Sunlit Water

August 8, 2007

Those Crazy Norwegians

Filed under: Language — by teofilo @ 9:32 pm

Jonathan Edelstein has an interesting post about the (very unusual) language situation in Norway, where there are two standard languages based on different dialects of Norwegian for complicated historical reasons.  I like his use of the term “demi-diglossia” in the post title; this isn’t really true diglossia of the type found in the Arab world, because the different varieties aren’t distinguished by sphere of use, but it’s a similar kind of situation.

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4 Comments »

  1. I am finding this: The equivalent for English would be a scenario in which England was conquered by France during the Hundred Years’ War, regained a measure of independence following some failed analogue of Napoleon, and had its first dictionary prepared by some Byronesque romantic. — to be an awesome hypothetical.

    Comment by The Modesto Kid — August 10, 2007 @ 8:20 am |Reply

  2. I actually thought it was a little odd that he kept comparing the situation to a (rather improbable) counterfactual regarding the history of English. I get that that’s an easy way for an English-speaker to explain it to other English-speakers, but there aren’t really many similarities between English and Scandinavian linguistic history. From a sociolinguistic perspective, the most obvious comparison is to modern Greek.

    Comment by teofilo — August 10, 2007 @ 3:16 pm |Reply

  3. I guess I didn’t really respond to it as an illustration (which is, yes, clearly how it was intended) — I was already understanding his explanation of Norwegian linguistic history pretty well so I was not looking for a comparison to English history to help me understand; so when I read that counterfactual I just read it as a cool alternate history to imagine. Did he bring it up repeatedly? I did not notice that.

    Comment by The Modesto Kid — August 10, 2007 @ 7:49 pm |Reply

  4. Not repeatedly, exactly, but he made references to English a couple of times in counterfactual ways.

    Comment by teofilo — August 10, 2007 @ 8:51 pm |Reply


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