[Wikipedia-l] Language policy agreement in the Norwegian Wikipedia community

Bjarte Sørensen bjarte.sorensen at gmail.com
Mon Apr 25 21:49:25 UTC 2005

Dear all,

Most of you would be aware of some of the discussions that have occurred 
around Wikipedia in the Norwegian languages. Since the last round of 
discussions on this list, there has been a lot of internal debate, as 
well as what seems to be a fairly widely accepted agreement following 

This e-mail intends to, after a brief recap on Norwegian language and 
wikipedia issues, take those interested through the latest development 
and will stake out the road ahead. It is also intended to inform the 
international community about the current agreement on no.wikipedia, so 
as to prevent misunderstandings in the future.

Finally, we will mention an unfortunate reaction to the vote by a small 
number of users at the Norwegian Bokmål/Riksmål (no:) wikipedia who want 
to disregard the result of the voting and are planning to create a 
_third_ Norwegian wikipedia with the sole mission of mixing the contents 
of the two current Norwegian versions.

== A short language history of Norway ==

Spoken Norwegian ("norsk") (ISO 639-2 alpha-2 code "no") is in a fairly 
unique situation compared to most other languages of the world in that 
it has two widely accepted written standards, Bokmål (ISO 639-2 alpha-2 
code "nb") and Nynorsk (ISO 639-2 alpha-2 code "nn"). By national 
legislation they are both regarded as official written forms of 
Norwegian. In addition, many people still make a distinction between 
Bokmål and its precursor which still is in use, Riksmål.

Briefly speaking, Bokmål and Riksmål are descendants of the Danish 
written language. Until the 1800s, Danish was the only widely used 
written language in Norway as a result of four centuries of union with 
Denmark. With increasing independence came a wish to norwegianise the 
Danish standard, with Knud Knudsen at the forefront for changing parts 
of the vocabulary and orthographics. Thus, Riksmål, and later Bokmål, 
resulted. These forms together are today probably used by about 90% of 
Norway's population, or somewhere around 3,500,000 people.

Parallel to this development, a new written standard was created by Ivar 
Aasen. He travelled extensively throughout Norway, and based his new 
language, landsmål, on the grammar and vocabulary of dialect samples 
from around the country. This was later renamed Nynorsk. Modern Nynorsk 
differs significantly from modern Bokmål, and may be linguistically 
looked upon as as different (or as similar if you like) as Swedish is to 
Danish. For English or Dutch/German speakers, the differences may be 
likened to those between (Lowland) Scots and English or Low German and 
Dutch. Today it is estimated that about 500,000-600,000 people have 
Nynorsk as their first written language.

More information about the Norwegian language history can be found in 
English, German, French, Spanish or Portuguese on the website of the 
Norwegian Language Council: 

== A short history of Wikipedia in Norwegian ==

The first Norwegian wikipedia started 26 November 2001 on the subdomain 
no.wikipedia.org. As most wikipedias, its contributor and article count 
started really picking up around the end of 2003. At the time, it 
accepted all written standards of Norwegian, although the amount of 
Nynorsk was minimal. There were already several debates about the 
feasibilty and appropriateness of keeping the two languages united on 
one Wikipedia. On 31 July 2004 a Wikipedia for Nynorsk was created.

The creation of nn:, however, split the community at no: wikipedia. Many 
felt that given that Nynorsk now had its own wikipedia, no: should 
become a Bokmål/Riksmål Wikipedia only. Others disapproved and claimed 
that there was no need to change and that it should continue its 
language policy of accepting all and keep its interwiki link name of 

Nynorsk Wikipedia soon proved a success, as it within the next few 
months gathered several people who had felt uncomfortable in the 
(mainly) Bokmål environment at no:. The name displayed in interwiki 
links became "Norsk (nynorsk)" (languages are not spelt with upper case 
in Norwegian). To date it continues to be one of the fastest growing 
wikipedias, with a steady article increase, now at over 6000 articles 
and >50 editors with more than 10 edits since arrival.

