Differences between Riksmål and Bokmål

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Differences between Riksmål and Bokmål

Postby Lenguas » 2011-08-13, 23:16

What are the differences between Riksmål and Bokmål?

There are no distinct masculine and feminine genders. The genders used are "common" and "neuter" (felleskjønn and intetkjønn). The nouns which in bokmål are masculine or feminine generally fall into the "common" category, and the grammar rules generally follow those of masculine nouns in bokmål.
Some words obsoleted in bokmål are still allowed.
The alternate forms allowed for some words in bokmål are forbidden in riksmål.

Which words obsoleted in Bokmål are still permitted, and which alternate forms are forbidden?

I assume that this is how the gender and plural system works:

Singular, Plural:
Common: - -er
Neuter: - -

Definite article

Singular, Plural
Common: -en -ene
Neuter: -et -a

Do you pronounce the R and the T in -er and -et verb endings?

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Re: Differences between Riksmål and Bokmål

Postby TimmyP » 2011-08-14, 18:10

There really isn't a huge difference between bokmål and riksmål nowadays to be honest. Bokmål has become a lot more flexible lately, and more conservative forms of words, which were excluded based on political ideology, have been re-introduced, especially after the last bokmål language reform in 2005.

In fact, nearly any riksmål sentence will be de-facto bokmål as well, with some exceptions. So to answer your question; the differences between bokmål and riksmål depend a lot on the words and word forms that the particular individual uses.

The gender and plural system for nouns can be quite involved in Norwegian, but here are some of the main paradigms for riksmål, which are also all permissible in bokmål by the way. Bokmål paradigms are more complex than these as there is more flexibility.

Common gender en-ending
en gutt, gutten, gutter, guttene
en lærer, læreren, lærere, lærerne

Common gender a-ending
en jente, jenta, jenter, jentene

Common gender a and e-ending (choice is up to writer)
en brygge, bryggen/brygga, brygger, bryggene

Neuter gender
et hus, huset, hus, husene
et barn, barnet, barn, barna
et ansikt, ansiktet, ansikter, ansiktene
et faktum, fakumet, fakta, faktaene


Looking at the paradigms here, the greatest (only!) difference is that in riksmål there is no feminine indefinite article, while in bokmål the writer can choose to use 'ei' or 'en'. Ultimately though, if you come across a word, to be sure of its inflection you would need to look it up in a riksmål dictionary.

As to your question about words that are permitted in one but not the other; after the bokmål reforms, Riksmål can be considered a subset of bokmål, so there aren't that many words that aren't considered bokmål as well. I can only think of a few, namely...

Riksmål only words: efter, farve, sne

However, there are a huge amount of words that wouldn't be considered riksmål, but to be frank many are small spelling differences like:

Riksmål and bokmål: fremtid
bokmål only: framtid

A good general rule here is that any word close to nynorsk will probably be allowed in bokmål with small changes to spelling, but strictly forbidden in riksmål. Words that are similar to Danish would definitely be in riksmål, and after the reforms now in bokmål, but not in nynorsk.

Lastly concerning pronunciation, there is no official way of pronouncing riksmål. Norwegians will actually tell you that it is impossible to speak bokmål or nynorsk as they are only written languages. The amount of heated discussions I've had on that topic!

The official line from each group is that bokmål, riksmål, nynorsk and samnork can be used equally well regardless of someone's dialect. So as a foreign language learner, the normal advice would be to try and pick up the same dialect as where you live, and write in whichever written language is dominant in that area. I don't particularly agree with that advice, but that is what language learners are normally told.

If you don't live in Norway, I would have said choose the dialect that you like the sound of most, but the problem with that advice is simply finding enough language learning resources to support your learning. So by far the easiest way is simply to learn the West-Oslo dialect of Norwegian, which (not so) co-incidentally happens to be the closest to riksmål anyway!

If you are going to learn the West-Oslo dialect for learning riksmål, then the present tense of verbs should have a rolled 'r', and the neuter definite article's 't' is normally silent.

Have fun!
Last edited by TimmyP on 2011-09-23, 23:52, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Differences between Riksmål and Bokmål

Postby Aleco » 2011-08-14, 18:38

Neuter plural can also be -er ;)

The R is pronounced, the T is not (only for definite neuter endings).

