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People, Language & Religion


The Norwegians have for centuries been a highly homogeneous people of Germanic (Nordic, Alpine and Baltic) stock, generally tall and fair-skinned, with blue eyes. Small minority communities include some 20,000 Lapps (Sami) and 7,000 descendants of Finnish immigrants.


Norwegian, closely related to Danish and Swedish, is part of the Germanic language group. In addition to the letters of the English alphabet, it has the letters æ, å and ø. Historically, Old Norse was displaced by a modified form of Danish for writing, but in the 19th century there arose a reaction against Danish usages. Many dialects are spoken. There are two language forms, Bokmål and Nynorsk; the former (spoken by a large majority of Norwegians) is based on the written, town language, the latter on country dialects. Both forms of Norwegian have absorbed many modern international words, particularly from British and American English, despite attempts to provide indigenous substitutes. While Norwegian is the official language, English is spoken widely in Norway, especially in the urban areas. The Lapps in northern Norway have retained their own language, which is of Finno-Ugric origin. There is also a small Finnish-speaking minority.


The state church is the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Norway but all religious faiths have freedom to function. The king nominates the bishops and the Lutheran church receives an endowment from the state. Citizens are generally considered to be members of the state church unless they specifically indicate other affiliations. As such, reports indicate that about 86% of the population are nominally affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Of the major registered religious communities outside of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Norway, there are about 62,051 Muslims; 43,019 members of Pentecostal congregations; about 42,546 Roman Catholics; 21,303 members of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church of Norway; 14,812 Jehovah's Witnesses; 12,918 Methodists; 10,385 Norwegian Baptist Union members; 8,445 followers of the Church of Norway Mission Covenants; and 8,020 members of the Buddhist Federation. Other groups include Orthodox Jews, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Anglican Church, and Hindus. The Norwegian Humanist Association, an organisation for atheists and the nonreligious, claims about 70,363 adults as registered members and between 10,000 and 12,000 children as associate members.





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