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Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of
North Germanic dialects
North Germanic dialects
before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of
Scandinavia Scandinavia; : ''Skadesi-suolu''/''Skađsuâl''. ( ) is a in , with strong historical, cultural, and linguistic ties. In English usage, ''Scandinavia'' can refer to , , and , sometimes more narrowly to the , or more broadly to include , th ...

Scandinavia
and their
overseas settlements
overseas settlements
and chronologically coincides with the
Viking Age The Viking Age (793–1066 AD) was the period during the Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted from the 5th to the late 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and trans ...
, the
Christianization of Scandinavia The Christianization of Scandinavia, as well as other Nordic countries The Nordic countries, or the Nordics, are a geographical and cultural region in Northern Europe Northern Europe is a loosely defined Geography, geographical and cultu ...
and the consolidation of Scandinavian kingdoms from around the 7th to the 15th centuries. The
Proto-Norse language Proto-Norse (also called Ancient Nordic, Ancient Scandinavian, Ancient Norse, Primitive Norse, Proto-Nordic, Proto-Scandinavian and Proto-North Germanic) was an Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to we ...
had developed into Old Norse by the
8th century The 8th century is the period from 701 __NOTOC__ Year 701 ( DCCI) was a common year starting on SaturdayA common year starting on Saturday is any non-leap year A leap year (also known as an intercalary year or bissextile year) is a calendar ...
, and Old Norse began to develop into the modern
North Germanic languages The North Germanic languages make up one of the three branches of the Germanic languages—a sub-family of the Indo-European languages—along with the West Germanic languages and the extinct East Germanic languages. The language group is also r ...

North Germanic languages
in the mid-to-late
14th century As a means of recording the passage of time Time is the indefinite continued sequence, progress of existence and event (philosophy), events that occur in an apparently irreversible process, irreversible succession from the past, through th ...
, ending the language phase known as Old Norse. These dates, however, are not absolute, since written Old Norse is found well into the
15th century '' by Francisco Pradilla Ortiz Francisco Pradilla Ortiz (24 July 1848 – 1 November 1921) was a prolific Spanish painter Painting is the practice of applying paint Paint is any pigmented liquid, liquefiable, or solid mastic ...
. Old Norse was divided into three
dialect The term dialect (from , , from the word , 'discourse', from , 'through' and , 'I speak') can refer to either of two distinctly different types of phenomena: * One usage refers to a of a that is a characteristic of a particular group of ...
s: ''Old West Norse'' or ''Old West Nordic'' (often referred to as ''Old Norse''), ''Old East Norse'' or ''Old East Nordic'', and ''
Old Gutnish Old Gutnish or Old Gotlandic was a North Germanic language The North Germanic languages make up one of the three branches of the Germanic languages—a sub-family of the Indo-European languages—along with the West Germanic languages and the ...
''. Old West Norse and Old East Norse formed a
dialect continuum A dialect continuum or dialect chain is a series of language varieties spoken across some geographical area such that neighboring varieties are mutually intelligible In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of languag ...
, with no clear geographical boundary between them. For example, Old East Norse traits were found in eastern
Norway Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway,Names in the official and recognised languages: Bokmål Bokmål (, ; literally "book tongue") is an official written standard for the Norwegian language Norwegian (Norwegian: ''norsk'') is a Nort ...

Norway
, although
Old Norwegian nn, gamalnorsk , region = Kingdom of Norway (872–1397) The term Norwegian Realm (Old Norse: ''*Noregsveldi'', Norwegian Bokmål, Bokmål: ''Norgesveldet'', Norwegian Nynorsk, Nynorsk: ''Noregsveldet'') and Old Kingdom of Norway refer ...
is classified as Old West Norse, and Old West Norse traits were found in western
Sweden Sweden ( sv, Sverige ), officially the Kingdom of Sweden ( sv, links=no, Konungariket Sverige ), is a Nordic countries, Nordic country in Northern Europe.The United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names states that the country's fo ...

Sweden
. Most speakers spoke Old East Norse in what is present-day
Denmark Denmark ( da, Danmark, ) is a Nordic country The Nordic countries, or the Nordics, are a geographical and cultural region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics ( physical geography), hu ...

Denmark
and Sweden.
Old Gutnish Old Gutnish or Old Gotlandic was a North Germanic language The North Germanic languages make up one of the three branches of the Germanic languages—a sub-family of the Indo-European languages—along with the West Germanic languages and the ...
is sometimes included in the Old East Norse dialect due to geographical associations. It developed its own unique features and shared in changes to both other branches. The 12th-century
Iceland Iceland ( is, Ísland; ) is a Nordic Nordic most commonly refers to: * Nordic countries, written in plural as Nordics, the northwestern European countries, including Scandinavia, Fennoscandia and the List of islands in the Atlantic Ocean#No ...

Iceland
ic ''
Gray Goose Laws {{Main, Medieval Scandinavian law The Gray (Grey) Goose Laws ( is, Grágás) are a collection of laws from the Icelandic Commonwealth period. The term ''Grágás'' was originally used in a medieval source to refer to a collection of Norwegian la ...
'' state that
Swedes Swedes ( sv, svenskar) are a North Germanic The North Germanic languages make up one of the three branches of the Germanic languages The Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a lang ...
,
Norwegians Norwegians ( no, nordmenn) are a North Germanic The North Germanic languages make up one of the three branches of the Germanic languages—a sub-family of the Indo-European languages—along with the West Germanic languages and the extinct ...
,
Icelanders Icelanders ( is, Íslendingar) are a North Germanic ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people who identify with each other on the basis of shared attributes that distinguish them from other groups such as a common set ...
, and
Danes Danes ( da, danskere, ) are a North Germanic The North Germanic languages make up one of the three branches of the Germanic languages—a sub-family of the Indo-European languages—along with the West Germanic languages and the extinct East ...
spoke the same language, ''dǫnsk tunga'' ("Danish tongue"; speakers of Old East Norse would have said '). Another term was ''norrœnt mál'' ("northern speech"). Today Old Norse has developed into the modern
North Germanic languages The North Germanic languages make up one of the three branches of the Germanic languages—a sub-family of the Indo-European languages—along with the West Germanic languages and the extinct East Germanic languages. The language group is also r ...

North Germanic languages
Icelandic Icelandic refers to anything of, from, or related to Iceland and may refer to: *Icelandic people *Icelandic language *Icelandic alphabet *Icelandic cuisine See also

* Icelander (disambiguation) * Icelandic Airlines, a predecessor of Icelandai ...
,
Faroese Faroese ( ) or Faroish ( ) may refer to anything pertaining to the Faroe Islands, e.g.: *the Faroese language * the Faroese people {{Disambiguation Language and nationality disambiguation pages ...
,
Norwegian Norwegian, Norwayan, or Norsk may refer to: *Something of, from, or related to Norway, a country in northwestern Europe *Norwegians, both a nation and an ethnic group native to Norway *Demographics of Norway *The Norwegian language, including the t ...
,
Danish Danish may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Denmark * A national or citizen of Denmark, also called a "Dane", see Demographics of Denmark * Danish people or Danes, people with a Danish ancestral or ethnic identity * Danis ...
, and
Swedish Swedish or ' may refer to: * Anything from or related to Sweden, a country in Northern Europe * Swedish language, a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Sweden and Finland * Swedish alphabet, the official alphabet used by the Swedish langua ...
, of which Norwegian, Danish and Swedish retain considerable mutual intelligibility while Icelandic remains the closest to Old Norse.


