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For other uses, see Dano-Norwegian (disambiguation).

Dano-Norwegian (Danish and Norwegian: dansk-norsk) is a linguistic term for a koiné that evolved among the urban elite in Norwegian cities during the later years of the union between the Kingdoms of Denmark and Norway (1536–1814). It is from this koiné that Riksmål and Bokmål developed. Bokmål is now the most widely used written standard of contemporary Norwegian.


During the period of Danish rule, Norwegian writing died out and Danish became the language of the literate class in Norway. At first Danish was used primarily in writing; later it came to be spoken on formal or official occasions; and by the time Norway's ties with Denmark were severed in 1814, a Dano-Norwegian vernacular often called the "cultivated everyday speech" had become the mother tongue of parts of the urban elite. This new Dano-Norwegian koiné could be described as Danish with East Norwegian pronunciation, some Norwegian vocabulary, and a simplified grammar.

At the start of the 20th century, written Norwegian still greatly resembled written Danish. In 1907 and 1917 spelling and grammar reforms brought the written language closer to the spoken koiné (Dano-Norwegian), and the name Riksmål was officially adopted. In 1929 Riksmål officially changed name to Bokmål after a proposition to use the name Dano-Norwegian lost with a single vote in the Lagting (a chamber in the Norwegian parliament).[1]

Modern developments[edit]

Nowadays, the term Bokmål officially refers only to the written language of that name (and possibly to its use in the media, by actors etc.). There are, however, a number of spoken varieties of Norwegian that are close or largely identical[2] to written Bokmål, sometimes even in a conservative form similar to historical Dano-Norwegian - notably, the higher sociolect in Oslo and in other Norwegian cities. A socially less distinct variety known as standard østnorsk (Standard East Norwegian) is increasingly becoming the standard spoken language of a growing part of Eastern Norway. Colloquially, the latter form is also called the Oslo dialect, which is misleading since the Oslo dialect predates the Dano-Norwegian koiné, and though both influenced by and partially replaced by standard østnorsk, it is still in use, and since the koiné language is not a dialect. Over the years the spoken Dano-Norwegian standard and its successors, on the one hand, and Modern Norwegian dialects on the other hand have influenced each other. Nowadays, no clear dividing line can be drawn between the two.

The term Dano-Norwegian is seldom used with reference to contemporary Bokmål and its spoken varieties. The nationality of the language has been a hotly debated topic, and its users and proponents have generally not been fond of the implied association with Danish (hence the neutral names Riksmål and Bokmål, meaning national language and literary language respectively). The debate intensified with the advent of a new Norwegian written language in the 19th century, now known as Nynorsk, which is based on Modern Norwegian dialects and puristic opposition to Danish and Dano-Norwegian. Historically, many Nynorsk supporters have held that Nynorsk is the only genuinely Norwegian language, since Riksmål/Bokmål is a relic of the dual monarchy; therefore, the term Dano-Norwegian applied to Bokmål can be used to stigmatize or delegitimize the language. Many Bokmål users consider this use to be offensive, and it is therefore mainly confined to the Nynorsk-supporting side of heated discussions.


See also[edit]