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Norwegian landscape; Norway is located in the northwest corner of Europe, with a long coastline toward the North Sea, the Atlantic and the Barents Sea. About 4.8 million people live in Norway, half of them in the southeastern part of the country, in or near the capital Oslo. The other half of the population lives around the coast and in valleys. Norway has traditionally been described as an egalitarian society.

After 400 years of Danish rule, Norway became a semi-independent state in a union with Sweden in 1814; it gained full independence in 1905. Written Norwegian language was identical to Danish until around 1900. Spoken Norwegian was, and is, divided into many dialects. Since 1885 Norway has had two official Norwegian languages. Bokmεl (‘literary language’) is based on Danish but has been influenced by the dialects from areas around Oslo. As a part of a struggle for cultural and political independence, a second Norwegian language was created on the basis of dialects, mainly from the western parts of the country. This language is called Nynorsk (‘new Norwegian’). These two languages are mutually easily understandable. In addition to these two, two other languages have an official status: Sami (spoken by the Sami population in northern Norway) and Kven (spoken by decedents of early Finnish immigrants to northern Norway). Sami and Kven are not Indo-European languages.

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