21. Two Norwegian Languages: Bokmaal and Nynorsk

Michal Ryszard Wojcik (2002 December 17):

I finished reading the Norwegian book Bikubesong written by Frode Grytten. I started reading it in the summer (July 2002) and finished it two days ago.

The interesting thing about my reading this book is that it is written in a different kind of Norwegian than the one in which I had read before.

At the beginning of my learning Norwegian I read in an English dictionary that there are two official literary forms of Norwegian: Bokmaal and Nynorsk. I managed to find out that the learning materials that I had in June 2001 were all in Bokmaal. The two books by Erlend Loe that I have read are also written in Bokmaal.

When I started reading Bikubesong I thought at first that it was written in Nynorsk because I could see that it was definitely not Bokmaal.

I grew interested in Nynorsk and visited the website from which I had earlier obtained written and audio materials. I knew that the website had two language versions for Bokmaal and Nynorsk. Earlier I was only interested in the Bokmaal version.

This time I printed out the Nynorsk versions of the texts and downloaded the Nynorsk audio files. I had earlier read and listened to the same texts in Bokmaal. Since July 2002 I have listened to both Bokmaal and Nynorsk.

The book Bikubesong seems to me to be written in a dialect that is neither Bokmaal nor Nynorsk.

When I was halfway through the book I made the following observations about the two Norwegian languages.

The two languages are very similar and very different at the same time. In short and simplistically, all words are similar and all words are different - there are lots of tiny differences.

The interesting thing is that I manage to keep the two languages separate in my head. I even feel that reading Nynorsk reinforces my knowledge of Bokmaal, even at the moments when I encounter a difference in spelling. My theory is that when I encounter a difference, I suddenly detect it consciously and recall the Bokmaal equivalent automatically. Thus Bokmaal spellings are recalled while my eyes take in Nynorsk spelling.