Norwegian is a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Norway, where it is the official language. Together with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian forms a continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional variants.

As established by law and governmental policy, there are two official forms of written Norwegian – Bokmål (literally "book tongue") and Nynorsk (literally "new Norwegian").

The Norwegian Language Council is responsible for regulating the two forms, and recommends the terms "Norwegian Bokmål" and "Norwegian Nynorsk" in English. Two other written forms without official status also exist, the major one being Riksmål ("national language"), which is somewhat closer to the Danish language but today is to a large extent the same language as Bokmål. It is regulated by the Norwegian Academy, which translates the name as "Standard Norwegian". The other is Høgnorsk ("High Norwegian"), a more purist form of Nynorsk, which maintains the language in an original form as given by Ivar Aasen and rejects most of the reforms from the 20th century. This form of Nynorsk has very limited use.

Nynorsk and Bokmål provide standards for how to write Norwegian, but not for how to speak the language. There is no officially sanctioned standard of spoken Norwegian, and most Norwegians speak their own dialect in all circumstances. Thus, unlike in many other countries, the use of any Norwegian dialect, whether it coincides with the written norms or not, is accepted as correct spoken Norwegian. However, in areas where East Norwegian dialects are used, there is a tendency to accept a de facto spoken standard for this particular regional dialect, standard østnorsk, in which the vocabulary coincides with Bokmål. Outside Eastern Norway this spoken variation is not used.

 

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