Indigenous and minority language names for Norway now have official status

Sámi and Kven language names for the nation are now officially recognized.

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - May 7, 2021
The Norwegian-Finnish border at Kivilompolo-Kautokeino is already marked with the Sámi name Norga. (Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observer)





Cross-border roads in northern Norway will get new signs, as the nation’s parliament, Stortinget, has approved a bill naming the country by its three Sámi and the Kven languages in addition to the Norwegian name “Norge.”

Roads into Norway from Sweden, Finland and Russia will get new signs with the country name also written in Indigenous Sámi languages, a name that will vary depending on the region.

Southern Sámi areas from Engerdal in the south to Hattfjelldal and Umbukta near the Arctic Circle will soon get signs reading both “Norge” and “Nöörje.”

Entering Norway from Sweden at Graddis and Bjørnfjell, the border signs will include “Vuoda,” the Lule Sámi language name of Norway.

Further north, the six border roads from Finland and the single entry road from Russia will have both the Northern Sámi and the Kven languages, “Norga” and “Norja,” in addition to Norge.

“When borders reopen and I can drive from Sweden into Trøndelag, and see Norway signposted in Southern Sámi on the border, it will for me be a strong symbol that Sámi and Norwegian are equal languages,” said Minister of Regional Development and Digitalization, Linda Hofstad Helleland.

The bill approved by the parliament this week is, symbolically, based on a proposal from the government presented in three languages; Norwegian, North Sámi and Kven.

This is the first time in Norway that a government proposal is printed in the Kven language. Kven was recognized as a minority language in 2005 and is a Finnish dialect spoken in the northernmost part of Norway by the Kven people.