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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; Sámi languages: /. ( ) is a subregion#Europe, subregion in Northern Europe, with strong historical, cultural, and linguistic ties between its constituent peoples. In English usage, ''Scandinavia'' most commonly refers to Denmark, ...
and their overseas settlements and chronologically coincides with the
Viking Age The Viking Age () was the period during the Middle Ages when Norsemen known as Vikings undertook large-scale raiding, colonizing, conquest, and trading throughout Europe and reached North America. It followed the Migration Period and the Germ ...
, the
Christianization of Scandinavia The Christianization of Scandinavia, as well as other Nordic countries and the Baltic countries, took place between the 8th and the 12th centuries. The realms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden established their own Archbishop, Archdioceses, responsi ...
and the consolidation of Scandinavian kingdoms from about 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 languages, Indo-European language spoken in Scandinavia that is thou ...
developed into Old Norse by the 8th century, 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 ...
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 The term dialect (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) arou ...
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 spoken on the Baltic Sea, Baltic island of Gotland. It shows sufficient differences from the Old West Norse and Old East Norse dialects that it is considered to be a separate branch. ...
''. 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, but the differences accumulate over distance so that widely separated vari ...
, with no clear geographical boundary between them. For example, Old East Norse traits were found in eastern
Norway Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic countries, Nordic country in Northern Europe, the mainland territory of which comprises the western and northernmost portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula. The remote Arctic island of ...
, although
Old Norwegian Old Norwegian ( no, gammelnorsk and ), also called Norwegian Norse, is an early form of the Norwegian language that was spoken between the 11th and 14th century; it is a transitional stage between Old West Norse and Middle Norwegian, and also Norn ...
is classified as Old West Norse, and Old West Norse traits were found in western
Sweden Sweden, formally the Kingdom of Sweden,The United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names states that the country's formal name is the Kingdom of SwedenUNGEGN World Geographical Names, Sweden./ref> is a Nordic countries, Nordic c ...
. Most speakers spoke Old East Norse in what is present-day
Denmark ) , song = ( en, "King Christian stood by the lofty mast") , song_type = National and royal anthem , image_map = EU-Denmark.svg , map_caption = , subdivision_type = Sovereign state , subdivision_name = Danish Realm, Kingdom of Denmark ...
and Sweden.
Old Gutnish Old Gutnish or Old Gotlandic was a North Germanic language spoken on the Baltic Sea, Baltic island of Gotland. It shows sufficient differences from the Old West Norse and Old East Norse dialects that it is considered to be a separate branch. ...
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 countries, Nordic island country in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic Ocean and in the Arctic Ocean. Iceland is the most list of countries and dependencies by population density, sparsely populated coun ...
ic '' Gray Goose Laws'' state that
Swedes Swedes ( sv, svenskar) are a North Germanic peoples, North Germanic ethnic group native to the Nordic region, primarily their nation state of Sweden, who share a common ancestry, culture, history and language. They mostly inhabit Sweden and th ...
,
Norwegians Norwegians ( no, nordmenn) are a North Germanic peoples, North Germanic ethnic group and nation native to Norway, where they form the vast majority of the population. They share a common culture and speak the Norwegian language. Norwegians a ...
,
Icelanders Icelanders ( is, Íslendingar) are a North Germanic peoples, North Germanic ethnic group and nation who are native to the island country of Iceland and speak Icelandic language, Icelandic. Icelanders established the country of Iceland in mid 93 ...
, and
Danes Danes ( da, danskere, ) are a North Germanic peoples, North Germanic ethnic group and nationality native to Denmark and a modern nation identified with the country of Denmark. This connection may be ancestral, legal, historical, or cultural. D ...
spoke the same language, ("Danish tongue"; speakers of Old East Norse would have said '). Another term was ("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 ...
Icelandic, Faroese, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, and other North Germanic varieties of which Norwegian, Danish and Swedish retain considerable mutual intelligibility while Icelandic remains the closest to Old Norse.


