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.