Not entirely sure what these obsoleted words would be, but as for the alternate forms, I am guessing the Danish forms are the norm.
Danish / Conservative Bokmål vs. Norwegian
bod vs. bu (shed)
syv vs. sju (seven)
tyv vs. tjuv (thief)
tro vs. tru (believe)

(By the way, "hensikt" is masculine ;) )
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Re: Differences between Riksmål and Bokmål

Postby TimmyP » 2011-08-14, 19:26

Ops sorry! I meant to write ansikt, which would have covered neuter plural being plural with 'er' had I not written hensikt! :D

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Re: Differences between Riksmål and Bokmål

Postby Lenguas » 2011-08-14, 23:47

Common gender a-ending
en jente, jenta, jenter, jentene
Is that the femine gender? Why does Riksmål have a feminine gender? Why isn't it "jenten"? Or is that just because jente ends in an e?

Can you say "Det store hus" instead of "Det store huset"?

Are the following allowed?
late - lot - lattet, sige - sagde - sagt, blive - blev - blevet

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Re: Differences between Riksmål and Bokmål

Postby TimmyP » 2011-08-15, 13:44

Well yes and no. In riksmål there is no feminine gender, just the neuter and the common gender. The common gender is then split into two subgroups: -en ending nouns and -a ending nouns.

I wouldn't get too hung up on the semantics though. This is just a different way riksmål grammarians have chosen to describe the same phenomena in Norwegian. And rather than classifying these nouns into a separate group, as in bokmål, they have one larger group called common gender. But it is more or less the same thing.

I say more or less, as some nouns that are feminine in bokmål are not so in riksmål, and some nouns that are common gender -a ending nouns in riksmål could be masculine in bokmål, especially after the bokmål language reforms. It is also perfectly acceptable to write 'en jente', but 'jenta' in bokmål, which of course would be the same as in riksmål anyway.

As to your question why does riksmål have a feminine gender, or a common gender with some nouns ending in 'a' in the definitive. The short answer would be because that is how Norwegian is spoken. Riksmål reflects the way certain Norwegians speak and has evolved based on those norms.

Oh and just for clarity, there is no definitive way of working out the inflectional pattern or gender of any noun by just looking at its base form. Jente is a common gender -a ending noun simply because it is. The only way to be really sure of what gender and inflection any noun has, is to look it up in a dictionary.

The rules for double determination are the same in riksmål and bokmål. One of which is that institutions should not have double determination. So the famous example is:

Det hvite hus (The White House = where the president hangs out)
Det hvite huset (The white house = a certain house that is painted white)

This can get quite complex though. For example, it is fine to say 'den kalde krigen' as well as 'den annen verdenskrig'. There isn't a rule here, you just have to read a lot and see how Norwegians express themselves, then copy them.

As for the verbs. 'Å sige' and 'å blive' are considered obsolete. 'Å late' is still used but has 'har latt' as its Present Perfect.

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Re: Differences between Riksmål and Bokmål

Postby Remis » 2011-08-15, 15:05

Aleco wrote:Danish / Conservative Bokmål vs. Norwegian
bod vs. bu (shed)
syv vs. sju (seven)
tyv vs. tjuv (thief)
tro vs. tru (believe)

How does that make sense? I live in East-side Oslo and speak what is called "Standard Østnorsk" (standard Eastern Norwegian) with an Oslo sort of sound to it, and yet I write bod, tyv and tro. I vary between syv and sju, have never heard tjuv, and generally pronounce bod as bu.

Essentially repeating people here, but... As for Lenguas's question, what I've heard is that Riksmål is essentially Danish (spoken before and during Ivar Aasen's creation of nynorsk), while Bokmål is the Norwegianised form. I also think that you would write the letter å as "aa" in Riksmål.
You've got something called Høgnorsk as well, which is extremely conservative Nynorsk.
I have never heard Høgnorsk nor Riksmål in real life; I think the closest dialect to the latter is the Southern Norwegian one, around Kristiansand and such (due to a greater influence from Denmark).
If you're considering learning Riksmål, well, it's not the best idea. Most Norwegians would probably think you're from the 18th century or something like that; I know I would. And if you have an English accent to boot, well...