Geographical distribution

Old Icelandic Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia Scandinavia; : ''Skades ...
was very close to
Old Norwegian nn, gamalnorsk , region = Kingdom of Norway (872–1397) The term Norwegian Realm (Old Norse: ''*Noregsveldi'', Norwegian Bokmål, Bokmål: ''Norgesveldet'', Norwegian Nynorsk, Nynorsk: ''Noregsveldet'') and Old Kingdom of Norway refer ...
, and together they formed
Old West Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia Scandinavia; : ''Skades ...
, which was also spoken in
Norse Norse is demonym for Norsemen, a medieval North Germanic ethnolinguistic group ancestral to modern Scandinavians, defined as speakers of Old Norse from about the 9th to the 13th centuries. Norse may also refer to: Culture and religion * Norse m ...
settlements in
Greenland Greenland ( kl, Kalaallit Nunaat, ; da, Grønland, ) is an autonomous territory An autonomous administrative division (also referred to as an autonomous area, entity, unit, region, subdivision, or territory) is a subnational administra ...

Greenland
, the
Faroes The Faroe Islands ( ), or simply the Faroes or Faeroes ( fo, Føroyar ; da, Færøerne ), are a North Atlantic archipelago An archipelago ( ), sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster or collection of isla ...
,
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel (Great Britain and Ireland), North Channel, the Irish Sea ...

Ireland
,
Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba Alba (Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig or Scots Gaelic, sometimes referred to simply as Gaelic) is a Goidelic language (in the Celtic languages, Celtic branch of the Indo-European ...

Scotland
, the
Isle of Man ) , anthem = "O Land of Our Birth The "National Anthem of the Isle of Man" ( gv, Arrane Ashoonagh Vannin) was written and composed by William Henry Gill (1839–1923), with the Manx translation by John J. Kneen (1873–1939). It is often r ...

Isle of Man
, northwest
England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. E ...

England
, and in
Normandy Normandy (; french: link=no, Normandie ; nrf, Normaundie; from Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, ...

Normandy
.
Old East Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia Scandinavia; Sami languag ...
was spoken in Denmark, Sweden,
Kievan Rus' Kievan Rus' ( orv, , Rusĭ, or , , "Rus' land") or Kyivan Rus', was a loose federation A federation (also known as a federal state) is a political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a ...
, eastern
England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. E ...

England
, and
Danish Danish may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Denmark * A national or citizen of Denmark, also called a "Dane", see Demographics of Denmark * Danish people or Danes, people with a Danish ancestral or ethnic identity * Danis ...

Danish
settlements in
Normandy Normandy (; french: link=no, Normandie ; nrf, Normaundie; from Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, ...

Normandy
. The Old Gutnish dialect was spoken in
Gotland Gotland (, ; ''Gutland'' in the local dialect), also historically spelled Gottland or Gothland (), is Sweden's largest island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habita ...
and in various settlements in the East. In the 11th century, Old Norse was the most widely spoken
European language European, or Europeans, may refer to: In general * ''European'', an adjective referring to something of, from, or related to Europe ** Ethnic groups in Europe ** Demographics of Europe ** European cuisine, the cuisines of Europe and other Western ...
, ranging from
Vinland Vinland, Vineland or Winland ( non, Vínland) was an area of coastal North America North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere. It can also be described as the no ...
in the West to the
Volga River The Volga (; russian: Во́лга, a=Ru-Волга.ogg, p=ˈvoɫɡə) is the longest river in Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention ra ...
in the East. In
Kievan Rus' Kievan Rus' ( orv, , Rusĭ, or , , "Rus' land") or Kyivan Rus', was a loose federation A federation (also known as a federal state) is a political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a ...
, it survived the longest in
Veliky Novgorod Veliky Novgorod ( rus, links=yes, Великий Новгород, p=vʲɪˈlʲikʲɪj ˈnovɡərət), also known as just Novgorod (russian: Новгород, lit=newtown, links=yes), is the largest city and administrative centerAn administrati ...
, probably lasting into the 13th century there. The age of the
Swedish-speaking population of Finland The Swedish-speaking population of Finland (whose members are often called Swedish-speaking Finns, Finland-Swedes, Finland Swedes, Finnish Swedes, Swede Finns, Swedish Finns, or Swedes of Finland—see below; sv, finlandssvenskar; fi, suomenru ...
is strongly contested, but
Swedish Swedish or ' may refer to: * Anything from or related to Sweden, a country in Northern Europe * Swedish language, a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Sweden and Finland * Swedish alphabet, the official alphabet used by the Swedish langua ...

Swedish
settlement had spread the
language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the ...

language
into the region by the time of the
Second Swedish Crusade The Second Swedish Crusade was a possible 13th-century Sweden, Swedish military expedition against the Tavastians, in present-day Finland, led by Birger Jarl. Many details of the Crusade are debated. After the crusade Tavastia (historical provinc ...
in the 13th century at the latest.


Modern descendants

The modern descendants of the Old West Norse dialect are the West Scandinavian languages of
Icelandic Icelandic refers to anything of, from, or related to Iceland and may refer to: *Icelandic people *Icelandic language *Icelandic alphabet *Icelandic cuisine See also

* Icelander (disambiguation) * Icelandic Airlines, a predecessor of Icelandai ...
,
Faroese Faroese ( ) or Faroish ( ) may refer to anything pertaining to the Faroe Islands, e.g.: *the Faroese language * the Faroese people {{Disambiguation Language and nationality disambiguation pages ...
,
Norwegian Norwegian, Norwayan, or Norsk may refer to: *Something of, from, or related to Norway, a country in northwestern Europe *Norwegians, both a nation and an ethnic group native to Norway *Demographics of Norway *The Norwegian language, including the t ...
, and the extinct
Norn language Norn is an extinct North Germanic language The North Germanic languages make up one of the three branches of the Germanic languages—a sub-family of the Indo-European languages—along with the West Germanic languages and the extinct East Ge ...
of
Orkney Orkney (; sco, Orkney; on, Orkneyjar; nrn, Orknøjar), also known as the Orkney Islands, is an archipelago An archipelago ( ), sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster or collection of island A ...

Orkney
and
Shetland Shetland ( on, Hjaltland; sco, Shetland; nrn, Hjetland), also called the Shetland Islands and formerly Zetland, is a subarctic archipelago An archipelago ( ), sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster or co ...

Shetland
; the descendants of the Old East Norse dialect are the East Scandinavian languages of
Danish Danish may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Denmark * A national or citizen of Denmark, also called a "Dane", see Demographics of Denmark * Danish people or Danes, people with a Danish ancestral or ethnic identity * Danis ...
and
Swedish Swedish or ' may refer to: * Anything from or related to Sweden, a country in Northern Europe * Swedish language, a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Sweden and Finland * Swedish alphabet, the official alphabet used by the Swedish langua ...
. Norwegian is descended from Old West Norse, but over the centuries it has been heavily influenced by East Norse, particularly during the
Denmark–Norway Denmark–Norway (Danish Danish may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Denmark * A national or citizen of Denmark, also called a "Dane", see Demographics of Denmark * Danish people or Danes, people with a Danish ancestr ...
union. Among these, the grammar of Icelandic and Faroese have changed the least from Old Norse in the last thousand years. In contrast, the pronunciations of both Icelandic and Faroese have changed considerably from Old Norse. With Danish rule of the Faroe Islands, Faroese has also been influenced by Danish. Old Norse also had an influence on
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
dialects and Lowland Scots, which contain many Old Norse
loanword A loanword (also loan word or loan-word) is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning ...
s. It also influenced the development of the
Norman language Norman or Norman French (', french: Normand, Guernésiais Guernésiais, also known as ''Dgèrnésiais'', Guernsey French, and Guernsey Norman French, is the variety of the Norman language spoken in Guernsey. It is sometimes known on the island ...
, and through it and to a smaller extent, that of modern . Written modern Icelandic derives from the Old Norse
phonemic In phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound or sign system of any partic ...
writing system. Contemporary Icelandic-speakers can read Old Norse, which varies slightly in spelling as well as semantics and word order. However, pronunciation, particularly of the vowel phonemes, has changed at least as much in Icelandic as in the other North Germanic languages. Faroese retains many similarities but is influenced by Danish, Norwegian, and
Gaelic Gaelic is an adjective that means "pertaining to the Gaels". As a noun it refers to the group of languages spoken by the Gaels, or to any one of the languages individually. Gaelic languages are spoken in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man. Whe ...
(
Scottish Scottish usually refers to something of, from, or related to Scotland, including: *Scottish Gaelic, a Celtic Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family native to Scotland *Scottish English *Scottish national identity, the Scottish iden ...
and/or
Irish Irish most commonly refers to: * Someone or something of, from, or related to: ** Ireland, an island situated off the north-western coast of continental Europe ** Northern Ireland, a constituent unit of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and North ...
). Although Swedish, Danish and Norwegian have diverged the most, they still retain considerable mutual intelligibility. Speakers of modern Swedish, Norwegian and Danish can mostly understand each other without studying their neighboring languages, particularly if speaking slowly. The languages are also sufficiently similar in writing that they can mostly be understood across borders. This could be because these languages have been mutually affected by each other, as well as having a similar development influenced by
Middle Low German Middle Low German or Middle Saxon (autonym: ''Sassisch'', i.e. "Saxon", Standard German, Standard High German: ', Dutch language, Modern Dutch: ') is a developmental stage of Low German. It developed from the Old Saxon language in the Middle ...
.


