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How Norway’s government is failing Nynorsk

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How Norway’s government is failing Nynorsk
Although the use of Nynorsk has declined under PM Erna Solberg, her office is far and away the best at using it in official communications. Photo: Marit Hommedal / NTB scanpix
14:18 CEST+02:00
The Norwegian government is falling well short of the Norwegian Language Council’s requirements for the use of Nynorsk, the lesser-used of the Nordic country’s two national languages.
According to a report from broadcaster NRK, the percentage of official parliamentary documents that are issued in Nynorsk has dropped dramatically under the administration of Prime Minister Erna Solberg. 
 
In 2012, 26.3 percent of parliamentary documents were in Nynorsk, or New Norwegian. Four years later, the proportion had declined to just 16.8 percent.
 
The Norwegian Language Council (Språkrådet) requires 25 percent of all government documents to be in Nynorsk. The Council looks at four categories of government communications: parliamentary documents, social media, documents shorter than ten pages and documents longer than ten pages. 
 
The Council said that just three governmental departments are meeting the 25 percent target. The worst offenders are the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which only used Nynorsk 2.3 percent of the time, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which used it just five percent of the time. 
 
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it took the criticism to heart and would develop a strategy to increase its use of Nynorsk. 
 
“We can see, for example, that more parliamentary documents should be in Nynorsk,” the ministry’s communications adviser, Marte Lerberg Kopstad, said in a written statement to NRK. The statement, it should be noted, was issued in Nynorsk. 
 
Just two members of the cabinet use Nynorsk as their primary language: Minister of Petroleum and Energy Terje Søviknes and Minister of Agriculture and Food Jon Georg Dale (Frp).
 
Although the use of Nynorsk has fallen on Solberg’s watch, her office is far and away the best at using the language to get its message across. The Prime Minister's office issued 33.5 percent of its communications in Nynorsk, according to the Council report. 
 
Language Council spokeswoman Kristin Solbjør said that the limited use of Nynorsk is unlikely to be a result of any “ill will”. 
 
“But in everyday life, it may be just be easy to forget to use the second language,” she told NRK. 
 
Nynorsk was developed in the 19th century and is still the less widely used of the two national tongues. A written alternative to Bokmål, the majority language, Nynorsk has also recently lost ground as the language used in schools
 
Around 12 percent of Norwegians, predominantly on the west coast around Bergen, speak Nynorsk and as of 2013, 26 percent of the country's 114 municipalities had declared Nynorsk their official language. 
 
Although it is the lesser used of the two, Nynorsk has enjoyed equal status with Bokmål since 1885.

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