Geographical distribution

Old Icelandic was very close to
Old Norwegian Old Norwegian ( no, gammelnorsk and ), also called Norwegian Norse, is an early form of the Norwegian language that was spoken between the 11th and 14th century; it is a transitional stage between Old West Norse and Middle Norwegian, and also Norn ...
, and together they formed
Old West Norse 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 ...
, which was also spoken in Norse settlements in
Greenland Greenland ( kl, Kalaallit Nunaat, ; da, Grønland, ) is an island country in North America that is part of the Danish Realm, Kingdom of Denmark. It is located between the Arctic Ocean, Arctic and Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic oceans, east of the ...
, the
Faroes The Faroe Islands ( ), or simply the Faroes ( fo, Føroyar ; da, Færøerne ), are a North Atlantic archipelago, island group and an autonomous territory of the Danish Realm, Kingdom of Denmark. They are located north-northwest of Scotlan ...
,
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic Ocean, in Northwestern Europe, north-western Europe. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel (Grea ...
,
Scotland Scotland (, ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. Covering the northern third of the island of Great Britain, mainland Scotland has a Anglo-Scottish border, border with England to the southeast ...
, the
Isle of Man ) , anthem = "O Land of Our Birth" , image = Isle of Man by Sentinel-2.jpg , image_map = Europe-Isle_of_Man.svg , mapsize = , map_alt = Location of the Isle of Man in Europe , map_caption = Location of the Isle of Man (green) in Europe ...
, northwest England, and in
Normandy Normandy (; french: link=no, Normandie ; nrf, Normaundie, Nouormandie ; from Old French , plural of ''Normant'', originally from the word for "northman" in several Scandinavian languages) is a geographical and cultural region in Northwestern ...
.
Old East Norse 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 ...
was spoken in Denmark, Sweden,
Kievan Rus' Kievan Rusʹ, also known as Kyivan Rusʹ ( orv, , Rusĭ, or , , ; Old Norse: ''Garðaríki''), was a state in Eastern Europe, Eastern and Northern Europe from the late 9th to the mid-13th century.John Channon & Robert Hudson, ''Penguin Hist ...
, eastern England, and Danish settlements in Normandy. The Old Gutnish dialect was spoken in
Gotland Gotland (, ; ''Gutland'' in Gutnish), also historically spelled Gottland or Gothland (), is Sweden's largest island. It is also a Provinces of Sweden, province, Counties of Sweden, county, Municipalities of Sweden, municipality, and List of dio ...
and in various settlements in the East. In the 11th century, Old Norse was the most widely spoken European language, ranging from
Vinland Vinland, Vineland, or Winland ( non, Vínland ᚠᛁᚾᛚᛅᚾᛏ) was an area of coastal North America explored by Vikings. Leif Erikson landed there around 1000 AD, nearly five centuries before the voyages of Christopher Columbus and John ...
in the West to the
Volga River The Volga (; russian: Во́лга, a=Ru-Волга.ogg, p=ˈvoɫɡə) is the List of rivers of Europe#Rivers of Europe by length, longest river in Europe. Situated in Russia, it flows through Central Russia to Southern Russia and into the Cas ...
in the East. In
Kievan Rus' Kievan Rusʹ, also known as Kyivan Rusʹ ( orv, , Rusĭ, or , , ; Old Norse: ''Garðaríki''), was a state in Eastern Europe, Eastern and Northern Europe from the late 9th to the mid-13th century.John Channon & Robert Hudson, ''Penguin Hist ...
, it survived the longest in
Veliky Novgorod Veliky Novgorod ( rus, links=no, Великий Новгород, t=Great Newtown, p=vʲɪˈlʲikʲɪj ˈnovɡərət), also known as just Novgorod (), is the largest city and administrative centre of Novgorod Oblast, Russia. It is one of the ol ...
, 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 called by many names; fi, suomenruotsalainen) can be used as an attribute., group=Note—see #Terminology, below; sv, finlandssvenskar; fi, suomenruotsalaiset) is a linguistic mi ...
is strongly contested, but Swedish settlement had spread the
language Language is a structured system of communication. The structure of a language is its grammar and the free components are its vocabulary. Languages are the primary means by which humans communicate, and may be conveyed through a variety of met ...
into the region by the time of the Second Swedish Crusade 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, Faroese, Norwegian, and the extinct