Other influenced languages

Various languages unrelated to Old Norse and others not closely related have been heavily influenced by Norse, particularly the
Norman language Norman or Norman French (', french: Normand, Guernésiais Guernésiais, also known as ''Dgèrnésiais'', Guernsey French, and Guernsey Norman French, is the variety of the Norman language spoken in Guernsey. It is sometimes known on the island ...
; to a lesser extent,
Finnish Finnish may refer to: * Something or someone from, or related to Finland * Finnish culture * Finnish people or Finns, the primary ethnic group in Finland * Finnish language, the national language of the Finnish people * Finnish cuisine See also

...
and
Estonian Estonian may refer to: *Something of, from, or related to Estonia, a country in the Baltic region in northern Europe *Estonians, people from Estonia, or of Estonian descent *Estonian language *Estonian cuisine *Estonian culture See also

* * La ...
.
Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (россияне), Russian language term ...
,
Ukrainian Ukrainian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Ukraine * Something relating to Ukrainians an East Slavic people from Eastern Europe * Something relating to Demographics of Ukraine, in terms of demography: population of Ukraine * Somethi ...
,
Belarusian Belarusian may refer to: * Something of, or related to Belarus * Belarusians, people from Belarus, or of Belarusian descent * A citizen of Belarus, see Demographics of Belarus * Belarusian language * Belarusian culture * Belarusian cuisine * Byeloru ...
,
Lithuanian Lithuanian may refer to: * Lithuanians Lithuanians ( lt, lietuviai, singular ''lietuvis/lietuvė'') are a Balts, Baltic ethnic group. They are native to Lithuania, where they number around 2,561,300 people. Another million or more make up the Lith ...
and Latvian also have a few Norse loanwords. The words ''
Rus Rus or RUS may refer to: People and places * Rus (surname)Rus is a Romanian language, Romanian and Slovene language, Slovene surname that may refer to: Romanians *Daniela L. Rus, roboticist, Romanian-born, working in US *Ioan Rus Romanian polit ...
'' and ''Russia'', according to one theory, may be named after the
Rus' people 312px, upright=2.2, Map showing the major Varangian trade routes: the the trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks (in red) and the trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks (in purple). Other trade routes of the 8th to the 11th centuri ...
, a Norse tribe, probably from present-day east-central Sweden. The current Finnish and Estonian words for Sweden are and , respectively. A number of loanwords have been introduced into
Irish Irish most commonly refers to: * Someone or something of, from, or related to: ** Ireland, an island situated off the north-western coast of continental Europe ** Northern Ireland, a constituent unit of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and North ...
, many associated with fishing and sailing. A similar influence is found in
Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig ), also known as Scots Gaelic and Gaelic, is a Goidelic language The Goidelic or Gaelic languages ( ga, teangacha Gaelacha; gd, cànanan Goidhealach; gv, çhengaghyn Gaelgagh) form one of the two groups o ...
, with over one hundred loanwords estimated to be in the language, many of which are related to fishing and sailing.


Phonology


Vowels

The vowel phonemes mostly come in pairs of long and short. The standardized orthography marks the long vowels with an acute accent. In medieval manuscripts, it is often unmarked but sometimes marked with an accent or through
gemination In phonetics and phonology, gemination (), or consonant lengthening (from Latin 'doubling', itself from ''Gemini (constellation), gemini'' 'twins'), is an articulation of a consonant for a longer period of time than that of a singleton consonan ...

gemination
. Old Norse had nasalized versions of all ten vowel places. These occurred as allophones of the vowels before nasal consonants and in places where a nasal had followed it in an older form of the word, before it was absorbed into a neighboring sound. If the nasal was absorbed by a stressed vowel, it would also lengthen the vowel. These nasalizations also occurred in the other Germanic languages, but were not retained long. They were noted in the
First Grammatical Treatise The First Grammatical Treatise ( is, Fyrsta málfræðiritgerðin) is a 12th-century work on the phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or signs, in sign langua ...
, and otherwise might have remained unknown. The First Grammarian marked these with a dot above the letter. This notation did not catch on, and would soon be obsolete. Nasal and oral vowels probably merged around the 11th century in most of Old East Norse. However, the distinction still holds in
Dalecarlian dialects Dalecarlian (''dalmål'' in Swedish Swedish or ' may refer to: * Anything from or related to Sweden, a country in Northern Europe * Swedish language, a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Sweden and Finland * Swedish alphabet, the officia ...
. The dots in the following vowel table separate the oral from nasal phonemes. Note: The open or open-mid vowels may be transcribed differently: * = * = * = Sometime around the 13th century, (spelled ''ǫ'') merged with or in most dialects except
Old Danish The Danish language Danish (; ''dansk'' , ''dansk sprog'' ) is a North Germanic languages, North Germanic language spoken by about six million people, principally in Denmark, Greenland and in the region of Southern Schleswig in northern Germ ...
, and Icelandic where (''ǫ'') merged with . This can be determined by their distinction within the 12th-century
First Grammatical Treatise The First Grammatical Treatise ( is, Fyrsta málfræðiritgerðin) is a 12th-century work on the phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or signs, in sign langua ...
but not within the early 13th-century
Prose Edda The ''Prose Edda'', also known as the ''Younger Edda'', ''Snorri's Edda'' ( is, Snorra Edda) or, historically, simply as ''Edda'', is an textbook written in during the early 13th century. The work is often assumed to have been to some extent w ...
. The nasal vowels, also noted in the First Grammatical Treatise, are assumed to have been lost in most dialects by this time (but notably they are retained in
Elfdalian Elfdalian or Övdalian ( or , pronounced in Elfdalian, or in Swedish) is a North Germanic language variety spoken by up to 3,000 people who live or have grown up in the locality of Älvdalen ('), which is located in the southeastern part of ...
). See
Old Icelandic Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic languages, North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and t ...
for the mergers of (spelled ''œ'') with (spelled ''æ'') and (spelled ''ę'') with (''e''). Old Norse had three
diphthong A diphthong ( ; , ), also known as a gliding vowel, is a combination of two adjacent vowel A vowel is a Syllable, syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels are one of the two principal classes of spe ...
phonemes: , , (spelled ''ei'', ''au'', ''ey'' respectively). In East Norse these would monophthongize and merge with and , whereas in West Norse and its descendants the diphthongs remained.


