Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian was a North Germanic language
that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia
and their overseas settlements
from about the 7th to the 15th centuries.
The Proto-Norse language
developed into Old Norse by the 8th century, and Old Norse began to develop into the modern North Germanic languages in the mid-to-late 14th century, 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.
Old Norse was divided into three dialect
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 West Norse and Old East Norse formed a dialect continuum
, with no clear geographical boundary between them. For example, Old East Norse traits were found in eastern Norway
, although Old Norwegian is classified as Old West Norse, and Old West Norse traits were found in western Sweden
. Most speakers spoke Old East Norse in what is present-day Denmark
and Sweden. Old Gutnish 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 Icelandic ''Gray Goose Laws
'' state that Swedes, Norwegians, Icelanders, and Danes 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 Icelandic
, and Swedish
, of which Norwegian, Danish and Swedish retain considerable mutual intelligibility
was very close to Old Norwegian
, and together they formed Old West Norse
, which was also spoken in settlements in Greenland
, the Faroes
, the Isle of Man
, and northwest England
, and in Norse settlements in Normandy
Old East Norse
was spoken in Denmark
, settlements in Kievan Rus'
eastern England, and Danish settlements in Normandy
. The Old Gutnish
dialect was spoken in Gotland
and in various settlements in the East. In the 11th century, Old Norse was the most widely spoken European language, ranging from Vinland
in the West to the Volga River
in the East. In Kievan Rus'
, it survived the longest in Veliky Novgorod
, probably lasting into the 13th century
The age of the Swedish-speaking population of Finland
is strongly contested, but at latest by the time of the Second Swedish Crusade
in the 13th century, Swedish settlement had spread the language into the region.
The modern descendants of the Old West Norse dialect are the West Scandinavian languages of Icelandic
, and the extinct Norn language
; the descendants of the Old East Norse dialect are the East Scandinavian languages of Danish
. Norwegian is descended from Old West Norse, but over the centuries it has been heavily influenced by East Norse, particularly during the Denmark–Norway
Among these, the grammar of Icelandic and Faroese have changed the least from Old Norse in the last thousand years. In contrast, the pronunciation 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
dialects and Lowland Scots
, which contain many Old Norse loanword
s. It also influenced the development of the Norman language
, and through it and to a smaller extent, that of modern French
Written modern Icelandic derives from the Old Norse phonemic
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
). 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
Other influenced languages
Various other languages, which are not closely related, have been heavily influenced by Norse, particularly the Norman language
also have a number of Norse loanwords; the words ''Rus
'' and ''Russia'', according to one theory, may be named after the Rus' people
, a Norse tribe, probably from present-day east-central Sweden. The current Finnish and Estonian words for Sweden are ''Ruotsi'' and ''Rootsi'', respectively.
A number of loanwords have been introduced into Irish
, many associated with fishing and sailing. A similar influence is found in Scottish Gaelic
, with over one hundred loanwords estimated to be in the language, many of which are related to fishing and sailing.
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
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
, 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
. The dots in the following vowel table separate the oral from nasal
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
, and Icelandic where (''ǫ'') merged with . This can be determined by their distinction within the 12th-century First Grammatical Treatise
but not within the early 13th-century Prose Edda
. 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
). See Old Icelandic
for the mergers of (spelled ''œ'') with (spelled ''æ'') and (spelled ''ę'') with (''e'').
Old Norse had three diphthong
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.
Old Norse has six plosive phonemes, being rare word-initially and and pronounced as voiced fricative allophone
s between vowels except in compound words (e.g. ), already in the Proto-Germanic language
(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
, with its precise position is unknown; it is reconstructed as a palatal sibilant
. 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
to a plosive , which suggests that instead of being a voiceless sonorant, it retained a stronger frication.
in Old Norse falls on the word stem
, so that would be pronounced . In compound words, secondary stress falls on the second stem (e.g. , ).
Unlike Proto-Norse, which was written with the Elder Futhark
Old Norse was originally written with the Younger Futhark
, 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
came into use some time later.