Norn language Norn is an extinct North Germanic language that was spoken in the Northern Isles (Orkney Orkney (; sco, Orkney; on, Orkneyjar; nrn, Orknøjar), also known as the Orkney Islands, is an archipelago in the Northern Isles of Scotland, situa ...
of
Orkney Orkney (; sco, Orkney; on, Orkneyjar; nrn, Orknøjar), also known as the Orkney Islands, is an archipelago in the Northern Isles of Scotland, situated off the north coast of the island of Great Britain. Orkney is 10 miles (16 km) north ...
and
Shetland Shetland, also called the Shetland Islands and formerly Zetland, is a subarctic archipelago in Scotland lying between Orkney, the Faroe Islands and Norway. It is the northernmost region of the United Kingdom. The islands lie about to the no ...
; the descendants of the Old East Norse dialect are the East Scandinavian languages of Danish and Swedish. 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 language, Danish and Norwegian language, Norwegian: ) was an early modern multi-national and multi-lingual real unionFeldbæk 1998:11 consisting of the Kingdom of Denmark, the Kingdom of Norway (including the then Norweg ...
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. Both
Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) is a form of the English language that was spoken after the Norman conquest of England, Norman conquest of 1066, until the late 15th century. The English language underwent distinct variations and developments ...
and
Early Scots Early History of the Scots language, Scots was the emerging literary language of the Northern Middle English speaking parts of Scotland in the period before 1450. The northern forms of Middle English descended from Northumbrian Old English. Dur ...
were strongly influenced by Norse – especially dialects from northern England, within the area of the
Danelaw The Danelaw (, also known as the Danelagh; ang, Dena lagu; da, Danelagen) was the part of 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 a ...
, and Lowland Scots, both of which contained many Old Norse
loanword A loanword (also loan word or loan-word) is a word at least partly assimilated from one language (the donor language) into another language. This is in contrast to cognates, which are words in two or more languages that are similar because the ...
s. Consequently, Modern English (including
Scottish English Scottish English ( gd, Beurla Albannach) is the set of varieties of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family, with its earliest forms spoken by the inh ...
), inherited a significant proportion of its vocabulary directly from Norse. The development of
Norman French Norman or Norman French (, french: Normand, Guernésiais: , Jèrriais: ) is a Romance language which can be classified as one of the Langues d'oïl, Oïl languages along with French language, French, Picard language, Picard and Walloon language, ...
was also influenced by Norse. Through Norman, to a smaller extent, so was modern French. Written modern Icelandic derives from the Old Norse
phonemic In phonology and linguistics, a phoneme () is a unit of sound that can distinguish one word from another in a particular language. For example, in most List of dialects of English, dialects of English, with the notable exception of the West M ...
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 ( Scottish and/or Irish). 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: , Jèrriais: ) is a Romance language which can be classified as one of the Oïl languages along with French, Picard and Walloon. The name "Norman French" is sometimes used to desc ...
; to a lesser extent, Finnish and Estonian. Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Lithuanian and Latvian also have a few Norse loanwords. The words '' Rus'' and ''Russia'', according to one theory, may be named after the
Rus' people The Rusʹ (Old East Slavic: Рѹсь; Belarusian language, Belarusian, Russian language, Russian, Rusyn language, Rusyn, and Ukrainian language, Ukrainian: Русь; Old Norse: ''Garðaríki, Garðar''; Greek language, Greek: Ῥῶς, ''Rhos ...
, 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, 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 (in the Celtic languages, Celtic branch of the Indo-European languages, Indo-European language family) native to the Gaels of Scotland. As a Goid ...
, 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 ...
. 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 phonemes. Note: The open or open-mid vowels may be transcribed differently: * = * = * = Sometime around the 13th century, (spelled ) merged with or in most dialects except