Consonants

Old Norse has six plosive phonemes, being rare word-initially and and pronounced as voiced fricative
allophone In phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of e ...
s between vowels except in compound words (e.g. ), already in the
Proto-Germanic language Proto-Germanic (abbreviated PGmc; also called Common Germanic) is the linguistic reconstruction, reconstructed proto-language of the Germanic languages, Germanic branch of the Indo-European languages. Proto-Germanic eventually developed from ...
(e.g. ''*b'' > between vowels). The phoneme was pronounced as after an or another and as before and . Some accounts have it a voiced velar fricative in all cases, and others have that realisation only in the middle of words and between vowels (with it otherwise being realised ). The Old East Norse was an
apical consonant An apical consonant is a phone A telephone is a telecommunications device that permits two or more users to conduct a conversation when they are too far apart to be heard directly. A telephone converts sound, typically and most efficiently th ...
, with its precise position is unknown; it is reconstructed as a palatal
sibilant In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of s, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study the physical properties of speech. Th ...
. It descended from Proto-Germanic and eventually developed into , as had already occurred in Old West Norse. The consonant digraphs , , and occurred word-initially. It is unclear whether they were sequences of two consonants (with the first element realised as or perhaps ) or as single voiceless sonorants , and respectively. In Old Norwegian, Old Danish and later Old Swedish, the groups , , and were reduced to plain , , , which suggests that they had most likely already been pronounced as voiceless sonorants by Old Norse times. The pronunciation of is unclear, but it may have been (the Proto-Germanic pronunciation), or the similar phoneme . Unlike the three other digraphs, it was retained much longer in all dialects. Without ever developing into a voiceless sonorant in Icelandic, it instead underwent
fortition Fortition, also known as strengthening, is a consonantal change that increases the degree of stricture. It's the opposite of the more common lenition. For example, a fricative or an approximant may become a stop consonant, stop (i.e. becomes o ...
to a plosive , which suggests that instead of being a voiceless sonorant, it retained a stronger frication.


Accent

Primary stress in Old Norse falls on the
word stem In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In many languages, words also corres ...
, so that would be pronounced . In compound words, secondary stress falls on the second stem (e.g. , ).


Orthography

Unlike Proto-Norse, which was written with the
Elder Futhark The Elder Futhark (or Fuþark), also known as the Older Futhark, Old Futhark, or Germanic Futhark is the oldest form of the runic alphabets Runes are the letters in a set of related alphabet An alphabet is a standardized set of basic ...
,
runic Runes are the letters Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing ...

runic
Old Norse was originally written with the
Younger Futhark The Younger Futhark, also called Scandinavian runes, is a and a reduced form of the , with only 16 characters, in use from about the 9th century, after a "transitional period" during the 7th and 8th centuries. The reduction, somewhat paradoxi ...
, which had only 16 letters. Because of the limited number of runes, several runes were used for different sounds, and long and short vowels were not distinguished in writing.
Medieval runes The medieval runes, or the futhork, was a Scandinavia Scandinavia, Sami languages, Sami: ''Skadesi-suolu''/''Skađsuâl'' ( ) is a Subregion#Europe, subregion in Northern Europe, with strong historical, cultural, and linguistic ties. In E ...
came into use some time later. As for the
Latin alphabet The Latin alphabet or Roman alphabet is the collection of letters originally used by the ancient Romans In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived ...

Latin alphabet
, there was no standardized orthography in use in the Middle Ages. A modified version of the letter
wynn Wynn or wyn (; also spelled wen, ƿynn, and ƿen) is a letter of the Old English alphabet, where it is used to represent the sound . History The letter "W" While the earliest Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the ear ...

wynn
called vend was used briefly for the sounds , , and . Long vowels were sometimes marked with acutes but also sometimes left unmarked or geminated. The standardized Old Norse spelling was created in the 19th century and is, for the most part, phonemic. The most notable deviation is that the nonphonemic difference between the
voiced Voice or voicing is a term used in phonetics Phonetics is a branch of that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of s, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study th ...

voiced
and the
voiceless dental fricative The voiceless dental non-sibilant fricative is a type of consonant In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronou ...

voiceless dental fricative
is marked. The oldest texts and
runic inscriptions A runic inscription is an inscription Epigraphy ( grc, ἐπιγραφή, "inscription") is the study of inscriptions, or epigraphs, as writing Writing is a medium of human communication that involves the representation of a language wit ...

runic inscriptions
use ''þ'' exclusively. Long vowels are denoted with . Most other letters are written with the same glyph as the
IPA IPA commonly refers to: * India pale ale, a style of beer * International Phonetic Alphabet The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is an alphabetic system of phonetic notation based primarily on the Latin script Latin script, also ...
phoneme, except as shown in the table below.


Phonological processes


Ablaut

Ablaut In linguistics, the Indo-European ablaut (, from Standard High German, German '':wikt:Ablaut#German, Ablaut'' ) is a system of apophony in the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE). An example of ablaut in English is the Germanic strong verb, stron ...
patterns are groups of vowels which are swapped, or ''ablauted,'' in the
nucleus ''Nucleus'' (plural nuclei) is a Latin word for the seed inside a fruit. It most often refers to: *Atomic nucleus, the very dense central region of an atom *Cell nucleus, a central organelle of a eukaryotic cell, containing most of the cell's DNA ...
of a word. Strong verbs ablaut the
lemma Lemma may refer to: Language and linguistics * Lemma (morphology), the canonical, dictionary or citation form of a word * Lemma (psycholinguistics), a mental abstraction of a word about to be uttered * Headword, under which a set of related dict ...
's nucleus to derive the past forms of the verb. This parallels English conjugation, where, e.g., the nucleus of ''sing'' becomes ''sang'' in the past tense and ''sung'' in the past participle. Some verbs are derived by ablaut, as the present-in-past verbs do by consequence of being derived from the past tense forms of strong verbs.


Umlaut

Umlaut or mutation is an assimilatory process acting on vowels preceding a vowel or semivowel of a different vowel backness. In the case of ''i-umlaut'' and ''ʀ-umlaut'', this entails a fronting of back vowels, with retention of lip rounding. In the case of ''u-umlaut'', this entails
labialization Labialization is a Secondary articulation, secondary articulatory feature of sounds in some languages. Labialized sounds involve the lips while the remainder of the Human mouth, oral cavity produces another sound. The term is normally restricte ...
of unrounded vowels. Umlaut is phonemic and in many situations grammatically significant as a side effect of losing the whose vowels created the umlaut
allophones In phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of e ...
. Some , , , , , , , and all were obtained by i-umlaut from , , , , , , , and respectively. Others were formed via ʀ-umlaut from , , , , and . Some , , , , and all , were obtained by u-umlaut from , , , , and , respectively. See
Old Icelandic Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic languages, North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and t ...
for information on . was obtained through a simultaneous u- and i-umlaut of . It appears in words like '' gøra'' (', '), from Proto-Germanic '' *garwijaną'', and commonly in verbs with a velar consonant before the suffix like ''wikt:søkkva, søkkva'' < ''wikt:Appendix:Proto-Germanic/sankwijanan, *sankwijaną''. OEN often preserves the original value of the vowel directly preceding runic ''ʀ'' while OWN receives ʀ-umlaut. Compare runic OEN ' with OWN ' (later '), ' ("glass", "hare", "pile of rocks").


U-umlaut

U-umlaut is more common in Old West Norse in both phonemic and allophonic positions, while it only occurs sparsely in post-runic Old East Norse and even in runic Old East Norse. : Old Swedish#Orthography, Old Swedish orthography uses to represent both and . The change from Norse to Old Swedish represents only a change in orthography rather than a change in sound. Similarly is used in place of . And thus changes from Norse to Old Swedish to Swedish should be viewed as a change in orthography. : Represents the u-umlaut found in Swedish. This is still a major difference between Swedish and Faroese and Icelandic today. Plurals of neuters do not have u-umlaut at all in Swedish, but in Faroese and Icelandic they do, for example the Faroese and Icelandic plurals of the word , and respectively, in contrast to the Swedish plural and numerous other examples. That also applies to almost all feminine nouns, for example the largest feminine noun group, the o-stem nouns (except the Swedish noun mentioned above), and even Thematic stem, i-stem nouns and Proto-Indo-European root#Word formation, root nouns, such as Old West Norse (
mörk
' in Icelandic) in comparison with Modern and Old Swedish .


