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New language law and new white paper on languages

On 12 May 2020, the Norwegian Government presented a proposal for a new language law and a new white paper on languages. Never before has Norway had a comprehensive language law. The main points are given here.

The main objective of the language policy is to ensure that the Norwegian language is used and works well in all areas of society. The Norwegian language shall be a vital pillar of society.

The proposed law

The main purpose of the law is to give the Norwegian language a legal status and stronger protection as our most important expression of culture, history and identity. The law also defines the status of other languages in Norway and will replace the existing Language Act.

Here are the main points:

 The public sector in Norway is responsible for Nynorsk and Bokmål, Norwegian sign language, Sami languages and the national minority languages Kven, Romanes and Romany.

 The public sector shall use a clear and user-oriented language.

 The public sector has a particular responsibility to promote the least used of the two Norwegian written languages – Nynorsk.

 Public bodies are responsible for using, developing and strengthening the Norwegian language as part of a sector-wide language policy.

 The Government will review the language strategies of higher education institutions and assess what is needed to safeguard the use of specialist Norwegian terminology. The language policy shall be followed up in the new Act relating to Universities and University Colleges that is currently being reviewed.

 A term portal for specialist Norwegian terminology is being developed by the University of Bergen, which is a website that collects terminology from different disciplines and makes it publicly available.

 Bokmål and Nynorsk are referred to as written languages with equal status, not as language variants. 

‘Culture and language are inextricably linked. Language creates unity and fellowship, it bears our cultural heritage, it is part of our identity and it gives us a sense of belonging.’

Abid Raja, Minister of Culture and Equality


The white paper

The information section of the white paper addresses aspects of language policy that are not applicable or relevant to regulate in law. Highlights from the information section include the following:

 Each sector in the state and each government department is responsible for following up the language policy in their respective fields of activity.

 Areas that are particularly important for the Norwegian language in the future include: the language dimension in ICT policy and culture and media policy, good- quality Norwegian language training and the development of specialist Norwegian terminology.

 The Government will appoint a public committee that will produce an Official Norwegian Report on the sign language field in order to obtain a comprehensive picture of Norwegian sign language and of the needs of its users.

‘Consideration for the minority is emphasised in this white paper.’

Gunnhild Berge Stang, State Secretary



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