By the way, you're allowed to write/say "jenten" in Bokmål and I think Nynorsk. Most people don't, however. It's easier to pronounce "jenta" anyway.
That said, you're allowed to write almost anything in Bokmål and pass it off as a dialect or colloquialisms.
I don't particularly like it.
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Re: Differences between Riksmål and Bokmål

Postby Aleco » 2011-08-16, 17:22

How it makes sense? The written norms affect the spoken language, and some parts of the traditional Oslo dialect affects the written language :) What I wrote above is the truth though. The words I wrote down as Danish, are in fact Danish forms of the same word. The way the written language affects people is that the Norwegian forms make the writer look ineloquent and uneducated to most Norwegians. And although most people would say "brygga", I bet most people still write "bryggen" :wink:

As for "jenta", it used to be a part of a group of words that had to be treated as feminine nouns a little while back. So basically, there's a whole generation who grew up having to write "jenta."

Then let me ask you, why don't you write "bod" as "bu" if that is what you say? :)
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Re: Differences between Riksmål and Bokmål

Postby Heimdal » 2011-08-16, 18:23

Remis wrote:That said, you're allowed to write almost anything in Bokmål and pass it off as a dialect or colloquialisms.
I don't particularly like it.

Why not? I like that I can write close to my spoken language, and that is still have some structures to it. I agree that there would be complete chaos if everybody wrote exactly as they spoke, but we are far from there.

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Re: Differences between Riksmål and Bokmål

Postby Johanna » 2011-08-16, 23:33

Aleco wrote:Then let me ask you, why don't you write "bod" as "bu" if that is what you say? :)

Is "bo" ok?

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Re: Differences between Riksmål and Bokmål

Postby Hunef » 2011-08-18, 23:14

Remis wrote:[...] have never heard tjuv [...]
Not even in Swedish? :hmm:

(N.B.: In Jamtish it's tjøv [tʃʰøːʋ], from Old West Norse þjófr rather than Old East Norse þjúfr which has given Danish tyv and Swedish tjuv.)
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Re: Differences between Riksmål and Bokmål

Postby Diogenes » 2011-08-19, 0:47

Only a joke, but this is a funny read: http://ikkepedia.org/wiki/Riksm%C3%A5l
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Re: Differences between Riksmål and Bokmål

Postby TimmyP » 2011-08-20, 0:28

I have never heard Høgnorsk nor Riksmål in real life; I think the closest dialect to the latter is the Southern Norwegian one, around Kristiansand and such (due to a greater influence from Denmark).
If you're considering learning Riksmål, well, it's not the best idea. Most Norwegians would probably think you're from the 18th century or something like that;


Just thought that I'd add that there really isn't that much of a difference between Bokmål and Riksmål, and you definitely wouldn't sound like you are from the 18th century! :D

You might want to check out this link from Riksmålforbundet for a more neutral view about Riksmål.

By the way, I do know people who say that they 'speak' Riksmål, and yes they live in Oslo West.

Lastly from a language learners point of view, learning Riksmål could be very beneficial, as there are far fewer word variants. The only problem would be finding any specific language learning materials for Riksmål.

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Re: Differences between Riksmål and Bokmål

Postby TimmyP » 2011-08-20, 0:36

Why not? I like that I can write close to my spoken language, and that is still have some structures to it.


While I'm at it! Perhaps Heimdal should check out this link!

So now everyone has there own party to support! :cheery:

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Re: Differences between Riksmål and Bokmål

Postby Lenguas » 2011-08-20, 0:49

The only problem would be finding any specific language learning materials for Riksmål.
Well, I think it would be mostly a matter of learning the spelling differences between it and radical bokmål, and the differences between it and Danish.

Jeg tenker at det er prinsipielt en affære av å lære forskjellene mellom det og radikalt bokmål og forkjellene mellom det og dansk.

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Re: Differences between Riksmål and Bokmål

Postby Heimdal » 2011-08-20, 8:10

TimmyP wrote:
Why not? I like that I can write close to my spoken language, and that is still have some structures to it.


While I'm at it! Perhaps Heimdal should check out this link!

So now everyone has there own party to support! :cheery:

I have read that one before, but I actually didn't know that I was "allowed" to write so "radical".

Ikke rart det må være forvirrende å lære norsk når omtrent hvert ord har 2 forskjellige stavemåter.

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Re: Differences between Riksmål and Bokmål

Postby steinp » 2019-01-03, 21:14

TimmyP wrote:Lastly from a language learners point of view, learning Riksmål could be very beneficial, as there are far fewer word variants. The only problem would be finding any specific language learning materials for Riksmål.


