Variant subtag proposal: Høgnorsk variety of Norwegian

Thorgeir Holm thorgeirholm at
Wed Dec 30 00:48:23 CET 2009

<hermer John Cowan frå 29.12.2009 23:41>

> Quite so.  What is more, the nb/nn contrast properly applies only to
> written Norwegian.  The spoken language is a congeries of dialects,
> of which some, the middle-class urban lects of southeastern Norway,
> are reasonably close to written nb.  Nn on the other hand is a sort
> of abstract representation or artificial koine of the western dialects
> (as they stood in the mid-19th century) as if they had descended from
> Old Norse as a unified whole.  As such, it is not even close to a
> transcription of how anyone speaks, except on the podium, the stage,
> the broadcasting studio, and suchlike places.

I must arrest you on this point. The spoken language of Norway is also 
bipolar, with traditional dialects descended from Old Norse on one hand, 
and a Norwagized Danish creole on the other hand. As Norwegian and 
Danish are closely related languages, the situation today is a 
continuous mix, often from person to person, and even varying with the 
same person.

We can compare it to the bipolar system of Scots and Scottish English in 

'nb' corresponds closely with the Norwego-Danish creole, the two having 
levelled off through the last 100 years, whereas 'nn', as you say, is a 
supersystem of the Norse dialects (not only western, but written 'nn' is 
more widely used in the west), not corresponding exactly to either of 
the traditional dialects, but representing the archiphonemics of their 
common point of departure, to put it short.

> Therefore, when representing spoken Norwegian, one should normally use
> 'no', possibly with a variant tag for dialect.

I would say that one should use 'nn' for traditional Norse dialects, 
'nb' for the Nor-Danish creole, and 'no' if it's too much of a mix. 
Regional variant tags can then determine the specific dialect or accent, 
e.g. 'nb-oslo' for the traditional upper class sociolect of Oslo, 
'no-oslo' for the traditional working class sociolect of Oslo, and 
'nn-oslo' for the now nearly extinct traditional Norse dialect of Oslo.


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