Breaking

Vowel breaking, or fracture, caused a front vowel to be split into a semivowel-vowel sequence before a back vowel in the following syllable. While West Norse only broke , East Norse also broke . The change was blocked by a , , or preceding the potentially-broken vowel. Some or and or result from breaking of and respectively.


Assimilation or elision of inflectional ''ʀ''

When a noun, pronoun, adjective, or verb has a long vowel or diphthong in the accented syllable and its stem ends in a single ''l'', ''n'', or ''s'', the ''r'' (or the elder ''r''- or ''z''-variant ''Yr rune (Younger Futhark), ʀ'') in an ending is assimilated. When the accented vowel is short, the ending is dropped. The nominative of the strong masculine declension and some i-stem feminine nouns uses one such -r (ʀ). ''Óðin-r'' (''Óðin-ʀ'') becomes ''Óðinn'' instead of ''*Óðinr'' (''*Óðinʀ''). The verb ('to blow'), has third person present tense ('[he] blows') rather than (). Similarly, the verb ('to shine') had present tense third person (rather than , ); while ('to cool down') had present tense third person (rather than , ). The rule is not absolute, with certain counter-examples such as ('friend'), which has the synonym , yet retains the unabsorbed version, and ('Jötunn, giant'), where assimilation takes place even though the root vowel, , is short. The clusters cannot yield respectively, instead . The effect of this shortening can result in the lack of distinction between some forms of the noun. In the case of ('winter'), the nominative and accusative singular and plural forms are identical. The nominative singular and nominative and accusative plural would otherwise have been , . These forms are impossible because the cluster cannot be realized as , nor as , nor as . The same shortening as in also occurs in = ('salmon') (as opposed to , ), ('bottom') (as opposed to , ), and (as opposed to , ). Furthermore, wherever the cluster is expected to exist, such as in the male names , (supposedly , ), the result is apparently always rather than or . This is observable in the Runic corpus.


Phonotactics


Blocking of ii, uu

In Old Norse, ''i/j'' adjacent to ''i'', ''e'', their u-umlauts, and ''æ'' was not possible, nor ''u/v'' adjacent to ''u'', ''o'', their i-umlauts, and ''ǫ''. At the beginning of words, this manifested as a dropping of the initial ''j'' (which was general, independent of the following vowel) or ''v''. Compare ON ''orð, úlfr, ár'' with English ''word, wolf, year''. In inflections, this manifested as the dropping of the inflectional vowels. Thus, ''klæði'' + dat ''-i'' remains ''klæði'', and ''sjáum'' in Icelandic progressed to ''sjǫ́um'' > ''sjǫ́m'' > ''sjám''. The ''jj'' and ''ww'' of Proto-Germanic became ''ggj'' and ''ggv'' respectively in Old Norse, a change known as Holtzmann's law.


Epenthesis

An epenthetic vowel became popular by 1200 in Old Danish, 1250 in Old Swedish and Norwegian, and 1300 in Old Icelandic. An unstressed vowel was used which varied by dialect. Old Norwegian exhibited all three: was used in West Norwegian south of Bergen, as in ''aftur'', ''aftor'' (older ''wikt:aptr, aptr''); North of Bergen, appeared in ''aftir'', ''after''; and East Norwegian used , ''after'', ''aftær''.


Grammar

Old Norse was a moderately inflection, inflected language with high levels of nominal and verbal inflection. Most of the fused morphemes are retained in modern Icelandic, especially in regard to noun case declensions, whereas modern Norwegian in comparison has moved towards more analytical word structures.


Gender

Old Norse had three grammatical genders – masculine, feminine and neuter. Adjectives or pronouns referring to a noun must Agreement (linguistics), mirror the gender of that noun, so that one says, "" but, "". As in other languages, the grammatical gender of an impersonal noun is generally unrelated to an expected natural gender of that noun. While indeed , "man" is masculine, , "woman", is feminine, and , house, is neuter, so also are and , for "raven" and "crow", masculine and feminine respectively, even in reference to a female raven or a male crow. All neuter words have identical nominative and accusative forms, and all feminine words have identical nominative and accusative plurals. The gender of some words' plurals does not agree with that of their singulars, such as and . Some words, such as , have multiple genders, evidenced by their Determiner (linguistics), determiners being declined in different genders within a given sentence.


Morphology

Nouns, adjectives and pronouns were declension, declined in four grammatical casesnominative case, nominative, accusative case, accusative, genitive case, genitive and dative case, dativein singular and plural numbers. Adjectives and pronouns were additionally declined in three grammatical genders. Some pronouns (first and second person) could have dual (grammatical number), dual number in addition to singular and plural. The genitive was used partitive case, partitively and in compounds and kennings (e.g., ''Urðarbrunnr'', the well of Urðr; ''Lokasenna'', the gibing of Loki). There were several classes of nouns within each gender. The following is an example of the "strong" inflectional paradigms: The numerous "weak" noun paradigms had a much higher degree of syncretism between the different cases; i.e. they had fewer forms than the "strong" nouns. A definite article was realised as a suffix that retained an independent declension; e.g., (''a troll'') – (''the troll''), (''a hall'') – (''the hall''), (''an arm'') – (''the arm''). This definite article, however, was a separate word and did not become attached to the noun before later stages of the Old Norse period.


Texts

The earliest inscriptions in Old Norse are runic alphabet, runic, from the 8th century. Runes continued to be commonly used until the 15th century and have been recorded to be in use in some form as late as the 19th century in some parts of Sweden. With the Christianization of Scandinavia, conversion to Christianity in the 11th century came the
Latin alphabet The Latin alphabet or Roman alphabet is the collection of letters originally used by the ancient Romans In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived ...

Latin alphabet
. The oldest preserved texts in Old Norse in the Latin alphabet date from the middle of the 12th century. Subsequently, Old Norse became the vehicle of a large and varied body of vernacular literature. Most of the surviving literature was written in Iceland. Best known are the Norse sagas, the Icelanders' sagas and the mythological literature, but there also survives a large body of religious literature, translations into Old Norse of courtly romances, classical mythology, and the Old Testament, as well as instructional material, First Grammatical Treatise, grammatical treatises and a large body of letters and official documents.