Old Danish The Danish language developed during the Middle Ages out of Old East Norse, the common predecessor of Danish and Swedish language, Swedish. It was a late form of common Old Norse. The Danish philologist Johannes Brøndum-Nielsen divided the hist ...
, and Icelandic where () 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 ''Prose Edda'', also known as the ''Younger Edda'', ''Snorri's Edda'' ( is, Snorra Edda) or, historically, simply as ''Edda'', is an Old Norse textbook written in Iceland during the early 13th century. The work is often assumed to have been t ...
. 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 and other dialects of Ovansiljan). See Old Icelandic for the mergers of (spelled ) with (spelled ) and (spelled ) with (spelled ). Old Norse had three
diphthong A diphthong ( ; , ), also known as a gliding vowel, is a combination of two adjacent vowel sounds within the same syllable. Technically, a diphthong is a vowel with two different targets: that is, the tongue (and/or other parts of the speech o ...
phonemes: , , (spelled , , 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, an allophone (; from the Ancient Greek, Greek , , 'other' and , , 'voice, sound') is a set of multiple possible spoken soundsor ''phone (phonetics), phones''or signs used to pronounce a single phoneme in a particular language. Fo ...
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. > 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 (phonetics), phone (speech sound) produced by obstructing the air passage with the tip of the tongue (apex) in conjunction with upper articulators from lips to Postalveolar consonant, postalveolar, and possibly Pr ...
, with its precise position is unknown; it is reconstructed as a palatal
sibilant Sibilants are fricative consonants of higher amplitude and pitch, made by directing a stream of air with the tongue towards the teeth. Examples of sibilants are the consonants at the beginning of the English words ''sip'', ''zip'', ''ship'', ...
. 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 is 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 Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. It is called a scientific study because it entails a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise analysis of all aspects of language, particularly its nature and s ...
, 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. It was a writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communicatio ...
,
runic Runes are the letter (alphabet), letters in a set of related alphabets known as runic alphabets native to the Germanic peoples. Runes were used to write various Germanic languages (with some exceptions) before they adopted the Latin alphabet, a ...
Old Norse was originally written with the
Younger Futhark The Younger Futhark, also called Scandinavian runes, is a runic alphabet and a reduced form of the Elder Futhark, with only 16 characters, in use from about the 9th century, after a "transitional period" during the 7th and 8th centuries. The ...
, 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 In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the late 5th to the late 15th centuries, similar to the Post-classical, post-classical period of World history (field), global history. It began with t ...
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 Rome, ancient Romans to write the Latin language. Largely unaltered with the exception of extensions (such as diacritics), it used to write Eng ...
, 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 Latin alphabet, Old English alphabet, where it is used to represent the sound . History The letter "W" While the earliest Old English texts represent this ...
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 and phonology to characterize speech sounds (usually consonants). Speech sounds can be described as either voicelessness, voiceless (otherwise known as ''unvoiced'') or voiced. The term, however, i ...
and the
voiceless dental fricative The voiceless dental non-sibilant fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. It is familiar to English speakers as the 'th' in ''think''. Though rather rare as a phoneme in the world's inventory of languages, it is en ...
is marked. The oldest texts and
runic inscriptions A runic inscription is an inscription made in one of the various runic alphabets. They generally contained practical information or memorials instead of magic or mythic stories. The body of runic inscriptions falls into the three categories of El ...
use ''þ'' 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.


