Norwegian letter ‘å’ celebrates centennial

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It’s been 100 years since the Norwegian language formally embraced the letter “å” to replace writing “aa” to form the sound that roughly sounds like “oh.” Now the country’s leading language expert thinks an appropriate birthday gift would be inclusion of the “å” in the accepted online alphabet.

“The demand that only English letters can be shown in Internet addresses is simply a banal technical problem,” Åse Wetås, director of the Norwegian language council Språkrådet, told newspaper Aftenposten on Tuesday. Both Wetås and her employer have quite a few “å”s in their own names and she thinks the omission of the “å” in online writing is “terribly embarrassing,” as is the lack of the Norwegian “ø” and “æ.” Norway’s language council can’t properly write its own name in URLs, for example, where it comes out as “sprakradet.” In Norwegian, that’s pronounced entirely differently from “språkrådet.”

The “å” was adopted in 1917 to replace “aa” in court documents and avoid having three “a”s in a row in some names like the village of Håa in Levanger. Before 1917 it was written as Haaa, which raised questions as to whether it should be prounced as “Ha-oh” or “Hoh-ah.”

The “å,” which also is used in Danish, Swedish and Finnish, was also immediately taken into use in text books and dictionaries, but the Norwegian public was slow to embrace the change. Newspaper Aftenposten itself reported that it didn’t start using the “å” in its publication until 1928, and its use wasn’t made mandatory in Aftenposten’s style book until 1938.

newsinenglish.no staff