Oslo dialect differences fade away

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Traditional differences between the dialects of those living on the east side of Oslo versus the west side are not nearly as clear as they once were, reports newspaper Aftenposten. It’s been conducting an informal “language test” among readers, and early results show that dialects are being blended at a rapid rate.

The east side of Oslo traditionally has been viewed as belonging more to the working class, while the west side was seen as more bourgeois. Over the past 20 years, however, many east-side neighbourhoods have become at least as popular and fashionable as west-side neighbourhoods, and just as expensive.

“Oslo has grown enormously, and there’s immigration from elsewhere in Norway, from Sweden and from countries far away,” language researcher Katrine Stjernholm at the University of Oslo told Aftenposten. “People are also moving around within the city, and they’re meeting at many more levels than ever before, at work, through interests or hobbies. Earlier, people met socially because they lived in a certain place.”

That means that now, many west-siders have started pronouncing the name of the capital as “Osh-lo,” instead of the more traditional “Oss-lo,” while more east-siders are saying “Oss-lo.” More than 100,000 Oslo residents have responded to Aftenposten‘s language survey, asking how they pronounce certain words or which dialect they use. 

On the east side, for example, the word for “how” (as in “how are you doing,”) is åssen (pronounced “oh-sen”) in the local dialect. On the west side, most use the standard hvordan (pronounced “voor-dahn”). Now that’s changing as well.

Stjernholm and a fellow researcher are analyzing the results of Aftenposten’s language test. Preliminary results show that 55 percent speak a blended “urban Oslo” dialect, while 29 percent speak west-side dialect, 15 percent speak “traditional east” and 1 percent use “street-smart.”

One thing is clear: No local residents pronounce the capital’s name as “Oz-lo.” That’s mostly left to the foreigners, and is not considered correct.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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