New norsk dictionaries

Norway is compiling one dictionary for each of the country’s two forms of Norwegian, Bokmål and Nynorsk

Photo: New dictionaries might not be on schedule, but they are underway.

New dictionaries might not be on schedule, but they are underway.

M. Michael Brady
The Foreigner

The linguistic news of the year in Norway is that compiling one for each of the country’s two forms of Norwegian, Bokmål and Nynorsk, is well underway.

The initial goal set forth by Parliamentary decree in 2000 was for both dictionaries to be completed in 2014, in celebration of the bicentennial of the signing of the Norwegian constitution.

The Nynorsk dictionary, Norsk Ordbok 2014, is being compiled by the University of Oslo. It may well be finished on schedule—in part, because it is an extension of lexicographic work on Nynorsk that started at the University in the 1930s.

The task of compiling the Bokmål dictionary, Det Norske Akademis Store Ordbok, has become more extensive than initially assumed. In addition to the University’s Department of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies, Faculty of Humanities’ ambition to create a comprehensive reference for modern Bokmål, work on the dictionary has been entwined with work on other linguistic references in Bokmål.

These include Norsk Riksmålsordbok, Norsk Biografisk Leksikon and Historisk-kritkisk Ibsen-utgave (Norwegian Riksmål Dictionary, Norwegian Encyclopaedia of Biography, and Historically critiqued Ibsen editions, respectively).

The solution has been to combine the Bokmål and Riksmål initiatives in a single project called BRO—the abbreviation for Bokmål-Riksmål Ordbok. Moreover, the project has been broadened to invite contributions from translators, writers, and the general public, and has been popularized on NRK 1’s regular daily radio program Nitimen (“The nine o’clock hour”), on Thursdays. Publication now has been scheduled for 2017.

Norway also has two official minority Uralic languages in addition to Bokmål and Nynorsk, most prevalent in the far north: Sami, historically the language of the nomadic Sami people, and Kven, a Finnic language.

They are not included in the ongoing Norwegian dictionary projects, but comprehensive, continuously-updated educational materials for them are made available by the Open Educational Resources for Secondary Schools (NDLA) online (in Norwegian).

This article was originally published on The Foreigner. To subscribe to The Foreigner, visit

It also appeared in the Nov. 7, 2014, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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