British-based journalist, Jessica Furseth, who was raised in Norway, has written an article on the increasing and disruptive presence of the English language in her Scandinavian homeland:
“This is a story about a small language being slowly overwhelmed by English, written in English by someone whose mother tongue is so stiff from lack of use it’s hardly serviceable. The irony isn’t lost on me.
The small language in question is Norwegian, spoken by about five million people and also by me, once upon a time. I grew up in Norway and lived there until I was 19, so sure, I can carry a conversation. But my entire adult life has happened in English. It’s been over a decade since Norwegian was the language I used to get around. It doesn’t sit comfortably in my mouth anymore, because another language has taken its place. I struggle to find the words to express an idea more complicated than the weather. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to write this in the language of my home country.
As I’ve grown more English, so has Norwegian. New words keep appearing in speech, but they don’t sound like they belong. Most of the new words are English ones. I understand what they mean, of course, but the first time you hear “fancy1” or “touch2” randomly dropped into a sentence in a different language, it sounds so alien. I catch myself wondering, who decides which English words the people of Norway will adopt this year? Where does this come from?
Languages are living things, constantly evolving. In that sense, you could argue that resisting change is unnatural. But as a speaker of a small language, it can be alarming to hear the rapidly increasing influx of new words from a dominant force. Back in 2000, linguistics researcher Sylfest Lomheim caused upheaval by claiming the Norwegian language wouldn’t survive the next century. Is this the beginning of the end?”
It is well worth a read though she fails to note the importance of dialectal splits in the Norwegian language, with four written forms and numerous spoken forms coexisting alongside each other. In terms of spelling these include the majority Bokmål (“book tongue”) and the largely regional Nynorsk (“new Norwegian”), as well as Riksmål (“national language”) and Høgnorsk (“high Norwegian”), conservative and unofficial variants of the previous two. This relative lack of linguistic uniformity may be one of the reasons for the percieved weakness of the Scandinavian tongue when faced by English influences. Though others might see such diversity as a strength.