Phonological processes


Ablaut

Ablaut In linguistics, the Indo-European ablaut (, from Standard High German, German '':wikt:Ablaut#German, Ablaut'' ) is a system of apophony (regular vowel variations) in the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE). An example of ablaut in English is the ...
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'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 Proto-Germanic morphological suffixes whose vowels created the umlaut
allophones In phonology, an allophone (; from the Ancient Greek, Greek , , 'other' and , , 'voice, sound') is a set of multiple possible spoken soundsor ''phone (phonetics), phones''or signs used to pronounce a single phoneme in a particular language. Fo ...
. 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'' (', '), 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 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 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 In Indo-European studies, a thematic vowel or theme vowel is the vowel or from Indo-European ablaut, ablaut placed before the Suffix#Inflectional suffixes, ending of a Proto-Indo-European language, Proto-Indo-European (PIE) word. Nouns, adjective ...
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 .


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 '' 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). () becomes instead of (). The verb ('to blow'), has third person present tense (' eblows') 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 In folklore, giants (from Ancient Greek: ''wiktionary:gigas, gigas'', cognate wiktionary:giga-, giga-) are beings of human-like appearance, but are at times prodigious in size and strength or bear an otherwise notable appearance. The word ''gi ...
'), 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, adjacent to , , their u-umlauts, and was not possible, nor adjacent to , , their i-umlauts, and . At the beginning of words, this manifested as a dropping of the initial (which was general, independent of the following vowel) or . Compare ON , , with English ''word, wolf, year''. In inflections, this manifested as the dropping of the inflectional vowels. Thus, + dat remains , and in Icelandic progressed to > > . The and of Proto-Germanic became and respectively in Old Norse, a change known as
Holtzmann's law Holtzmann's law is a Proto-Germanic sound law originally noted by Adolf Holtzmann in 1838. It is also known by its traditional German name ''Verschärfung'' (literally: "sharpening"). (A similar sound law which has affected modern Faroese language, ...
.


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 Bergen (), historically Bjørgvin, is a city and municipalities of Norway, municipality in Vestland county on the Western Norway, west coast of Norway. , its population is roughly 285,900. Bergen is the list of towns and cities in Norway, secon ...
, as in , (older '' aptr''); North of Bergen, appeared in , ; and East Norwegian used , , .


Grammar

Old Norse was a moderately
inflected In linguistic Morphology (linguistics), morphology, inflection (or wikt:inflexion#English, inflexion) is a process of word formation in which a word is modified to express different grammatical category, grammatical categories such as grammati ...
language with high levels of nominal and verbal inflection. Most of the fused
morpheme A morpheme is the smallest meaningful Constituent (linguistics), constituent of a linguistic expression. The field of linguistics, linguistic study dedicated to morphemes is called morphology (linguistics), morphology. In English, morphemes are ...
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.


Gender

Old Norse had three
grammatical gender In linguistics, grammatical gender system is a specific form of noun class system, where nouns are assigned with gender categories that are often not related to their real-world qualities. In languages with grammatical gender, most or all nouns ...
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.