Dialects

Most of the innovations that appeared in Old Norse spread evenly through the Old Norse area. As a result, the dialects were very similar and considered to be the same language, a language that they sometimes called the Danish tongue (''Dǫnsk tunga''), sometimes Norse language (''Norrœnt mál''), as evidenced in the following two quotes from ''Heimskringla'' by Snorri Sturluson: However, some changes were geographically limited and so created a dialectal difference between Old West Norse and Old East Norse. As Proto-Norse evolved into Old Norse, in the 8th century, the effects of the Germanic umlaut, umlauts seem to have been very much the same over the whole Old Norse area. But in later dialects of the language a split occurred mainly between west and east as the use of umlauts began to vary. The typical umlauts (for example ''fylla'' from *''fullijan'') were better preserved in the West due to later generalizations in the east where many instances of umlaut were removed (many archaic Eastern texts as well as eastern runic inscriptions however portray the same extent of umlauts as in later Western Old Norse). All the while, the changes resulting in breaking (linguistics), breaking (for example ''hiarta'' from *''hertō'') were more influential in the East probably once again due to generalizations within the inflectional system. This difference was one of the greatest reasons behind the dialectalization that took place in the 9th and 10th centuries, shaping an Old West Norse dialect in Norway and the Atlantic settlements and an Old East Norse dialect in Denmark and Sweden. Old West Norse and Old Gutnish did not take part in the monophthongization which changed ''æi'' (''ei'') into ''ē'', ''øy'' (''ey'') and ''au'' into ''ø̄'', nor did certain peripheral dialects of Swedish, as seen in modern Swedish dialects in Ostrobothnia, Ostrobothnian dialects. Another difference was that Old West Norse lost certain combinations of consonants. The combinations -''mp''-, -''nt''-, and -''nk''- were assimilated into -''pp''-, -''tt''- and -''kk''- in Old West Norse, but this phenomenon was limited in Old East Norse. Here is a comparison between the two dialects as well as Old Gutnish. It is a transcription from one of the Funbo Runestones in Sweden (U 990) from the eleventh century (translation: 'Veðr and Thane and Gunnar raised this stone after Haursi, their father. God help his spirit'): The OEN original text above is transliterated according to traditional scholarly methods, wherein u-umlaut is not regarded in runic Old East Norse. Modern studies have shown that the positions where it applies are the same as for runic Old West Norse. An alternative and probably more accurate transliteration would therefore render the text in OEN as such: Some past participles and other words underwent i-umlaut in Old West Norse but not in Old East Norse dialects. Examples of that are Icelandic slegið/sleginn and tekið/tekinn, which in Swedish are :wikt:slagit, slagit/:wikt:slagen, slagen and :wikt:tagit, tagit/:wikt:tagen, tagen. This can also be seen in the Icelandic and Norwegian words :wikt:sterkur, sterkur and :wikt:sterk, sterk ("strong"), which in Swedish is :wikt:stark, stark as in Old Swedish. These differences can also be seen in comparison between Norwegian and Swedish.


Old West Norse

Old West Norse is by far the best attested variety of Old Norse. The term Old Norse is often used to refer to Old West Norse specifically, in which case the subject of this article receives another name, such as ''Old Scandinavian''. Another designation is Old West Nordic. The combinations ''-mp-'', ''-nt-'', and ''-nk-'' mostly merged to ''-pp-'', ''-tt-'' and ''-kk-'' in Old West Norse around the 7th century, marking the first distinction between the Eastern and Western dialects. The following table illustrates this: An early difference between Old West Norse and the other dialects was that Old West Norse had the forms ''bú'', "dwelling", ''kú'', "cow" (accusative) and ''trú'', "faith", whereas Old East Norse had ''bó'', ''kó'' and ''tró''. Old West Norse was also characterized by the preservation of ''u''-umlaut, which meant that, for example, Proto-Norse language, Proto-Norse *''tanþu'', "tooth", was pronounced ''tǫnn'' and not ''tann'' as in post-runic Old East Norse; OWN ''gǫ́s'' and runic OEN ''gǫ́s'', while post-runic OEN ''gás'' "goose". The earliest body of text appears in
runic inscriptions A runic inscription is an inscription Epigraphy ( grc, ἐπιγραφή, "inscription") is the study of inscriptions, or epigraphs, as writing Writing is a medium of human communication that involves the representation of a language wit ...

runic inscriptions
and in poems composed c. 900 by Þjóðólfr of Hvinir (although the poems are not preserved in contemporary sources, but only in much later manuscripts). The earliest manuscripts are from the period 1150–1200 and concern legal, religious and historical matters. During the 12th and 13th centuries, Trøndelag and Western Norway were the most important areas of the Norwegian kingdom and they shaped Old West Norse as an archaic language with a rich set of declensions. In the body of text that has survived into the modern day from until c. 1300, Old West Norse had little dialect variation, and
Old Icelandic Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia Scandinavia; : ''Skades ...
does not diverge much more than the
Old Norwegian nn, gamalnorsk , region = Kingdom of Norway (872–1397) The term Norwegian Realm (Old Norse: ''*Noregsveldi'', Norwegian Bokmål, Bokmål: ''Norgesveldet'', Norwegian Nynorsk, Nynorsk: ''Noregsveldet'') and Old Kingdom of Norway refer ...
dialects do from each other. Old Norwegian differentiated early from Old Icelandic by the loss of the consonant ''h'' in initial position before ''l'', ''n'' and ''r''; thus whereas Old Icelandic manuscripts might use the form ''hnefi'', "fist", Old Norwegian manuscripts might use ''nefi''. From the late 13th century, Old Icelandic and Old Norwegian started to diverge more. After c. 1350, the Black Death and following social upheavals seem to have accelerated language changes in Norway. From the late 14th century, the language used in Norway is generally referred to as Old Norwegian#Middle Norwegian, Middle Norwegian. Old West Norse underwent a lengthening of initial vowels at some point, especially in Norwegian, so that OWN ''eta'' became ''éta,'' ONW ''akr'' > ''ákr'', OIC ''ek'' > ''ék''.


Old Icelandic

In Iceland, initial before was lost: compare Icelandic ''wikt:rangur#Icelandic, rangur'' with Danish ''vrang'', OEN ''wrangʀ''. The change is shared with Old Gutnish. A specifically Icelandic sound, the long, ''u''-umlauted A, spelled Ǫ́ and pronounced , developed around the early 11th century. It was short-lived, being marked in the First Grammatical Treatise, Grammatical Treatises and remaining until the end of the 12th century. It then merged back into ; as a result, long A is not affected by ''u''-umlaut in Modern Icelandic. merged with during the 12th century, which caused to become an independent phoneme from and the written distinction of for from medial and final to become merely etymological. Around the 13th century, Œ/Ǿ (, which had probably already lowered to ) merged to Æ (). Thus, pre-13th-century (with 'œ') 'green' became spelled as in modern Icelandic (with 'æ'). The 12th-century
Gray Goose Laws {{Main, Medieval Scandinavian law The Gray (Grey) Goose Laws ( is, Grágás) are a collection of laws from the Icelandic Commonwealth period. The term ''Grágás'' was originally used in a medieval source to refer to a collection of Norwegian la ...
manuscripts distinguish the vowels, and so the Codex Regius copy does as well. However, the 13th-century Codex Regius copy of the Poetic Edda probably relied on newer and/or poorer quality sources. Demonstrating either difficulty with or total lack of natural distinction, the manuscripts show separation of the two phonemes in some places, but they frequently confuse the letters chosen to distinguish them in others. Towards the end of the 13th century, Ę () merged to E ().


Old Norwegian

Around the 11th century, Old Norwegian , , and became , and . It is debatable whether the sequences represented a consonant cluster () or devoicing (). Orthographic evidence suggests that in a confined dialect of Old Norwegian, may have been unrounded before and that ''u''-umlaut was reversed unless the ''u'' had been eliminated: ''ǫll'', ''ǫllum'' > ''ǫll'', ''allum''.


Greenlandic Norse

This dialect of Old West Norse was spoken by Icelandic colonies in Greenland. When the colonies died out around the 15th century, the dialect went with it. The phoneme and some instances of merged to and so Old Icelandic Þórðr became Tortr.


Text example

The following text is from ''Alexanders saga'', an Alexander romance. The manuscript, AM 519 a 4to, is dated c. 1280. The facsimile demonstrates the scribal abbreviation, sigla used by scribes to write Old Norse. Many of them were borrowed from Latin. Without familiarity with these abbreviations, the facsimile will be unreadable to many. In addition, reading the manuscript itself requires familiarity with the letterforms of the native script. The abbreviations are expanded in a version with normalized spelling like that of the Old Norse orthography, standard normalization system. Compared to the spelling of the same text in Modern Icelandic, pronunciation has changed greatly, but spelling has changed little since Icelandic orthography was intentionally modelled after Old Norse in the 19th century. * a printed in uncial script, uncial. Uncials not encoded separately in Unicode as of this section's writing.


