Norwegian (norsk) is a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Norway, where it is the official language. Together with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian forms a continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional variants.
These Scandinavian languages together with the Faroese language and Icelandic language
As established by law and governmental policy, there are two official forms of written Norwegian – Bokmål (literally "book tongue") and Nynorsk (literally "new Norwegian"). The Norwegian Language Council is responsible for regulating the two forms, and recommends the terms "Norwegian Bokmål" and "Norwegian Nynorsk" in English. Two other written forms without official status also exist, the major one being Riksmål ("national language"), which is somewhat closer to the Danish language but today is to a large extent the same language as Bokmål. It is regulated by the Norwegian Academy, which translates the name as "Standard Norwegian". The other being Høgnorsk ("High Norwegian") that is a more purist form of Nynorsk, which maintains the language in an original form as given by Ivar Aasen and rejects most of the reforms from the 20th century. This form of Nynorsk has very limited use.
There is no officially sanctioned standard of spoken Norwegian, and most Norwegians speak their own dialect in all circumstances. The sociolect of the urban upper and middle class in East Norway can be regarded as a de facto spoken standard for Bokmål because it adopted many characteristics from Danish when Norway was under Danish rule. This so-called standard østnorsk ("Standard Eastern Norwegian") is the form generally taught to foreign students.
From the 16th to the 19th centuries, Danish was the standard written language of Norway. As a result, the development of modern written Norwegian has been subject to strong controversy related to nationalism, rural versus urban discourse, and Norway's literary history. Historically, Bokmål is a Norwegianised variety of Danish, while Nynorsk is a language form based on Norwegian dialects and puristic opposition to Danish. The now abandoned official policy to merge Bokmål and Nynorsk into one common language called Samnorsk through a series of spelling reforms has created a wide spectrum of varieties of both Bokmål and Nynorsk. The unofficial form known as Riksmål is considered more conservative than Bokmål, and the unofficial Høgnorsk more conservative than Nynorsk.