The Life of a Bird: A Musing on Nynorsk

Nynorsk is quite an intriguing concept. It is the concept that a standard language can be achieved through rigorous linguistic study, and that a people can be united under it.

That concept of a culture united intoxicates me. I find myself chasing it in my dreams — awake, and asleep ones –. The idea that through all difficulties, and all historical opposition, one can arrive together.

The egg am I started not with Nynorsk, but with Québécois French. The intimacy within the dialect (débarquer, magasiner — still my favourite French verb –, à cause que, et cetera) introduced me to a foreign concept: standardisation of varieties of languages. Up until then I had been quite the amateur grammarian much to the ire of my circles. It was through frustrating my French professors with my diphthongs, and different nasal vowels that I found myself falling in love with other standards. When one learns French, one learns à la parisienne. This was no longer the case: I wanted septante, huitante/octante, and nonante.

The sperm that fertilised the egg was Icelandic. I found a world of grammar that English could have maintained. A world of expression between moods, tenses, and cases had been denied to me by a world of ‘useful’ languages, and standardised foreign language lists. French had made me fall in love with grammar, but Icelandic — even a cursory look — finished the fall that French had pushed: I was in love with language, and moreover with English.

It took years for the chick to hatch. Through picking up languages, and putting them down as a child does toys, I found Finnish with its cases, Arabic with its roots, Hebrew with its melody, Classical Chinese with its wordplay, and Japanese with its sense of self — 吾輩 will always be my favourite personal pronoun in Japanese –. Nynorsk would slowly rear its head occasionally to call me back to it.

Finally the chick hatched. One day this bird will die, and it knows it. One day this bird must fly on its own — without Duolingo, dictionaries, or Norwegian friends who help with translations –. It starts small though. It begins with playing around with på versus i. It begins with noticing that a serious lack of materials are available for learners in Nynorsk. It begins with raiding — ever slowly so that it is rather burgling information than raiding — The Language Council of Norway’s Nynorsk pages.

In other words, the bird is gobbling the hard-to-find worms, and growing stronger every night.

Thank you for all those who have helped either through language help, or emotional support.

– J. A. Victor Wilson

Key Translations/Vocabulary

French (language) fransk (m)

Culture kultur (m)

Dialect målføre (n)

Icelandic islandsk (m)

Chick kjukling (m)

Love (noun) elsk (m)

Of av Note: this is used in some passive constructions where one would use ‘by’ (ved) which is also used in some passive constructions…

After etter Note: this in Nynorsk can be used as ‘behind’ like in some dialects of English (calling out to the Northerners in the UK, and the Scots who say this)

Eg var etter bil min. I was behind my car.

Between mellom Note: spacebar is mellomromstast or ‘between space key’ but is normally shortened to mellomrom.

Around omkring

Random word:

Liggjesår (n) Bed sores. Literally ‘lie sore’, but as in ‘to lie (down)’.

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