Old East Norse

Old East Norse or Old East Nordic between 800 and 1100 is called ''Runic Swedish'' in Sweden and ''Runic Danish'' in Denmark, but for geographical rather than linguistic reasons. Any differences between the two were minute at best during the more ancient stages of this dialect group. Changes had a tendency to occur earlier in the Danish region. Even today many Old Danish changes have still not taken place in modern Swedish. Swedish is therefore the more Linguistic conservatism, conservative of the two in both the ancient and the modern languages, sometimes by a profound margin but in general, differences are still minute. The language is called "runic" because the body of text appears in runes. Runic Old East Norse is characteristically conservative in form, especially Swedish (which is still true for modern Swedish compared to Danish). In essence it matches or surpasses the conservatism of post-runic Old West Norse, which in turn is generally more conservative than post-runic Old East Norse. While typically "Eastern" in structure, many later post-runic changes and trademarks of OEN had yet to happen. The phoneme ''ʀ'', which evolved during the Proto-Norse period from ''z'', was still clearly separated from ''r'' in most positions, even when being geminated, while in OWN it had already merged with ''r''. The Proto-Germanic language, Proto-Germanic phoneme was preserved in initial sounds in Old East Norse (w-), unlike in West Norse where it developed into . It survived in rural Swedish dialects in the provinces of Skåne, Blekinge, Småland, Halland, Västergötland and south of Bohuslän into the 18th, 19th and 20th century. It is still preserved in the Dalecarlian language, Dalecarlian dialects in the province of Dalarna, Sweden, and in Jutlandic dialects in Denmark. The -phoneme did also occur after consonants (kw-, tw- etc.) in Old East Norse and did so into modern times in said Swedish dialects, as well as in the Westro- and North Bothnian tongues and other dialects in the north of Sweden. In summation, the -sound survived in the East Nordic tongues almost a millennium longer than in the West Norse counterparts, and does still subsist at the present. Monophthongization of ''æi > ē'' and ''øy, au > ø̄'' started in mid-10th-century Denmark. Compare runic OEN: ''fæigʀ'', ''gæiʀʀ'', ''haugʀ'', ''møydōmʀ'', ''diūʀ''; with Post-runic OEN: ''fēgher'', ''gēr'', ''hø̄gher'', ''mø̄dōmber'', ''diūr''; OWN: ''wikt:feigr, feigr'', ''wikt:geirr, geirr'', ''wikt:howe, haugr'', ''meydómr'', ''dýr''; from PN *faigijaz, *gaizaz, *haugaz, *mawi- + dōmaz 'maidendom; virginity', *diuza '(wild) animal'. Feminine o-stems often preserve the plural ending -aʀ, while in OWN they more often merge with the feminine i-stems: (runic OEN) ''*sōlaʀ'', ''*hafnaʀ''/''*hamnaʀ'', ''*wāgaʀ'' versus OWN ''sólir'', ''hafnir'' and ''vágir'' (modern Swedish ''solar'', ''hamnar'', ''vågar'' ("suns, havens, scales"); Danish has mainly lost the distinction between the two stems, with both endings now being rendered as ''-er'' or ''-e'' alternatively for the o-stems). Vice versa, masculine i-stems with the root ending in either ''g'' or ''k'' tended to shift the plural ending to that of the ja-stems while OEN kept the original: ''drængiaʀ'', ''*ælgiaʀ'' and ''*bænkiaʀ'' versus OWN ''wikt:drengr#Old Norse, drengir'', ''elgir'' ("elks") and ''wikt:bekkr#Etymology 1, bekkir'' (modern Danish ''wikt:dreng, drenge'', ''wikt:elg, elge'', ''wikt:bænk, bænke'', modern Swedish ''wikt:dräng, drängar'', ''älgar'', ''bänkar''). The plural ending of ja-stems were mostly preserved while those of OWN often acquired that of the i-stems: ''*bæðiaʀ'', ''*bækkiaʀ'', ''*wæfiaʀ'' versus OWN ''beðir'' ("beds"), ''wikt:bekkr#Etymology 2, bekkir'', ''wikt:vefr#Old Norse, vefir'' (modern Swedish ''bäddar'', ''bäckar'', ''vävar'').


Old Danish

Until the early 12th century, Old East Norse was very much a uniform dialect. It was in Denmark that the first innovations appeared that would differentiate Old Danish from Old Swedish () as these innovations spread north unevenly (unlike the earlier changes that spread more evenly over the East Norse area), creating a series of isoglosses going from Zealand to Svealand. In Old Danish, merged with during the 9th century. From the 11th to 14th centuries, the unstressed vowels -''a'', -''o'' and -''e'' (Old Norse orthography#Normalized spelling, standard normalization -''a'', -''u'' and -''i'') started to merge into -''ə'', represented with the letter ''e''. This vowel came to be epenthesis, epenthetic, particularly before ''-ʀ'' endings. At the same time, the voiceless stop consonants ''p'', ''t'' and ''k'' became voiced plosives and even fricative consonants. Resulting from these innovations, Danish has ''kage'' (cake), ''tunger'' (tongues) and ''gæster'' (guests) whereas (Standard) Swedish has retained older forms, ''kaka'', ''tungor'' and ''gäster'' (OEN ''kaka'', ''tungur'', ''gæstir''). Moreover, the Danish pitch accent shared with Norwegian and Swedish changed into ''stød'' around this time.


Old Swedish

At the end of the 10th and early 11th century initial ''h-'' before ''l'', ''n'' and ''r'' was still preserved in the middle and northern parts of Sweden, and is sporadically still preserved in some northern dialects as ''g-'', e.g. ''gly'' (lukewarm), from ''hlýʀ''. The
Dalecarlian dialects Dalecarlian (''dalmål'' in Swedish Swedish or ' may refer to: * Anything from or related to Sweden, a country in Northern Europe * Swedish language, a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Sweden and Finland * Swedish alphabet, the officia ...
developed independently from Old Swedish and as such can be considered separate languages from Swedish.


Text example

This is an extract from ''Västgötalagen'', the Westrogothic law. It is the oldest text written as a manuscript found in Sweden and from the 13th century. It is contemporaneous with most of the Icelandic literature. The text marks the beginning of Old Swedish as a distinct dialect.


Old Gutnish

Due to
Gotland Gotland (, ; ''Gutland'' in the local dialect), also historically spelled Gottland or Gothland (), is Sweden's largest island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habita ...
's early isolation from the mainland, many features of Old Norse did not spread from or to the island, and Old Gutnish developed as an entirely separate branch from Old East and West Norse. For example, the diphthong ''ai'' in ''aigu'', ''þair'' and ''waita'' was not subject to Assimilation (phonology), anticipatory assimilation to ''ei'' as in e.g. Old Icelandic ''eigu'', ''þeir'' and ''veita''. Gutnish also shows dropping of in initial , which it shares with the Old West Norse dialects (except Old East Norwegian), but which is otherwise abnormal. Breaking was also particularly active in Old Gutnish, leading to e.g. ''biera'' versus mainland ''bera''.