== Votes ==

The issue of no:'s language policy has come up time and again, and a 
vote was held in March ([[:no:Wikipedia:Målform]]) as to which policy to 
adapt. Independent of the method of the tally (whether or not to include 
new contributors etc.) there was a majority for switching to a 
Bokmål/Riksmål only language policy (50% for Bokmål/Riksmål, 43.2% for 
Bokmål/Riksmål/Nynorsk/Høgnorsk, and 6.8% for the official variants 
Bokmål/Nynorsk only).

Following this result, there is now going to be a vote on which 
interwiki link name will most appropriately reflect the current language 
policy of no:. The result of this vote will most likely be either "Norsk 
(bokmål)" or "Norsk (bokmål/riksmål)".

Understandably, there has also been a debate as to whether the subdomain 
should change from "no" to "nb", as this is the correct representation 
of Bokmål according to ISO 639-2. However, there is some resentment 
towards such a move and currently a general acceptance in letting the 
Bokmål wikipedia stay at "no". The alternative some have suggested is a 
server-side redirect from "no" to "nb", in the same way that "nb" today 
is a server-side redirect to the equivalent page on "no".

== Summary of the problem ==

Unfortunately, a small group of users (who all write Bokmål/Riksmål) are 
ignoring the results from the vote, and are claiming they want to 
re-establish a wikipedia for all written standards of Norwegian. They 
claim they have been in touch with people centrally in Wikimedia 
(developers? stewards?) and that they have so far received positive 
comments. With this email, we would like to state the fact that there 
have been no official decisions about creating a third Norwegian 
wikipedia containing both Bokmål and Nynorsk, it is merely an unofficial 
initiative from a small group of users which started a sign-on list at 
[[:no:Bruker:Norsk_Wikipedia]]. A spontaneous list with signatures 
against this activity was immediately created at 
[[:no:Wikipedia-diskusjon:Fellesnorsk]]. The process of creating a third 
Norwegian wikipedia has not gone through a voting process in any of the 
two existing Norwegian wikipedias (no: and nn:) and can not be 
considered as a decision by the Norwegian Wikipedia community.

We believe the creation of a third wikipedia under the Wikimedia 
foundation would have a serious and unfortunate impact on the existing 
wikipedias in Norwegian, no: and nn:, and would undermine Wikipedia's 
reputation in Norway. This being said, we are all for extensive co- 
operation between the four Scandinavian language wikipedias (including 
Swedish and Danish), as evident by the recent creation of 
[[:meta:Skanwiki]], the Scandinavian meta-pages, and the use of featured 
articles from neighbour wikipedias.

== Conclusion ==

Hopefully, this letter will help people better understand the 
complicated language situation of the Norwegian Wikipedia community, so 
as to give a background on which discussion can take place on this list 
in the future, such as the inevitable debate following a possible 
request for a re-establishment of the common (and third!) Norwegian 

>From the community of no.wikipedia.org and nn.wikipedia.org,

Bjarte Sørensen [[:meta:User:BjarteSorensen]] (Administrator/bureaucrat on nn:)
Lars Alvik [[:no:User:Profoss]] (Administrator/bureaucrat on no:)
Øyvind A. Holm [[:no:User:Sunny256]] (Administrator on no:)
Onar Vikingstad [[:no:User:Vikingstad]] (Administrator on no:)
Jon Harald Søby [[:no:User:Jhs]] (Administrator on no:)
Chris Nyborg [[:no:User:Cnyborg]] (Administrator on no:)
Guttorm Flatabø [[:no:User:Dittaeva]] (Administrator on nn:)
Gunleiv Hadland [[:meta:User:Gunnernett]] (Administrator on nn:)
Jarle Fagerheim [[:nn:User:Jarle]] (Administrator on nn:)
Øyvind Jo Heimdal Eik [[:en:User:Pladask]] (Administrator on nn: and no:)
Kristian André Gallis [[:nn:User:Kristaga]]
Vegard Wærp [[:no:User:Vegardw]]
Nina Aldin Thune [[:no:User:Nina]]
Thor-Rune Hansen [[:no:User:ThorRune]]
Claes Tande [[:no:User:Ctande]]
Arnt-Erik Krokaa [[:no:User:AEK]]
Rune Sattler [[:no:User:Shauni]]

More information about the Wikipedia-l mailing list