Norwegian is just Norwegian, OK?

Roger S. Nelsson's picture

More and more foundries include larger character sets with extended language support in their fonts. This is good.
(Not all design the "foreign" glyphs well, but that is another discussion ;)

But when promoting their language support I have noticed that many foundries list "Norwegian (bokmål)" and "Norwegian (nynorsk)" -- and some even also just "Norwegian" -- as separate entries in their list of supported languages. This looks just ignorant to a native Norwegian, as both official languages of Norway use the same character set -- they are to be considered more like dialects.

If you want to bloat your list of supported languages then go ahead and include both, but why not also include "English, American, Australian, British, Cockney, Ebonics" etc.? Makes just as much sense...

If you include the Æ, æ, Ø, ø, Å and å glyphs (and some other standard european diacritics) in your fonts they support "Norwegian". Plain and simple. OK?

So there you have it -- I hope to see some edited "supported languages" lists now...


Goran Soderstrom's picture

Bra att du sätter amerikanarna på plats :)

Roger S. Nelsson's picture

It is not just the americans, Göran - I've seen it from Dutch, German and Czech foundries, too, among others. It's bleemin' everywhere! ;)

So... Do your fonts support "Swedish (Skånsk)"? :p

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Yes, Nynorsk and Norsk use the same character set – unless I missed something very basic in school:) We also have Samisk. In the cases were the font doesn’t include a 'fj'-lig and alternate 'f's for 'få' combinations (and perhaps also 'gj'), listing support for Norwegian is somewhat misleading. The ring in 'Å' and 'å' also tend to be very poorly executed in many serifs.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

And, I'd expect an upside down R for Bergensk! ;)

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Btw: Nynorsk is a “constructed” language made up of many different dialects. Very few – if any – actually speak Nynorsk, but many write it.

Please forgive my wrong qoutation marks in the first post! I won't edit it to keep the order.

Jens Kutilek's picture

Are Bokmål and Nynorsk really different dialects/languages? I used to think it were two different orthographies for one language.

Roger S. Nelsson's picture

Bokmål and Nynorsk are classified as languages. They are about as different as, say, Swedish and Danish? Bokmål is sort of a remnant of Danish, while Nynorsk is (as Frode said) a "constructed language" with dialectal origins. Long story. ;)

But all norwegians read, write and speak just "Norwegian" -- whether they choose to use bokmål, nynorsk or any of the many dialects of our long country... THAT'S my point.

Si_Daniels's picture

Someone working for a multinational corporation, looking to license fonts for a particular project, say a catalog, may have been given a list of "languages" or perhaps even markets by their marketing department - they don't know or even care that some of these languages require the exact same character set - they just know they need to print the catalog in Russian and Ukrainian for example, so listing the languages a font supports doesn't seem that odd, if that's how the non-native customers are asking for them.

Goran Soderstrom's picture

So... Do your fonts support “Swedish (Skånsk)”? :p


Roger S. Nelsson's picture

I have nothing against language lists on foundry pages. It is good information for customers.

But I doubt such a client you describe will have specified "Norwegian Bokmål" and/or "Norwegian Nynorsk" in their shopping list. And if they did, they would probably be satisfied to find just "Norwegian", right?

@ font foundries:
If you want to attract Norwegian customers: just list support for "Norwegian" -- if you separate it into Nynorsk and Bokmål you just present yourself as a faux-knowledgable ignorant. Not trustworthy. ("If they know that little about our language they probably do not know how to design our glyphs properly")
If you want to inform international customers needing to set documents in Norwegian: list it as "Norwegian (bokmål & nynorsk)" if you must, but keep it as ONE entry! But then you might as well also list "English (UK, USA, Canadian, Australian)" -- this makes just as much sense...

It is mostly about spelling.

The separation of bokmål and nynorsk is getting out of hand -- no need to spread the confusion outside of Norway ;)

Norwegian is just Norwegian!

Jens Kutilek's picture

But then you might as well also list “English (UK, USA, Canadian, Australian)” — this makes just as much sense...

You may be up to something there ... :)

I think the term "language support" is somewhat misleading, because what really matters are orthographies, not languages.

For example: In Switzerland people speak German (among other languages), but their orthography is different from the ones used in Germany. The Swiss use no ß. So a font which contains äöü but no ß may be perfectly fine for "German (Swiss)" but not "German (Germany)". Or if you want to set an old German text which contains the long s, you would have to look out for a font supporting "German (pre-1901 reform)" or something like that.

Or take Latin: Regular Latin can be written with the bare ASCII set, but I remember my schoolbooks used to indicate long and short vowels, so there would be a need for "Latin" as well as "Latin (Grammatical)" support.

Then there are languages which aren't written at all ... and Languages that are written in multiple scripts, e.g. Serbian which uses Latin as well as Cyrillic, making it necessary to differentiate and not just list "Serbian" as supported.

Your point about Norwegian is perfectly valid, I just wanted to add some more general considerations.


Roger S. Nelsson's picture

I'll give some examples... ;)

Liza from Underware - a wonderful new font, but of the 41 supported languages 3 (!) are Norwegian.

Typotheque specializes in extremely professional text font, and boasts of supporting 188 languages. 2 are Norwegian.

Ascender should really know better... (they correctly split up all the different Sami languages, though ;)

FontFont has fallen into this trap, as well:

Even MyFonts make this strange distinction (with separate language IDs, which have identical entries):

It makes otherwise professional-looking pages look a bit silly to norwegians...

Roger S. Nelsson's picture

But there are thankfully some who just lists Norwegian as it should be listed:

To these (and others, I'm sure): keep it up! Don't fall for the temptation to bloat your "supported languages" list :)

Jens Kutilek's picture

My guess is that the confusion comes at least in part from (non font-related) languages resources like this:

(different character sets!)

And even on Wikipedia, more hints toward that a differentiation between variants of Norwegian may be desirable than against it.

Roger S. Nelsson's picture

I'm aware of these sources, and have used them myself when deciding for the language support of my reworked fonts - but they are all language related. There is already great enough "confusion" about the two official languages of Norway - but this should have nothing to do with typography. It is a linguistic choice and not really a character set choice. Let's keep the distinction for the linguistics.

A writer/translator may list knowledge (and a choice) of both languages - that makes sense. But a type designer/foundry listing support of both languages just appears really unknowledgeable about Norwegian (basically not a good way to promote the design quality of the fonts)...

I am feverishly advocating that we keep this (quite political) distinction away from the type design area. Whichever norwegian language a user choose to write has nothing to do with the character set - both can be written with a font that supports Norwegian.
Just as you can write "color" and "colour" with the same font without specifically listing that it supports "English (American)" and "English (British)" ;)

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