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Tim J (Manchester, UK)

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Norwegian: An Essential Grammar (Routledge Essential Grammars)
Norwegian: An Essential Grammar (Routledge Essential Grammars)
by ŇAse-Berit Strandskogen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £24.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very good book but very poorly produced, 19 July 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
PLEASE NOTE: although the book I'm reviewing is the one I received when I ordered this one and I'm pretty sure it's the same, there are some discrepancies from the Amazon details. The cover is different and the publication date is printed as 1995, not Dec 1994. But the content matches the page previews and the ISBN is the same.

I've been self-learning Norwegian by interacting with Norwegians and looking up relevant vocabulary and grammar as required. Now I'm at a stage where Louis Janus' "Norwegian Verbs and Essentials of Grammar" doesn't always answer my questions, so I bought this as a more comprehensive reference.

For my purposes the content is absolutely ideal. It's very thorough: for example the section on prepositions includes a list of 29 idioms using "pŚ", all with examples. If you're happy to think in grammatical categories and to use the index it's generally easy to find the relevant section quickly. In some cases (e.g. fractions) Norwegian usage seems to have moved on since it was published, but that's probably inevitable.

Where it falls down, though, is an apparent total lack of copy-editing and book design, almost as if a rough typescript from the authors has gone straight to the printer without any work at all from the publisher. The layout is appalling, to the point of hindering usability.

This is most evident in the appearance of sections and headings. The material is strongly hierarchical and condensed: for example a section about a particular construction is typically divided into several categories, each with a list of examples and some comments. This should make for very clear presentation, provided the hierarchy is clear from the layout.

However, it isn't, and the layout is at times actively misleading. It's not unusual for subheadings to be bigger than headings, for subsections to be more prominent than sections, or for different levels of heading to look the same. You can find yourself puzzling over a comment which looks as though it refers to a whole section but actually just belongs to one item in a list, or thinking A is an example of B when it's the other way round, or struggling to work out which section you're in. I find this a big frustration in using the book.

It would also be nice if the longer lists of idioms etc. (like the 2Ĺ page one on usages of "for") were in alphabetical order or at least divided up in some obvious way; often to look up a particular item I must laboriously search through the whole list.

There are also one or two glaring editing errors--for example the contents list refers to a nonexistent section on genitive prepositions (the first thing I looked up).

These problems anger me, because they're basic production issues. The copy-editor makes sure the hierarchy is consistent, and the designer makes sure it's clear visually. Publishing the book in this unfinished state does a huge disservice to the authors, who have actually written an excellent book.

An absolute beginner would probably struggle with this book because of the layout problems; you need at least a basic knowledge of Norwegian grammar to find your way through them. But if you've been learning for a while and need a comprehensive reference, this is probably exactly the book you need.


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