Thursday, November 8, 2007

This article is part of the series: Politics and government of Norway
The Constitution of Norway was first adopted on May 16, 1814 by the Norwegian Constituent Assembly at Eidsvoll (a small town north of the country's capital, then called Christiania), then signed and dated May 17. May 17 is now the National Day of Norway.


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        The events and the constitution of 1814 have a central place in Norwegian identity. For this reason, and to keep the text as consistent as possible, changes are written in a language close to the original. In 1814 Danish was still the universal written language. The current two written varieties of Norwegian, Bokmål and Nynorsk, were not developed until the late 19th century. In 1903 the constitution underwent a very slight linguistic revision, changing the spelling of some words where orthography had changed since 1814, but still retaining a conservative 19th century Danish.
        All recent amendments have attempted to imitate the language of the 1903 version, leading to peculiar constructions. The word "environment" is written in the ancient spelling milieu, differing from modern Norwegian and Danish miljø; the modern context of that word was, however, non-existing in the 19th century. The "Sami ethnical group" is "den samiske Folkegruppe", even if the word Sami (samisk) was not common until the 1970s. In 1814 or 1903, the word Lappish (lappisk) would have been used, but this is today considered to be a derogatory term.
        Since amendments are elaborated by politicians not competent in 19th century Danish, several modern Norwegian spellings have sneaked into the constitution. Different approaches to revise the language throughout the document have been suggested:
        A constitutional amendment of February 2, 2006 was aimed at reverting 16 minor spelling errors to the proper 1903 forms.
        It could be argued that Norway is possibly the only country to have a constitution written in a foreign language. It is certainly the only state to compose new law material in a dead language form, apart from the Vatican which uses Latin. Even the official name of the Kingdom of Norway (Norwegian: Kongeriket Norge) would in fact be the Danish form Kongeriget Norge if taken literally from the constitution.

        Bring the language up to today's usage and orthography.
        Use the 1903 standard, but correct various passages where newer amendments do not really conform to that standard.
        Revert the language to the standard of 1814; an objection to this is that most modern Norwegians would find it even more difficult to read.
        Update the language to one of the spelling reforms, either 1917, 1938, or 1959. This would still be fairly conservative language, but closer to today's speech. Constitution of Norway Current trends

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