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https://www.duolingo.com/AmericanLarry

Swedish Roots

Why is Swedish so different from Norwegian compared to Danish if all three languages share the same roots?

2 years ago

17 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/annika_a
annika_a
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Why is Swedish so different from Norwegian compared to Danish

It really isn't. A native speaker of one can read all three pretty well. The ability to understand the different spoken languages varies between different people and different regions, but in general, Norwegians understand Swedes and Danes better than these two understand the other ones. Danish seems to be the hardest one to understand when spoken. There are also many different dialects of each...

wouldn't Denmark be the distant one, since it's much farther from Norway than Sweden?

Farther how? Don't forget that Denmark and Norway used to form a political entity for centuries. Also, Danish was the standard written language in Norway for centuries and has influenced bokmål a lot.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AmericanLarry

I meant that, if you see how similar Danish is to Norwegian, Swedish is the distant one.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/annika_a
annika_a
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Distant really is a very relative term here.

As has been mentioned here, Danish has played a huge influence in the development of Bokmål. Even so, a Swedish speaker (like me) can get around in Norway and communicate with Norwegians with minimal trouble, as long as you learn the most frequent (and funniest) false friends first.

I don't actually know of any other separate languages which would be as close to each other as these three (that's not to say there aren't any, of course -- maybe Russian and Ukranian or Czech and Slovak?).

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/devalanteriel
devalanteriel
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Distant really is a very relative term here.

I'm pretty sure that's Larry's point, though. I interpreted the question as "If there were only Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish, the former two would be more similar to each other than either paired with Swedish. Why is that?"

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/annika_a
annika_a
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OK, I'm lost now...

Norwegian and Swedish are so incredibly close to each other (in my experience), that I can't call that distance distant, however close Norwegian and Danish are (due to their twinned history).

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/annika_a
annika_a
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The point I am trying to make, and I shouldn't have used the word "relative", is that I wouldn't use the term "distant" at all.

There are many ways in which Norwegian and Swedish are (or at least seem, I'm no linguist) closer to each other than Norwegian and Danish seem to be, so it's not a simple as A, B, and C.

For example, I often detect a more "German-style" word order in Danish sentences, whereas the same sentence in Norwegian and Swedish share another word order.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/devalanteriel
devalanteriel
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Hence why the point is that it's relative. If A and B are extremely close and A and C "only" really close, then the A<->C distance will seem distant in comparison from an outside view. I wouldn't have phrased it that way myself but I don't think it was an incorrect question.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Zmrzlina
Zmrzlina
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Well, why is English so odd compared to Dutch and German, despite the same roots? ;)

Over time, the way people talk in neighbouring parts of the land naturally diverges. This process eventually leads to different languages. That is why we have Norwegian, Danish and Swedish in the mainland North Germanic branch being similar but different. The same goes for the major West Germanic languages of English, Dutch and German, which have a much lesser degree of mutual intelligibility than that of the languages in Scandinavia.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/devalanteriel
devalanteriel
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A large reason is that Norwegian has been influenced by Danish quite a lot, in large due to Norway having been Danish for a very long time. Danish was the written language in Norway for the 16th century to some 150 years or so ago, and that has shaped much of the language. There are two variations of written Norwegian, however - bokmål, which is very broadly speaking a form of Danish, and nynorsk which is the result of a conscious effort to create a new standard Norwegian from various dialects.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/brittalexiswm

I find the biggest difference in writing is this; Æ ø ö ä å

The spelling of each is different, which is great if you ever learn all 3, because it will help you differentiate between them.

As for speaking, the pronunciation is the bigger difference, but through dialects they kind of blur lines.

These languages also share roots with Elfdalian, Icelandic, and Faroese, and they all have some major differences, too. However, all 6 of these do share so many similarities, and they are fun to find ;)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DragonPolyglot
DragonPolyglot
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I don't see too much of a difference in meaning and common roots, just minor ones in spelling and vocabulary:

Example: "I am eating an apple."

Swedish: "Jag äter ett äpple."

Norwegian: "Jeg spiser et eple"

Danish: "Jeg spiser et æble"

Other than the verb and small spelling differences, all of the sentences sound almost the same and mean exactly the same thing. Maybe two of them just evolved from the other one? Or one was more influenced by something else than the other two? Either way, native speakers of one language can understand the other two to an extent, and there have been stories of speakers of these languages having to do nothing but change their accent and pronunciation to be completely understood by speakers of the other two.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/annika_a
annika_a
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Also, the verb spisa does exist in Swedish as well, but it's archaic nowadays.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SteveLando
SteveLando
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In southern Sweden it is not archaic:)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/annika_a
annika_a
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Ah OK, I was just going off only having seen it in old texts (as in seriously old, like Bellman's "Liksom hos vår Konung plägar ske // Fick Landshöfdinge och Öfverste // Vid hans tafel spisa.") and SAOL calling it åld.. :-)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/sple00

I think historically Swedish and Danish were closest and therefore grouped as East Scandinavian languages. Norwegian, Icelandic and Faroese is the West Scandinavian group. Since Icelandic and Faroese was isolated they did not have the same development and today Norwegian is closer to Swedish and Danish since they developed together (with a lot of influence from Low German).

As many people already pointed out the written Bokmål is basically Danish. No doubt they are the closest. On the other hand the pronunciation is very different. Nynorsk is less influenced by Danish and have some similarities to Swedish that Bokmål has not. But that's the lingvist point of view, nynorsk is hard to understand for Swedes and sometimes even for Bokmål speakers.

So which is closest depends on which Norwegian you are taking about and if it's the written or the spoken form you compare.

2 years ago