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It's interesting to note that what we (outsiders) call
"Norwegian" covers a wide range of dialects, sometimes
bringing difficult mutual understanding.

First, there are two official languages in Norway,
bokmaal and nynorsk. Both are used for printing papers
and books, or on TV. (There is Sami too, in the North,
but that's something completely different).

Then every area has its own dialect: Oslo dialect,
Bergen dialect, Trondheim dialect (the worst one for
foreigners !), several dialects in Northern Norway
etc. This is marked especially by the pronunciation,
but AFAIK there are lexical differences too. When a
person is reported missing in a newspaper, there is
always an indication like: he/she wore a red sweater
and speaks such dialect.

I learned a little of Oslo dialect. I could more or
less discuss with people speaking it, but it was
terrible to try speaking with Bergeners or Troenders.
I also worked in a farm on the Vesteraalen  and could
understand nearly nothing of what the farmer said.

The canonic example is the form for "Jeg vet ikke" (I
don't know": in Troendelag they say something like "Ae
veit itj" (can't remember exactly how it is in
nynorsk, sthg like "Eg veit ikke (or inte) ?"

The tone is also very different between Southern and
Northern Norway. Northeners are reported by
Southerners to "sing" when they talk. This is quite
characteristic.

This all can very well be understood if we look at a
geographic map of Norway. Until recently, valleys were
very isolated from each other, and often the best way
to get from one region to another was by sea. (Now
they made tunnels everywhere like worms in a piece of
cheese, and you have to pay a fee every 15 km).

--- "Mark J. Reed" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
  My hypothesis is that
>
> 1. over time even an isolated language will show
> changes,
>
> 2. over enough time (thousands of years), these
> changes can be quite
>    severe
>
> 3. therefore if the population of speakers
> fragments, then after that
>    same "enough" time the fragments will speak
> mutually unintelligible
>    languages.


=====
Philippe Caquant

"He thought he saw a Rattlesnake / That questioned him in Greek: / He looked again, and found it was / The Middle of Next Week. / "The one thing I regret', he said, / "Is that it cannot speak !' " (Lewis Carroll)

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