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Converting Nynorsk to Bokmål – Part Two

Hardangerfjord Norway
Nynorsk is written extensively in rural Norway (Flickr)

This is the next post in a series on the great Norwegian language struggle between Bokmål and Nynorsk. Click here to read the background post and here to read the first part of Bryce's conversion guide… here is part two. Enjoy, share and comment 🙂

Consonant Alterations

You didn't think it would be as easy as throwing a few “j”'s around a bit and doubling some letters did you? Sorry peeps, but there's a bit more to it than that. Let's start with three changes which are pretty easy to understand: “kv” → “hv”, “mn” → “vn”, and “k(n)” → “g(n)”.

 

Nynorsk Bokmål English
Kval Hval Whale
Kvit Hvit White
Kvelv Hvelv Vault
Namn Navn Name
Hemn Hevn Revenge
Steikjeomn Steikeovn Oven
Teikn Tegn Sign
Rekning Regning Bill
Lækje Lege Doctor

 

Now comes the tricky(-er) part – the magical letter g. Yeah, magical. ‘Cause not only does it transform instelf into vowels, it can even make itself disappear. The general transformations are “g” → “i” after a vowel like “e”; “g” → “y” after a vowel like “ø”; and “g” → “Oh my god, it's disappeared!” after the vowel combination “ei”.

 

Nynorsk Bokmål English
Veg Vei Road
Spegel Speil Mirror
Høgre Høyre Right (as in not left)
Høg Høy High
Husleige Husleie Rent
Eigedom Eiendom Property
Nynorsk graffiti
I hate Norway in Nynorsk – Irony? (Flickr)

 

Diphthongs and Common Vowel Alterations

Diphthongs are two vowels that come together beside each other in total harmony to make a new and peaceful tomorrow. English is full of diphthongs (house, coin, liar, liar, pants on fire), but none of these are as awesome as the Modern Norwegian diphthongs which go all the way back to the bloody Vikings! Rock and Roll!

Did you wake up this morning thinking you could excited about diphthongs? Me neither. But here are the three Viking vowel combinations, and their Bokmål equivalents: “ei” → “e”, “øy” → “ø”, “au” → “ø”. Let's confuse ourselves with examples.

 

Nynorsk Bokmål English
Meir Mer More
Stein Sten Stone
Å løyse Å løse To loosen
Å høyre Å høre To hear
Auga Øye Eye
Austlandet Østlandet Eastern Norway

 

Maybe you noticed that most people write stein in Bokmål, and that sten is an optional, secondary spelling. You're right! Bokmål is a bit inconsistent with how it chooses to represent these viking vowels, but you're just going to have to live with it 🙁

In addition to the diphthongs, the Modern Norwegian “u” often corresponds to Bokmål “o”, and Modern Norwegian “o” can correspond to one of “a” , “å”, or “u”. I don't really know the rules for when you choose one or the other (there probably aren't any), but I think it's enough just to be aware that there are these possibilities.

Inflections

Unfortunately, Modern Norwegian and Bokmål don't have the same inflections. Fortunately, they're pretty similar, and it's much much much much much much much easier going from Modern Norwegian to Bokmål than it is the other way around. The basic rules are: “ar” → “er”, “ane” → “ene”, “are” → “ere”, “ast” → “est”. Pretty easy. Of course, nothing can be completely easy, so I'm going to explain two of the more common irregularities (the others you can just learn as you come across them).

In Bokmål, if I wanted to write “the houses” or “the ships” I would write “husene” and “skipene”. In Modern Norwegian, these words are written “husa” and “skipa”, so the “a” here corresponds to “ene” in Bokmål. However, not every “a” at the end of a word should be changed to “ene”, because Modern Norwegian always writes feminine words as feminine, so “jenta” and “boka” would be “the girl” and “the book” (which you will recognise from Bokmål”, and so should be left as they are.

 

Nynorsk Bokmål English
Elskar Elsker Loves
Byar Byer Towns
Pakkane Pakkene The packages
Raskare Raskere Faster
Dyrast Dyrest Most expensive
Landa Landene The countries

 

Miscellaneous

Well, this is a long post, but we're nearing the end now. Good on you for sticking it out so far. This is the last section, and just covers some sundry items that I didn't cover elsewhere, so be prepared for an eclectic mix of jazz, verbs, and third items.

