Urban East Norwegian

Urban East Norwegian (UEN) or Standard East Norwegian (Bokmål: standard østnorsk, Urban East Norwegian: [ˈstɑndɑɖ ˇœstnɔʂk]) is a de facto spoken standard of Bokmål/Riksmål in much of Eastern Norway. Standard East Norwegian is primarily spoken in Central Eastern Norway, including the capital Oslo and its surrounding areas. Around a quarter of Norway's population speak Standard East Norwegian natively in some form.

Standard East Norwegian is a regarded as a standard language with roots in Eastern Norwegian elites' pronunciation of Danish; it doesn't belong to any of the Norwegian dialect groups and is markedly different from the traditional Norwegian dialects in Eastern Norway, with which it has co-existed for centuries. Standard East Norwegian together with the Norwegian dialects comprise Modern Norwegian.


Standard East Norwegian is the Eastern Norwegian regional continuation of the Eastern Norwegian variety of Norwegian Received Pronunciation (Norwegian: dannet dagligtale; lit. "educated/cultivated speech"), which originated as Eastern Norwegian elites' pronunciation of Danish (or a Norwegian variation of Danish) from the 17th century during the countries' union. As such it doesn't belong to any of the Norwegian dialect groups, but is a regional standard language that is genetically a form of Danish. Nevertheless, it is different from Danish as spoken in Denmark, and is native to Norway, and it largely shares its phonology with native Eastern Norwegian dialects, with some exceptions.

Urban East Norwegian is the modern language that is closest to 16th century Danish, even closer than contemporary Danish. It is far more similar to written Danish than contemporary Danish is; written Danish was and is conservative in that it largely reflects the Danish sound system of the 16th century, while modern spoken Danish has evolved significantly. When Norwegian elites started to speak a Norwegian variety of Danish, it was heavily influenced by written Danish.

By the time of the Dano-Norwegian union's dissolution in 1814, around one percent of Norway's population spoke Received Pronunciation natively, exclusively members of the upper class such as civil servants and burghers, and their families. By 1900 the percentage had increased to 5%, and from the 20th century Received Pronunciation massively influenced the spoken language of most people in central Eastern Norway, while traditional working class dialects in the Oslo area went nearly extinct due to their strong association with the working class and the resulting prejudices against them among the middle and upper classes. However, modern Standard East Norwegian is a continuum where it is possible to speak both pure Received Pronunciation and to incorporate elements/remnants of local dialects; a person's speech may vary depending on the audience and context. In the most central part of Eastern Norway Standard East Norwegian is the native language of most people; in less central areas, such as Gjøvik, people may still speak a dialect at home, but often adopt Standard East Norwegian when they move to Oslo or another larger city.

For the subset of East Norwegians who conformed their speech to the Bokmål norm and its predecessors, The Eastern Norwegian variation of Norwegian Received Pronunciation traditionally dominated on the stage, in broadcasting, in all educational contexts and in all professions that required an education. In the modern era the tolerance for the use of dialects in Norway as a whole is higher than previously, and the use of dialects from other parts of the country is fairly common; however some of the native dialects of Eastern Norway traditionally face more prejudices than other dialects. Linguist Arne Torp claims that there is no doubt that there is a hierarchy of dialects in Norway, where dialects from Østfold, Toten and Hedmark have comparatively low prestige, while for instance the dialect of Vinje enjoys high prestige.[1]

As of they year 2000, Standard East Norwegian is the variety of Norwegian that is most commonly taught to foreign students.[2]




  • Kristoffersen, Gjert (2000), The Phonology of Norwegian, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-823765-5
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