Sunday, 12 June 2016

ENG: Differences between Danish and Norwegian – Infographic on the Written Languages

The infographic below sums up the main differences between the Danish and Norwegian (Bokmål) written languages.For a Swede it may at first glance be hard to determine in which of these two Scandinavian languages a text is written, but here are a few clues. A more thorough presentation follows after the infographic.

It is not surprising that written Norwegian is very closely related to Danish because, from 1397 to 1885, Norwegians in fact used to use Danish as "their own" script. Since the most commonly used Norwegian of today, Bokmål, is a more modern written language (this is also valid for Nynorsk) its structure is simpler and it matches the actual pronunciation much better than what is the case in Danish.

Single or Double Consonant in Word Endings 

-g/t or -gg/-tt

In Danish you write a single consonant at the end of words although the preceding vowel is pronounced short. (In inflected forms of the same word, where the consonant sound is followed by a vowel, you have to write double consonants in Danish as well, like in English). In Norwegian Bokmål the short pronunciation of a word ending is indicated through double consonants (like in Swedish).
  • Danish: væg (væggen), kat (katten)
  • Norwegian: vegg (veggen), katt (katten)
  • English: wall (the wall), cat (the cat)
  • Swedish: vägg (väggen), katt (katten)


Voiced or unvoiced consonants in Word Endings

-d/-g or –t/-k 

If you find voiced consonants in word endings, the text is most likely written in Danish. In this position, Norwegian (like Swedish) tends to have unvoiced consonants.
  • Danish: mad, ud, tag
  • Norwegian: mat, ut, tak
  • English: food, out, roof
  • Swedish: mat, ut, tak


Double Consonants where One of them is "Not Pronounced"

-nd-/-ld- or –nn-/-ll- 

In Danish you can find -nd- and -ld-, respectively, where you in Norwegian Bokmål write -nn- and -ll- (like in Swedish).
  • Danish: kvinder, kande, falde
  • Norwegian: kvinner, kanne, falle
  • English: women, jug, fall
  • Swedish: kvinnor, kanna, falla


Short -ae- and -e-sounds or only -e-

-æ-/-e- or -e-

In Danish (like in Swedish) modern pronunciation of the short vowels æ and e are the same. The two different spellings can only justified through historical origins. In Norwegian this has been simplified and you consistently write –e-.
  • Danish: skæg, hjælp, fem
  • Norwegian: skjegg, hjelp, fem
  • English: beard, help, five
  • Swedish: skägg, hjälp, fem


Which Consonant in Front of a Front Vowel

-g-/k- eller gj-/kj- 

In front of front vowels you write –gj- and –kj-, respectively, in Norwegian Bokmål in order to indicate the changed pronunciation of the consonant sound. The Danish spelling (but not the pronunciation) coincides with Swedish.
  • Danish: gennem, gøre, køre
  • Norwegian: gjennom, gjøre, kjøre
  • English: through, do, drive
  • Swedish: genom, göra, köra


Historically conditioned spelling with –ds-

-ds- or -s- 

 In Danish you might find the spelling -ds- where you in Norwegian Bokmål only write -s- or -ss- (like in English and Swedish).
  • Danish: bedst, sidst,
  • Norwegian: best, sist,
  • Swedish: bäst, sist,
  • English: best, last


The Numerals 50-90

syvoghalvfjerds or syttisy

For the numerals from 50 to 90 Danish uses a unique base 20 numeral system. In Norwegian you use base 10 numerals (like in English and Swedish). In Danish, the numerals from 21 to 99 are read out with the singular digit preceding the tens (like in German) or twenties. In Norwegian Bokmål you usually do not do this any longer (like in English and Swedish).
  • Danish: syvoghalvfjerds
  • Norwegian:  syttisyv
  • <
  • English: seventyseven
  • li> Swedish: sjuttiosju


Common Small Words Written Differently


  • Danish: af, mig, dig, I, jeres,
  • Norwegian:  av, meg, deg, dere, deres
  • English: by/of, me, you (object singular), you (subject plural), you (object plurarl)
  • Swedish: av, mej (mig), dej (dig), ni, er


Spelling of Loanwords 

In Danish, the spelling of loanwords tends to be similar to that of the original language. In Norwegian Bokmål the spelling is adapted to local pronunciation.
  • Danish: information, chauffør
  • Norwegian:  informasjon, sjåfør
  • Swedish: information, chaufför
  • English: information, chauffeur/driver


Subordinate Clauses Beginning with That

In Danish, before a subordinate clause beginning with that you write a comma (like in German), while this is left out in Norwegian Bokmål (as in English and Swedish).
  • Danish: Jeg ved, at han ror.
  • Norwegian:  Jag vet at han ror.
  • English:  I know that he rows.
  • Swedish: Jag vet att han ror.
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Snacka skandinaviska; Lindgren/Havaas; Prodicta 2012
Wikipedia på danska  

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This article will continously be improved according to the advice I will receive from my Danish and Norwegian friends. :)

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Swedish version

1 comment:

  1. Yes its very helpful.
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    DUDEN - Die Grammatik pdf


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