Text example

The Gutasaga is the longest text surviving from
Old Gutnish Old Gutnish or Old Gotlandic was a North Germanic language The North Germanic languages make up one of the three branches of the Germanic languages—a sub-family of the Indo-European languages—along with the West Germanic languages and the ...
. It was written in the 13th century and dealt with the early history of the Gotlanders. This part relates to the agreement that the Gotlanders had with the Swedish king sometime before the 9th century:


Relationship to other languages


Relationship to English

Old English and Old Norse were related languages. It is therefore not surprising that many words in Old Norse look familiar to English speakers; e.g., ''armr'' (arm), ''fótr'' (foot), ''land'' (land), ''fullr'' (full), ''hanga'' (to hang), ''standa'' (to stand). This is because both
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
and Old Norse stem from a Proto-Germanic mother language. In addition, numerous common, everyday Old Norse words were adopted into the Old English language during the
Viking Age The Viking Age (793–1066 AD) was the period during the Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted from the 5th to the late 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and trans ...
. A few examples of Old Norse
loanword A loanword (also loan word or loan-word) is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning ...
s in modern English are (English/Viking Age Old East Norse), in some cases even displacing their Old English cognates: * Nouns – ''anger'' (angr), ''bag'' (baggi), ''bait'' (bæit, bæita, bæiti), ''band'' (band), ''bark'' (bǫrkʀ, stem bark-), ''birth'' (byrðr), ''dirt'' (drit), ''dregs'' (dræggiaʀ), ''egg'' (ægg, related to OE. cognate "æg" which became Middle English "eye"/"eai"), ''fellow'' (félagi), ''gap'' (gap), ''husband'' (húsbóndi), ''cake'' (kaka), ''keel'' (kiǫlʀ, stem also kial-, kil-), ''kid'' (kið), ''knife'' (knífʀ), ''law'' (lǫg, stem lag-), ''leg'' (læggʀ), ''link'' (hlænkʀ), ''loan'' (lán, related to OE. cognate "læn", cf. lend), ''race'' (rǫs, stem rás-), ''root'' (rót, related to OE. cognate "wyrt", cf. List of wort plants, wort), ''sale'' (sala), ''scrap'' (skrap), ''seat'' (sæti), ''sister'' (systir, related to OE. cognate "sweostor"), ''skill'' (skial/skil), ''skin'' (skinn), ''skirt'' (skyrta vs. the native English ''shirt'' of the same root), ''sky'' (ský), ''slaughter'' (slátr), ''snare'' (snara), ''steak'' (stæik), ''thrift'' (þrift), ''tidings'' (tíðindi), ''trust'' (traust), ''window'' (vindauga), ''wing'' (væ(i)ngʀ) * Verbs – ''are'' (''er'', displacing OE ''sind''), ''blend'' (blanda), ''call'' (kalla), ''cast'' (kasta), ''clip'' (klippa), ''crawl'' (krafla), ''cut'' (possibly from ON kuta), ''die'' (døyia), ''gasp'' (gæispa), ''get'' (geta), ''give'' (gifa/gefa, related to OE. cognate "giefan"), ''glitter'' (glitra), ''hit'' (hitta), ''lift'' (lyfta), ''raise'' (ræisa), ''ransack'' (rannsaka), ''rid'' (ryðia), ''run'' (rinna, stem rinn-/rann-/runn-, related to OE. cognate "rinnan"), ''scare'' (skirra), ''scrape'' (skrapa), ''seem'' (søma), ''sprint'' (sprinta), ''take'' (taka), ''thrive'' (þrífa(s)), ''thrust'' (þrysta), ''want'' (vanta) * Adjectives – ''flat'' (flatr), ''happy'' (happ), ''ill'' (illr), ''likely'' (líklígʀ), ''loose'' (lauss), ''low'' (lágʀ), ''meek'' (miúkʀ), ''odd'' (odda), ''rotten'' (rotinn/rutinn), ''scant'' (skamt), ''sly'' (sløgʀ), ''weak'' (væikʀ), ''wrong'' (vrangʀ) * Adverbs – ''thwart/athwart'' (þvert) * Prepositions – ''till'' (til), ''fro'' (frá) * Conjunction – though/tho (þó) * Interjection – ''hail'' (hæill), ''wassail'' (ves hæill) * Personal pronoun – ''they'' (þæiʀ), ''their'' (þæiʀa), ''them'' (þæim) (for which the Anglo-Saxons said ''híe'', ''hiera'', ''him'') * Prenominal adjectives – ''same'' (sami) In a simple sentence like "They are both weak," the extent of the Old Norse loanwords becomes quite clear (Old East Norse with archaic pronunciation: "Þæiʀ eʀu báðiʀ wæikiʀ" while Old English "híe syndon bégen (þá) wáce"). The words "they" and "weak" are both borrowed from Old Norse, and the word "both" might also be a borrowing, though this is disputed (cf. German ''beide''). While the number of loanwords adopted from the Norse was not as numerous as that of Norman French or Latin, their depth and everyday nature make them a substantial and very important part of everyday English speech as they are part of the very core of the modern English vocabulary. Tracing the origins of words like "bull" and "Thursday" is more difficult. "Bull" may derive from either Old English ''bula'' or Old Norse ''buli'', while "Thursday" may be a borrowing or simply derive from the Old English ''Þunresdæg'', which could have been influenced by the Old Norse cognate. The word "are" is from Old English ''earun''/''aron'', which stems back to Proto-Germanic as well as the Old Norse cognates.


Relationship to modern Scandinavian languages


See also

* Germanic a-mutation * ''An Introduction to Old Norse''A common textbook on the language * List of English words of Old Norse origin * * Old Norse morphologyThe grammar of the language. * Old Norse orthographyThe spelling of the language * Old Norse poetry *
Proto-Norse language Proto-Norse (also called Ancient Nordic, Ancient Scandinavian, Ancient Norse, Primitive Norse, Proto-Nordic, Proto-Scandinavian and Proto-North Germanic) was an Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to we ...
The Scandinavian dialect of Proto-Germanic that developed into Old Norse


Dialectal information

* Greenlandic Norse * History of Danish * History of Icelandic *
Old Gutnish Old Gutnish or Old Gotlandic was a North Germanic language The North Germanic languages make up one of the three branches of the Germanic languages—a sub-family of the Indo-European languages—along with the West Germanic languages and the ...
*
Old Norwegian nn, gamalnorsk , region = Kingdom of Norway (872–1397) The term Norwegian Realm (Old Norse: ''*Noregsveldi'', Norwegian Bokmål, Bokmål: ''Norgesveldet'', Norwegian Nynorsk, Nynorsk: ''Noregsveldet'') and Old Kingdom of Norway refer ...
* Old Swedish


Citations


General citations


Cleasby-Vigfússon citations


Sources


General sources

* * * * , "The Menota handbook 2.0" * * * * * ** * *


Dictionaries

* *
e-text
via the Germanic Lexicon Project (''germanic-lexicon-project.org'') *
e-text
adapted from the Germanic Lexicon Project version to work better with mobile devices and with an improved search (''old-norse.net'') * ** * *

via "Germanic Lexicon Project" (''lexicon.ff.cuni.cz'') *
e-text
via ''norroen.info'' * * * * *
First and Second editions
via ''www.septentrionalia.net''


Grammars

* * * (Old West Norse) * (Old Swedish and Old Gutnish) * (Old Danish) * (Old West Norse) * (''Old Norse'' in the narrow sense, i.e. Old West Norse) * (Old West Norse) * (Old West Norse)


Old Norse texts

* ** , facing translation


Language learning resources

* * * *

via Germanic Lexicon Project (lexicon.ff.cuni.cz) *
e-ext
via Project Gutenberg *


External links


Heimskringla.no
an online collection of Old Norse source material
Old Norse Online
by Todd B. Krause and Jonathan Slocum, free online lessons at th
Linguistics Research Center
at the University of Texas at Austin
Video: Old Norse text read with a reconstructed pronunciation and a Modern Icelandic pronunciation, for comparison. With subtitles

Old Norse sound sample


* [http://starling.rinet.ru/cgi-bin/response.cgi?root=new100&morpho=0&basename=new100\ier\grm&limit=-1 Old Norse basic lexicon at the Global Lexicostatistical Database] {{Authority control Old Norse, 8th-century establishments in Europe 14th-century disestablishments in Europe Languages attested from the 8th century Languages extinct in the 14th century Medieval languages, Norse, Old North Germanic languages