The language spoken in Norway in the days of the Vikings, a growth from old Teutonic roots, is still spoken in Iceland by the descendants of Norse emigrants to that island; in Norway it gradually changed into the various dialects still spoken by the peasants.
The written language of the kingdom, as a whole, is almost the same as that of Denmark (Danish), though in many details the Norwegian-Danish of the cities has always differed from the Danish of Copenhagen. The use of Danish was the result of the union with Denmark in the fourteenth century. For more than four hundred years from that time Norway was united with Denmark. Her sovereigns spoke Danish. It was necessary to learn Danish in order to get along either in business or in political life, so, very naturally, people gradually got into the way of using the new tongue. After a century or so Danish was the only book language the people knew. It had always had a strong resemblance to their own home speech, so the transition was not difficult.
Many words to-day in common use all over Norway show close kinship to corresponding words or phrases in German and Dutchlikewise of Teutonic origin. Moreover, a great many common words are almost precisely the same as in modern English. Generally our English word is derived from the old Anglo-Saxon, a Teutonic tongue closely akin to old Norse. Notice the following examples :
Modern Norse. Modern English. Old Anglo-Saxon
Dal Dale Dael Glad Glad Glaed Brod Bread Bread Broder Brother Brothor Kold Cold Ceald Haand Hand Hand Nord North North Over Over Ofer Salt Salt Sealt Bord Board Bord Tak Thank Thank Vind Wind Wind Vel Well Wel
Ivar Aasen, the famous poet and linguist, about half a century ago, did a great work by awakening in Nor-way new interest in the Norwegian dialects, among people who had been in the habit of speaking and reading only Danish. The idea of reviving the national language has appealed strongly to many popular writers, educators and public speakers, and a definite campaign has been conducted toward that end. The result is to-day that Norse authors are using more and more of the distinctively national speech and the written language has within a quarter century been both modified and simplifiedso much so as to lead to the making of revised dictionaries for use by Norwegians themselves and by students of their literature. Furthermore, as a result of Aasen’s agitation many writers have written in the dialects, or in a new national language, based on the dialects, the so-called Landsmaal, the literature of which is now extensive and important.