Nearly all books in Norway are written in a language that is far, far closer to riksmål than to traditional bokmål, i.e. the bokmål that existed in the 1950s–1960s as a language that was separate from riksmål. Bokmål in its traditional form was a highly odd language that was in reality only used by diehard ideological (samnorsk-supporting) language bureaucrats. For example "vatn" was the prescribed spelling in bokmål, while "vann" (used by 90% of Norwegians) was only allowed in riksmål. Same goes for "botn" (riksmål: "bunn"), "mjøl" (riksmål: "mel"), "fjør" (riksmål: "fjær"), "sakne" (riksmål: "savne") and "golv" (riksmål: "gulv"). And obviously "frem" was only allowed in Riksmål until 1981, despite being preferred by a majority.

It would be extremely hard to find books in actual bokmål (pre-1981 spelling). In reality the dominant form of today's bokmål is riksmål that has simply been readmitted into the bokmål spelling mainly in the 1981 and 2005 reforms, because the bokmål faction was losing the language struggle as the press, academics, the courts and the general population steadfastly refused to use their bokmål forms. On the other hand the differences between today's riksmål/moderate bokmål and traditional riksmål as it existed when bokmål and riksmål were really separate forms are miniscule and limited to a handful of words that have been lightly modernised. Today there are hardly any differences left between the "official" bokmål and riksmål, primarily because nearly all of riksmål has been approved as part of bokmål.

TimmyP wrote:Lastly concerning pronunciation, there is no official way of pronouncing riksmål. Norwegians will actually tell you that it is impossible to speak bokmål or nynorsk as they are only written languages


That is not correct and they won't tell you that. Riksmål is both a written and a spoken language, and has evolved directly from Danish as it was used as a written language in Norway before 1814 and the spoken form of Danish (influenced by Norwegian) that had become the native language of the Norwegian elites at that time. This language exists to this day in the form of "standard østnorsk", which isn't a Norwegian dialect (it differs significantly from the actual dialects of Eastern Norway), but a standard language derived from Danish. It is spoken natively by more than a million people all over Eastern Norway (not just Oslo). Conscious riksmål speakers will also call their spoken language riksmål, and they are more likely to use somewhat more conservative/refined/Danish language forms with less influences from "the people's language" as the dialects in Eastern Norway were often called in the past.

The claim that there is "no spoken standard form" of Norwegian is an ideologically motivated claim emanating from the (ideological part of the) nynorsk and traditional samnorsk camp, itself a tiny group of people, who are very aware that their claims are far from the reality in Norway, but continue to make that claim based solely on ideology. Telling foreigners that isn't helpful at all because it doesn't help them understand the language situation; it should be made clear that this is not a fact, but an ideological position (of samnorsk/nynorsk supporters) on the very real existence of a spoken standard language. Their reason for making this claim is that they refuse to recognise the existence of language that isn't somehow state-sanctioned, itself a strange position that is at odds with how languages work. The main reason for that rather authoritarian stance is probably resentment towards to the dominance of the (non-state sanctioned) riksmål language in the media, in academia and so on during the height of the Norwegian language struggle, and the failure of the state apparatus to change that situation by law (unsurprising, as the legal profession themselves were the most conservative and resisted samnorsk the most). The claim isn't heard much in Norway itself, because anyone will recognise it as preposterous. Anyone in Norway know that riksmål/moderat bokmål has a spoken standard form, even if it is associated with Eastern Norway.

TimmyP wrote:So by far the easiest way is simply to learn the West-Oslo dialect of Norwegian, which (not so) co-incidentally happens to be the closest to riksmål anyway!

There is no such thing as the "West-Oslo dialect of Norwegian". As mentioned, standard østnorsk/riksmål/dannet dagligtale isn't confined to Oslo at all. People speak that language in Drammen, Skien and many other places, and have always done. Additionally, the Oslo dialect is very much unrelated to standard østnorsk/riksmål/dannet dagligtale (see https://no.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oslodialekt ).

For someone learning Norwegian today, I would recommend:


Learn the riksmål/moderat bokmål variety of Norwegian, which is used by 90% of Norwegians (for all practical purposes they are two names for exactly the same language – there might be a handful of small differences, but they are of little interest to anyone but specialist users of the language who care very deeply about very small differences and who are deeply invested in the Norwegian language struggle, itself a phenomenon largely of the past). It is easier to learn the language if you decide to focus on the riksmål part of the bokmål spectrum, mainly because bokmål still includes many unused highly odd word forms in the dictionary, and also because riksmål has a simpler grammar. Focusing on riksmål will in practice lead you to learn the prestige standard language in Norway. If you want to write in a dialectal or peculiar manner, you can learn that later.

