30-07-2002

Sverre Fehn Ivar Aasen Centre, Orstad, Norway, 2000

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Ivar Aasen (1813-1896) One of Norway's best-known intellectuals, remembered as a poet, writer, botanist and linguist



Sverre Fehn
Ivar Aasen Centre, Orstad, Norway, 2000
He travelled across Norway collecting words and expressions from living dialects to build the new Norwegian language, of which he is the acknowledged founder. An expert on customs, traditions and everyday life in 19th century Norway. His poems and lyrics remain among the most popular in Norway today.

The new Norwegian language
As a result of centuries of Danish dominion (1397-1814), even today Norway does not have a national language. The language spoken by the majority of the population is Bokmål (Danish-Norwegian), which preserves the old Norwegian dialect over a Danish base. After lengthy ethnographic research, Aasen published his first dictionary of the "new Norwegian" in 1850 as the first step to reclaiming cultural independence. His contribution was important at a political and ideological level as well, helping to define the Norwegian national identity. Today, only 20% of the population, mainly in rural areas, speaks Norwegian Nynorsk (new Norwegian). Though less commonly spoken than Danish-Norwegian, Nynorsk is the official language of western Norway, and is the language used by the media, in schools, in church, and by civil servants all over the country.

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