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Riksmål refers to the literary standard of the Scandinavian language. It replaced the two previous standards, the Danish-Norwegian Rigsmaal and the Swedish Högſwenſka, in 1889.

Riksmål is a North-Germanic language of the East Scandinavian (Continental) group heavily influenced by Low German. It is used by more than 22 million people worldwide.

Riksmål is official throughout the Scandinavian Realm. It is the sole official language in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, New Sweden, Rygen, the Nicobar Islands, and the Andaman Islands. It has joint official status with Low Saxon in Schleswig-Holstein, Oldenburg, and Luebeck; with Suomi in Finland; with Icelandic in Iceland and New Iceland; with Sami in Samme; with Greenlandic Inuit in Greenland; with Negerhollands (Cruzan) in Gebaland, The Pepper Coast, and the Cruzan Islands; with Gadangme in Gadangmeland; with Tamil in Tranquebar; with Bengali in Frederiksnagore; with Ðaij in Tenasserim; and with Chinese in Tsingdav.

The standard spoken form of Riksmål is called Riksnordisk. In Scandinavia proper, however, there is a tendency to speak in a dialect.


When the Scandinavian Realm was formally formed in 1855, Rigsmaal and Högſwenſka were still the two literary standards. The differences, however, were to a large extent superficial. Högſwenſka literature could easily be read and understood by those literate in Rigsmaal, and vice versa. So conditions for creating a common East Scandinavian literary language were good.

But it would not be until 1869 when scholars would meet in Det Nordiske Rættſtavningsmøte (The Nordic Orthographical Convention) in Stockholm. The purpose of the convention was to discuss how to "remove unnecessary differences between the two separate orthographies of Nordic speech". The convention decided to base the new orthography on the etymological principle, since it would have been too contentious to select out any one of the two contemporary standards to be the single standard. The only way to be fair to all Continentals was to let the Classical Language (Old Norse) be the arbiter. The decision to base the new orthography on Old Norse was very much in the spirit of historical romanticism, which reached its height in Scandinavia at this time. After almost two decades of tinkering and debate, the orthographical reform was finally implemented throughout the Scandinavian Realm in 1889.

The Orthographical Reform

Words that are spelled identically in Rigsmaal and Högſwenſka are spelled in the same way in Riksmål, while those that are spelled differently are spelled according to the following scheme:


In native words, where Rigsmaal and Högſwenſka do not agree in spelling, the distribution of consonants in Riksmål is based on normalized Old Norse except:

  • Old Norse ð is d in Riksmål.
  • Old Norse f is v in Riksmål after vowels, except where Rigsmaal has f.
  • Old Norse þ is t in Riksmål when both Rigsmaal and Högſwenſka have t.
  • Old Norse þ is d in Riksmål when both Rigsmaal and Högſwenſka have d.
  • Old Norse k is g in Riksmål when both Rigsmaal and Högſwenſka have g.
  • Old Norse pp is mp in Riksmål when both Rigsmaal and Högſwenſka have mp.
  • Old Norse tt is nt in Riksmål when both Rigsmaal and Högſwenſka have nt.
  • Old Norse kk is nk in Riksmål when both Rigsmaal and Högſwenſka have nk.
  • Old Norse hl is l in Riksmål when both Rigsmaal and Högſwenſka have l.
  • Old Norse (masculine) nominative singular ending -r is dropped in Riksmål.


In native words, where Rigsmaal and Högſwenſka do not agree in spelling, the distribution of vowels in Riksmål is based on normalized Old Norse except:

  • All vowels in unstressed syllables are reduced to e, or dropped entirely where both Rigsmaal and Högſwenſka has dropped them.
  • The accute accent of Old Norse is not used.
  • Old Norse á is å in Riksmål.
  • Old Norse ö is o in Riksmål when Rigsmaal or Högſwenſka has o or u, otherwise it is a in Riksmål.
  • Old Norse u is o in Riksmål.
  • Old Norse ei is e in Riksmål.
  • Old Norse e, é and æ are æ in Riksmål.
  • Old Norse ø, œ, au, and ey are ø in Riksmål.
  • Old Norse ja and are in Riksmål.
  • Old Norse is jo in Riksmål.
  • Old Norse and are ju in Riksmål.
  • Old Norse i is e in Riksmål when Rigsmaal has e.

There are no rules with regards to choice of particular vowels when it comes to allomorphic roots. E.g., "snow" can be Snju, Snjæ, or Snæ.


Germanic loanwords are spelled as in Högſwenſka, except that ä and ö are written as æ and ø respectively, and unstressed vowels are e. Germanic loans that exist in Rigsmaal but not in Högſwenſka are spelled as in Rigsmaal, except that aa is written as å and all other double vowels are written singularly.

Latinate loanwords (e.g. from French or Latin) are spelled in their original form. Their use is discouraged if there exists a recognized Scandinavian or Germanic substitute, like Fjærrenſyn instead of Television.

See also Script below.


In the inflection of nouns, the following has been regularized:

  • Non-neuter nouns form their plurals with -(e)r.
  • Neuters ending in vowels form their plurals with -r.
  • Neuters ending in consonants form their plurals with -e, or optionally with zero plurality.
  • Singular non-neuter nouns form their definite form with -(e)n.
  • Singular neuter nouns form their definite form with -(e)t.
  • Plural indefinite nouns form their definite form with -ne.


Singular Plural
Person Nominative Objective Possessive: com./neut./pl. Person Nominative Objective Possessive: com./neut./pl.
1st jæg mig min, mitt, mine 1st vi oss vår, vårt, våre
2nd (singular) du dig din, ditt, dine 2nd
I ær ær, ært, ære
3rd masculine han hånom hans 3rd de dem deres
3rd feminine hon hanne hænnes
3rd common dan dan dæss
3rd neuter dat dat dæss
3rd indefinite ("one") man en ens
3rd reflexive sig sin, sitt, sine 3rd reflexive sig sin, sitt, sine



Riksmål uses two different variants of the Latin alphabet. Basically, native words and Germanic loans are printed in Fraktur type or written in the Spitzſchrift cursive script, with the addition of the letters å æ ø, which occur at the end of the alphabet in that order. Latinate loans are printed in Antiqua type or written in the Italic cursive script.

However, there are exceptions to the above generalization. Although Latinate, biblical names, like all other personal names, are printed in Fraktur or written in Spitzſchrift. E.g., Directeur Philip Johannes Peterſen Peymann af Det Øſtaſiatiſke Compagnie. Acronyms, on the other hand, are always in Antiqua or Italic. So the acronym for Det Øſtaſiatiſke Compagnie would be in Antiqua or Italic, ØAC.

A Fraktur font suitable for Riksmål can be found here.


German punctuation rules are used. The salient features include:

  • The capitalization of all nouns.
  • The use of grammatical commas, which separates all clauses with a comma.

Thus, capital letters and commas are used far more extensively than in English.

Long s (ſ)

Fraktur still distinguishes between long s (ſ) and short s (s). The letter ſ is a lower case s used within or at the beginning of a morpheme, e.g. ſideſt ("last"). The letter s is used only at the end of a morpheme, e.g. Ljus ("light"), changing only to ſ when suffixes are attached, e.g. Ljuſet ("the light"). The short s remains short in compound words and prefixes, e.g. Ljuskælde ("light source"), Misbruk ("abuse").

Double s is written ſs at the end of morphemes, e.g. Paſs ("passport"), changing only to ſſ when suffixes are attached, e.g. Paſſet ("the passport"). In compounds, it remains as ſs, e.g. Paſscontrole ("passport control").

The possessive suffix is written with short s, i.e. -s.

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