As for the Latin alphabet
, there was no standardized orthography in use in the Middle Ages. A modified version of the letter wynn
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
and the voiceless dental fricative
is marked. The oldest texts and runic inscriptions
exclusively. Long vowels are denoted with acutes
. Most other letters are written with the same glyph as the IPA
phoneme, except as shown in the table below.
patterns are groups of vowels which are swapped, or ''ablauted,'' in the nucleus
of a word. Strong verbs
ablaut the lemma
'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 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
of unrounded vowels. Umlaut is phonemic and in many situations grammatically significant as a side effect of losing the Proto-Germanic morphological suffixes
whose vowels created the umlaut allophones
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
for information on .
was obtained through a simultaneous u- and i-umlaut of . It appears in words like ''gøra
'' (''gjǫra'', ''geyra''), from Proto-Germanic ''*garwijaną
'', and commonly in verbs with a velar consonant before the suffix like ''søkkva
'' < ''*sankwijaną
OEN often preserves the original value of the vowel directly preceding runic ''ʀ'' while OWN receives ʀ-umlaut. Compare runic OEN ''glaʀ, haʀi, hrauʀ'' with OWN ''gler, heri'' (later ''héri''), ''hrøyrr/hreyrr'' ("glass", "hare", "pile of rocks").
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
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 i-stem
nouns and root nouns
, such as Old West Norse (mörk
' in Icelandic) in comparison with Modern and Old Swedish .
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 ''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 ('e
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 ('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.
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
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 ''aptr
''); North of Bergen, appeared in ''aftir'', ''after''; and East Norwegian used , ''after'', ''aftær''.
Old Norse was a moderately inflected
language with high levels of nominal and verbal inflection. Most of the fused morpheme
s are retained in modern Icelandic, especially in regard to noun case declensions, whereas modern Norwegian in comparison has moved towards more analytical word structures.
Old Norse had three grammatical gender
s – masculine, feminine and neuter. Adjectives or pronouns referring to a noun must 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 determiners
being declined in different genders within a given sentence.
Nouns, adjectives and pronouns were declined
in four grammatical casesnominative
in singular and plural numbers. Adjectives and pronouns were additionally declined in three grammatical genders. Some pronouns (first and second person) could have dual number
in addition to singular and plural. The genitive was used partitively
and in compounds and kenning
s (e.g., ''Urðarbrunnr
'', the well of Urðr; ''Lokasenna
'', the gibing
There were several classes of nouns within each gender. The following is an example of the "strong" inflectional paradigm
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.
The earliest inscriptions in Old Norse are 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 conversion to Christianity
in the 11th century came the 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 saga
s, the Icelanders' sagas
and the mythological literature, but there also survives a large body of religious literature, translations into Old Norse of courtly romance
s, classical mythology, and the Old Testament, as well as instructional material, grammatical treatises
and a large body of letters and official documents.
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 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
(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 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
(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 participle
s 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 slagit
. This can also be seen in the Icelandic and Norwegian words sterkur
("strong"), which in Swedish is 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
*''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
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 both 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
does not diverge much more than the Old Norwegian
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 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''.
In Iceland, initial before was lost:
compare 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 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 ''grœnn'' 'green' became modern Icelandic ''grænn''. The 12th-century Gray Goose Laws
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 ().
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''.
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.
The following text is from ''Alexanders saga'', an Alexander romance
. The manuscript, AM 519 a 4to
, is dated c. 1280. The facsimile demonstrates the 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 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
. 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 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 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, Halland, Västergötland and south of Bohuslän into the 18th, 19th and 20th century. It is still preserved in the 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 in northern Sweden.
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: ''feigr'', ''geirr'', ''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 ''drengir'', ''elgir'' ("elks") and ''bekkir'' (modern Danish ''drenge'', ''elge'', ''bænke'', modern Swedish ''drängar'', ''älgar'', ''bänkar'').
The plural ending of ja-stems were mostly preserved while those of OEN often acquired that of the i-stems: ''*bæðiaʀ'', ''*bækkiaʀ'', ''*wæfiaʀ'' versus OWN ''beðir'' ("beds"), ''bekkir'', ''vefir'' (modern Swedish ''bäddar'', ''bäckar'', ''vävar'').
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'' (standard normalization -''a'', -''u'' and -''i'') started to merge into -''ə'', represented with the letter ''e''. This vowel came to be 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.
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 developed independently from Old Swedish
and as such can be considered separate languages from Swedish.
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.
Due to Gotland'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 retroactively umlauted 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''.
The Gutasaga is the longest text surviving from Old Gutnish. 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 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. A few examples of Old Norse loanwords 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. 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
* 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 languageThe Scandinavian dialect of Proto-Germanic that developed into Old Norse
* Greenlandic Norse
* History of Danish
* History of Icelandic
* Old Gutnish
* Old Norwegian
* Old Swedish
* , "The Menota handbook 2.0"
via the Germanic Lexicon Project (''germanic-lexicon-project.org'')
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'')
* , digital version
First and Second editions
* (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)
via Project Gutenberg
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
* ttp://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
Category:8th-century establishments in Europe
Category:14th-century disestablishments in Europe
Category:Languages attested from the 8th century
Category:Languages extinct in the 14th century
Norse language, Old
Category:North Germanic languages