English in Norway

This is an extract form an article called 'On the Norwegian Language' by Svein Magne Sirnes, associate professor in language assessment at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. The full article can be found at http://www.norway.org/News/archive/2001/200105language.htm.


a) Before reading the article, use a dictionary to find out what the following words mean:
- amount
- policy
- prevent
- suggest
- acquire
- pronunciation
- impact
- indicate
- possessive
- acronym
- exert
- compound
- hyphen
- combat
- origin
- pertain

b) Read the article. Then write a brief summary of what is said about the following:
- What Språkrådet has done to limit the influence of English on the Norwegian language
- Why the apostrophe can cause problems to Norwegians
- What a compund is, and why compounds are problematic to Norwegians
- How the English language has been influenced by Norwegian


On Norwenglish

Everyone who opens a Norwegian newspaper today will see a huge amount of English or American words and expressions that are imported into modern Norwegian.

For several years it has been the policy of Norsk språkråd (the Norwegian Language Council) to prevent this development and suggest good Norwegian words instead, for example programvare for software, e-post for e-mail, datamaskin for computer, to mention but a few. However, many Norwegians do not follow the Language Council’s advice and prefer the English words to Norwegian alternatives.

In some cases the English word has kept its original spelling but has acquired a Norwegian pronunciation. An example is the word jazz. Today, no one would pronounce this word like in English.

In other cases, the Language Council has — not always successfully — suggested a Norwegian spelling, like teip for tape, or sørvis for service.

The English impact can also be seen in other ways, of which the use of the apostrophe in modern Norwegian is an example.

The apostrophe is not used in the same way in the two languages. In English, the apostrophe indicates the possessive case of a noun: the boy’s book, the woman’s bag. In Norwegian, the possessive is formed without the apostrophe (unless the noun ends in an ‘s’ or an ‘s’ sound): guttens bok, damens veske. However, a lot of Norwegians incorrectly use the apostrophe like in English and write gutten’s bok, damen’s veske. This is even more common when the noun is a proper noun or an acronym, like in Tor’s gatekjøkken (name of a fast food restaurant) and NATO’s hovedkvarter. There can be no doubt that this is a result of the pressure that the English language exerts on Norwegian.

Let us have a look at another area where the English influence is noticeable.

A compound should always be written as one unit in Norwegian, for example bilforhandler, (car dealer), skoleår (school year). In some cases a hyphen must be used: FN-delegasjon (UN delegation), 50-årsjubileum (50th anniversary). However, the spelling bil forhandler (two separate words) is incorrect. But an increasing number of Norwegians write such compounds as separate units. There are even names of corporations and organizations that have been formed this way: Selvaag Gruppen, Norsk Brannvern Forening.

Not long ago a group of concerned citizens who want to combat this phenomenon formed Astronomer mot orddeling and got their own web site!

What about influences the other way? Has English adopted any words of Norwegian origin? Yes, it has. Words like ombudsman, slalom, and ski are all Norwegian (or Scandinavian). As a matter of fact, there are more than 50 words of Norwegian (or Old Norse) origin in the English language. Most of them were introduced by the Vikings from the late eighth century on. First came words pertaining to the sea and battle; later words used in the Scandinavian social and administrative system — for example the word law — entered the English language. Other examples are the verb form are and such widely used words as take, cut, both, ill, and ugly.