Routledge have a great tradition of publishing accurate, modern grammars of lesser taught languages, and this particular volume carries on in the same reliable, comprehensive manner. Although slightly old-fashioned in its approach - chapters are centred around parts of speech rather than modes of communication - rules are put simply and clearly, with important exceptions neatly outlined.
Where the book is lacking is in its omission of exercises in each unit. Because of this, it seems very much intended as a reference rather than a course book, although it is possible to work your way through and learn Norwegian grammar.
The book covers the standard bokmål variety of Norwegian.
on 19 July 2012
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 "på", 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 2½ 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.
on 1 March 2016
I really do not understand the negative reviews here. As a student of Norwegian, this has been invaluable to me as a grammar guide (which incidentally is exactly what it says on the cover 'An Essential Grammar'). You can get exercises to practice from the internet, and from your teacher. This book is clear, concise and - my version at least - well printed. The index is detailed and complete, and I for one have found this a very comprehensive and helpful guide to learning Norwegian. Tusen takk!
on 4 March 2014
Åse-Berit and Rolf Strandskogen are very well-known writers on the Norwegian language and therefore I was very disappointed with this very shoddily-produced book. (I'm sure they would be too!). On many pages the printing is so faint as to be practically illegible. With the aid of a good magnifying glass one can read on the back cover that this book was printed in Great Britain. However, there is no mention anywhere else of the printer's name, which - I believe - may be illegal. Pull up your socks, Routledge! You're falling by the wayside!
Rodney Norman (Valencia)