (2000). The Phonology of Norwegian. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-823765-5. 
  7. ^ "Glossarium Norvagicum eller Forsøg paa en Samling af saadanne rare Norske Ord". runeberg.org. Retrieved 2015-10-05. 
  8. ^ Jahr, E.H., The fate of Samnorsk: a social dialect experiment in language planning. In: Clyne, M.G., 1997, Undoing and redoing corpus planning. De Gruyter, Berlin.
  9. ^ Venås, Kjell. 2009. Beito, Olav T. In: Stammerjohann, Harro (ed.), Lexicon Grammaticorum: A Bio-Bibliographical Companion to the History of Linguistics p. 126. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer.
  10. ^ Sandøy, H., Frå tre dialektar til tre språk. In: Gunnstein Akselberg og Edit Bugge (red.), Vestnordisk språkkontakt gjennom 1200 år. Tórshavn, Fróðskapur, 2011, pp. 19-38. [1]
  11. ^ Jahr, 1997.
  12. ^ "Brenner nynorsk-bok i tønne". Retrieved 2008-02-02. 
  13. ^ "Språkrådet". elevrom.sprakradet.no. Retrieved 2018-06-17. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Noregs Mållag Noregs Mållag is the major organization promoting Nynorsk.
  • Norsk Målungdom Norsk Målungdom is Noregs Mållag's youth organization.
  • Ivar Aasen-tunet The Ivar Aasen Centre is a national centre for documenting and experiencing the Nynorsk written culture, and the only museum in the country devoted to Ivar Aasen's life and work.
  • Sidemålsrapport – 2005 report (in Bokmål) on the state of Nynorsk and Bokmål in Norwegian secondary schools.