Learn the spoken standard language associated with riksmål/moderat bokmål as it is used in the Norwegian capital and all over Eastern Norway (the most densely populated part of Norway, by far), nowadays commonly known as standard østnorsk, but sometimes also referred to as riksmål or (mainly in historical contexts) as dannet dagligtale. This is the language spoken today by most people in Oslo and central parts of Eastern Norway, that is incorrectly sometimes referred to as the "Oslo dialect" by those who are not from Oslo and who aren't aware of Oslo's history as a linguistically divided city (the dialect that is native to Oslo, known among the educated as the "people's language" or "vulgar language" [now near-extinct] used by working-class people vs the Danish-origined "cultivated (standard) language"/riksmål/standard østnorsk used by the upper and middle classes, and anyone who aspired not to work in a factory).

Even if you live in a so-called "nynorsk area", learning riksmål/moderat bokmål would be the better option. There are hardly any places in Norway where nynorsk is a majority language; even in those areas where the municipal authorities have decided on declaring the municipality as a nynorsk municipality, nynorsk is often used by only 30-40% at most. All nynorsk speakers are fluent in bokmål and very aware of their status as a tiny minority and of bokmål's status as the real standard language, whereas bokmål users are rarely comfortable using nynorsk and any text in nynorsk will always stick out as different. Bokmål users are also less likely to read texts in nynorsk; they understand nynorsk if they want to, but the problem is that many find it more tiresome to read, and some harbor some resentment (at least on an unconscious level) towards nynorsk due to its unpopularity as a mandatory school subject. All the major newspapers of Norway refuse to use nynorsk because, as they say, their readers find it tiresome to read and "don't want" to read nynorsk. The number of nynorsk users has declined to 10% and continues to decline among the young. It is essentially the written form of a regional language and not really an actual national language, that is struggling with low popularity as a result of an unsuccessful attempt to make everyone learn it. Only one or two percent in the Norwegian capital write in nynorsk.

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Re: Differences between Riksmål and Bokmål

Postby TeneReef » 2019-02-12, 20:40

I don't like Bokmål, only Nynorsk. It's closer to the dialects I love (Vossamål, Sognemål).
Few people learning ''standard East Norwegian'' manage to master the East Norwegian pitch accent.
So, they always sound foreign. Western varieties (high tone dialects) are easier to imitate, at least for speakers of Croatian, which is also a pitch accent language.
For example the first tone used in high tone dialects matches the falling tone in Croatian, and the second tone is similar
to a rising tone in Croatian.

Nynorsk using parts of Norway are more prosperous and people there live longer:
https://framtida.no/2012/01/26/lever-le ... ynorskland

Nynorsk literature is popular in Norway, and foreign bestsellers are oftentimes translated into Nynorsk, for example the books by Anna Gavalda or Elena Ferrante. You can't be a Norwegian teacher if you don't master Nynorsk, anythere in Norway. And if you want to work in Bergen or Ålesund hospitals, make sure you're aware Nynorsk is the official written language there. Even Bergen streetcar system changed to Nynorsk, because it's a Hordaland service, not a local Bergen one.

steinp wrote:The number of nynorsk users has declined to 10% and continues to decline among the young. It is essentially the written form of a regional language and not really an actual national language.


So what, many people prefer scenic fjords of the West to the boring Oslo fjord.
Many people in India still learn Bengali, Telugu etc even though they're only used by 10 % of Indian population.

With its number of users, Nynorsk is twice as large as Icelandic, and continues much stronger than Welsh or Irish.

East Norwegians have to make a difference between Nynorsk as an obligatory school subject and Nynorsk as a written language. It's childish to hate on Nynorsk just because you don't like it. Many children don't like math and want it off the school curriculum. The same thing with Irish in Ireland. Here, I praise the American model of schooling where students choose 5 subjects they like and they want to learn instead of having 15 mandatory subjects, as in Europe.
If you don't like Nynorsk, don't learn it, don't use it. But, the dislike will be shared and Bokmål will be optional subject in many schools in the Norwegian West.

Some Western cities have Bokmål as their official written form (e.g. Stavanger), but their dialect is almost 80% Nynorsk.
They hate on Nynorsk on the basis of narcissism of small differences. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissis ... ifferences

If you say things like EG and ME and write it as JEG and VI
you are practically diglossic.

HELSING :wink:
विकृतिः एवम्‌ प्रकृति
learning in 2019: (no-nn)


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