Norwegian (''norsk'') is a North Germanic language spoken mainly in Norway, where it is the official language. Along with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian forms a continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional variants.
These Scandinavian languages together with Faroese and Icelandic, as well as some extinct languages, constitute the North Germanic languages (also called Scandinavian languages). Faroese and Icelandic are hardly mutually intelligible with Norwegian in their spoken form because continental Scandinavian has diverged from them.
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 dialects 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.〔http://ojs.statsbiblioteket.dk/index.php/sin/article/viewFile/17027/14789〕 Outside Eastern Norway this spoken variation is not used.
From the 16th to the 19th centuries, Danish was the standard written language of Norway. As a result, the development of modern written Norwegian has been subject to strong controversy related to nationalism, rural versus urban discourse, and Norway's literary history. Historically, Bokmål is a Norwegianised variety of Danish, while Nynorsk is a language form based on Norwegian dialects and puristic opposition to Danish. The now abandoned official policy to merge Bokmål and Nynorsk into one common language called ''Samnorsk'' through a series of spelling reforms has created a wide spectrum of varieties of both Bokmål and Nynorsk. The unofficial form known as ''Riksmål'' is considered more conservative than Bokmål, and the unofficial ''Høgnorsk'' more conservative than Nynorsk.
Norwegians are educated in both Bokmål and Nynorsk. A 2005 poll indicates that 86.3% use primarily Bokmål as their daily written language, 5.5% use both Bokmål and Nynorsk, and 7.5% use primarily Nynorsk. Thus, 13% are frequently ''writing'' Nynorsk, though the majority ''speak'' dialects that resemble Nynorsk more closely than Bokmål. Broadly speaking, Nynorsk writing is widespread in Western Norway, though not in major urban areas, and also in the upper parts of mountain valleys in the southern and eastern parts of Norway. Examples are Setesdal, the western part of Telemark county (fylke) and several municipalities in Hallingdal, Valdres and Gudbrandsdalen. It is little used elsewhere, but 30–40 years ago it also had strongholds in many rural parts of Trøndelag (Mid-Norway) and the south part of Northern Norway (Nordland county). Today, not only is Nynorsk the official language of 4 of the 19 Norwegian counties (fylker), but also of many municipalities in 5 other counties. The Norwegian broadcasting corporation (NRK) broadcasts in both Bokmål and Nynorsk, and all governmental agencies are required to support both written languages. Bokmål is used in 92% of all written publications, Nynorsk in 8% (2000).
Norwegian is one of the working languages of the Nordic Council. Under the Nordic Language Convention, citizens of the Nordic countries who speak Norwegian have the opportunity to use their native language when interacting with official bodies in other Nordic countries without being liable to any interpretation or translation costs.〔( Konvention mellan Sverige, Danmark, Finland, Island och Norge om nordiska medborgares rätt att använda sitt eget språk i annat nordiskt land ), ''Nordic Council website''. Retrieved on May 4, 2008.〕〔(20th anniversary of the Nordic Language Convention ), ''Nordic news'', February 22, 2007. Retrieved on April 25, 2007.〕
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