In Modern Norwegian there are these verbs which don't end in -r in the present tense. Instead, they either have a different form (like how Bokmål å vite → vet), or the stem is used by itself. So, Bokmål trenger, sitter, kommer (needs, sits, comes) are written treng, sit, kjem in Modern Norwegian.

A very common phrase in Modern Norwegian is “Me sjåast” – see you later. It's made up of “me”, which means “we”, “å sjå” which is “å se” in Bokmål, and “-ast” which is the passive. In Bokmål, this would be “vi sees”.

In Modern Norwegian, “han” (he) and “ho” (she) are used instead of “den” (it) when referring to an object. So if you see “Eg likte filmen. Eg likte han også.”, then “han” here refers to the film (since it's film-en, masculine), and not some dude.

Pronouns in Modern Norwegian all different and confusing, so here's a chart of the more different and confusing ones.

 

Nynorsk Bokmål English
Han Han, Ham He, Him
Honom Ham Him
Ho Hun, Henne She, Her
Henne Henne Her
Me Vi We
Dei De, Dem They, Them
Dykk Dere You (plural, object)

 

What I've covered so far isn't going to be enough for you to actually write Modern Norwegian (if you want to do that, buy the book Norwegian Nynorsk by Peter Hallaråker), and it's not a complete overview of the differences, but it's enough to stop you from being so confused about things. If you ever come across a word in Modern Norwegian that you don't know, then the dictionaries at lexin.no (Nynorsk → Bokmål, Nynorsk → Engelsk) will give you a helping hand.

Okay, I think I'm going to lie down now.

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About the Author: Bryce Miller

4 Comments

  1. Loving these posts! Nicely done 😀
    However, it’s very unusual to see Nynorsk being referred to as Modern Norwegian instead of just Nynorsk..
    If I understood correctly, you wrote the nominativ and akkusativ (‘fraid I don’t know the English names for these) cases in the first line, with dativ in the second. However, I can’t help but wonder – is “honom” recognized as Nynorsk? It sounds a bit too Swedish for my taste, and as we’ve just started our mandatory Nynorsk lessons at school, our teacher goes on and on about the cases (nominativ + akkusativ + genitiv) in Nynorsk. Most young people don’t differ between “han” and “ham” when speaking (Oslo dialect), and according to the book we use, Nynorsk only uses “han” – in nom. and akk. alike.
    My apologies if I’m wrong about this, but using “honom” in Nynorsk just doesn’t make sense, and I can’t recall having seen it..

    1. Hi, Tora!

      Really pleased that you’re enjoying these articles!

      You’re right that most people will call the written form Nynorsk (the official name in English is Norwegian Nynorsk), and some people will call it New Norwegian, but I don’t find these names satisfactory. I don’t think the name for the language in English should include any Norwegian (since that’s confusing), and I consider “New Norwegian” to be a poor translation (probably says more about me than anyone/thing else). If we use the word Nygresk as a model, then, as the translation of Nygresk in English is Modern Greek, then it follows that Nynorsk should be called Modern Norwegian in English. I also like this translation better since Ivar Aasen’s vision was to create a written form for Norwegian which not only reflected contemporary Norwegian speech, but which also descended from Old Norwegian.

      The table of pronouns is probably a bit confusing ;). The way to read the table is literally just Nynorsk -> Bokmål -> English. So Nynorsk “han” can correspond to both Bokmål “han” and “ham” (both subject and object). “honom”, on the other hand, can only correspond to “ham” (only object). It’s the same for “ho”/”henne”. “honom” is the main form for the object, but you’re right that “han” is more popular 🙂

      Pronouns in Norwegian are really interesting if you’re a language nerd like me. Eight different ways to say jeg/eg, and just as many ways of saying dere/dykk! Some dialects don’t distinguish between subject, object, or genitive, so they say things like: Oss gjekk heim til oss med kjærestane oss. Really interesting. Hey, I’m interested 🙁

      Good comment, thanks for reading!

  2. Hei,

    Jeg har studert norsk i USA, og på grunn av ressurser kan jeg studere bare bokmål. Jeg vil lære nynorsk, for familien min kom fra Bergen (og andre område deromkring). Jeg ville å bruke nynorsk fra utgangspunktet! Jeg så anbefalinga di for boka av Hallaråker, men jeg kan ikke finne en kopi som er tiljengelig i USA. Har du anbefalinger for andre bøker for å lære nynorsk? Jeg er en amatør språkforsker, derfor bøkene trenger ikke å være innledende eller enkle.

    Tusen takk!

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