Morphology

Nouns, adjectives and pronouns were declined in four grammatical cases
nominative In grammar, the nominative case (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ), subjective case, straight case or upright case is one of the grammatical cases of a noun or other part of speech, which generally marks the subject (grammar), subject ...
,
accusative The accusative case ( abbreviated ) of a noun A noun () is a word that generally functions as the name of a specific object or set of objects, such as living creatures, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas.Example nouns for ...
,
genitive In grammar, the genitive case (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) is the grammatical case that marks a word, usually a noun, as modifying another word, also usually a noun—thus indicating an attributive noun, attributive relationshi ...
and
dative In grammar, the dative case (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated , or sometimes when it is a core argument) is a grammatical case used in some languages to indicate the recipient or beneficiary of an action, as in "Maria Jacobo potum dedit ...
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 A kenning (Icelandic language, Icelandic: ) is a figure of speech in the type of circumlocution, a Compound (linguistics), compound that employs figurative language in place of a more concrete single-word noun. Kennings are strongly associated w ...
s (e.g., , the well of Urðr; , 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 Runes are the letter (alphabet), letters in a set of related alphabets known as runic alphabets native to the Germanic peoples. Runes were used to write various Germanic languages (with some exceptions) before they adopted the Latin alphabet, a ...
, 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 Conversion to Christianity is the religious conversion of a previously non-Christian person to Christianity. Different Christian denominations may perform various different kinds of rituals or ceremonies initiation into their community of believe ...
in the 11th century came the
Latin alphabet The Latin alphabet or Roman alphabet is the collection of letters originally used by the Ancient Rome, ancient Romans to write the Latin language. Largely unaltered with the exception of extensions (such as diacritics), it used to write Eng ...
. 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 is a series of science fantasy role-playing video games by Square Enix. The series originated on the Game Boy in 1989 as the creation of Akitoshi Kawazu at Square (video game company), Square. It has since continued across multiple platforms, f ...
s, 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, 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 (), sometimes Norse language (), as evidenced in the following two quotes from by
Snorri Sturluson Snorri Sturluson (Old Norse 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 ...
: 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 from ) 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 from ) 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 () into , () and into , 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 , , and were assimilated into , and 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 participle In linguistics, a participle () (from Latin ' a "sharing, partaking") is a nonfinite verb, nonfinite verb form that has some of the characteristics and functions of both verbs and adjectives. More narrowly, ''participle'' has been defined as "a wo ...
s and other words underwent i-umlaut in Old West Norse but not in Old East Norse dialects. Examples of that are Icelandic and , which in Swedish are slagit/ slagen and tagit/ tagen. This can also be seen in the Icelandic and Norwegian words sterkur and sterk ("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 , , and mostly merged to , and 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 , "dwelling", , "cow" (accusative) and , "faith", whereas Old East Norse , and . Old West Norse was also characterized by the preservation of ''u''-umlaut, which meant that, for example,
Proto-Norse Proto-Norse (also called Ancient Nordic, Ancient Scandinavian, Ancient Norse, Primitive Norse, Proto-Nordic, Proto-Scandinavian and Proto-North Germanic) was an Indo-European languages, Indo-European language spoken in Scandinavia that is thou ...
, "tooth", became and not as in post-runic Old East Norse; OWN and runic OEN , while post-runic OEN "goose". The earliest body of text appears in
runic inscriptions A runic inscription is an inscription made in one of the various runic alphabets. They generally contained practical information or memorials instead of magic or mythic stories. The body of runic inscriptions falls into the three categories of El ...
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 Trøndelag (; sma, Trööndelage) is a Counties of Norway, county in the central part of Norway. It was created in 1687, then named Trondhjem County ( no, Trondhjems Amt); in 1804 the county was split into Nord-Trøndelag and Sør-Trøndelag by ...
and
Western Norway Western Norway ( nb, Vestlandet, Vest-Norge; nn, Vest-Noreg) is the Regions of Norway, region along the Atlantic coast of southern Norway. It consists of the Counties of Norway, counties Rogaland, Vestland, and Møre og Romsdal. The region has ...
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 Old Norwegian ( no, gammelnorsk and ), also called Norwegian Norse, is an early form of the Norwegian language that was spoken between the 11th and 14th century; it is a transitional stage between Old West Norse and Middle Norwegian, and also Norn ...
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 , "fist", Old Norwegian manuscripts might use . From the late 13th century, Old Icelandic and Old Norwegian started to diverge more. After c. 1350, the
Black Death The Black Death (also known as the Pestilence, the Great Mortality or the Plague) was a bubonic plague pandemic occurring in Western Eurasia and North Africa North Africa, or Northern Africa is a region encompassing the northern portio ...
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 Middle Norwegian (Bokmål, Norwegian Bokmål: ; Nynorsk, Norwegian Nynorsk: , ) is a form of the Norwegian language that was spoken from 1350 up to 1550 and was the last phase of Norwegian in its original state, before Danish language, Danish repl ...
. Old West Norse underwent a lengthening of initial vowels at some point, especially in Norwegian, so that OWN became , ONW > , OIC > .


Old Icelandic

In Iceland, initial before was lost: compare Icelandic '' rangur'' with Danish , OEN . The change is shared with Old Gutnish. A specifically Icelandic sound, the long, ''u''-umlauted A, spelled 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, (, which had probably already lowered to ) merged to (). Thus, pre-13th-century (with ) 'green' became spelled as in modern Icelandic (with ). The 12th-century Gray Goose Laws manuscripts distinguish the vowels, and so the
Codex Regius Codex Regius ( la, wikt:en:codex#Latin, Cōdex wikt:en:regius#Latin, Rēgius, "Royal Book" or "King's Book"; is, Konungsbók) or GKS 2365 4º is an Icelandic codex in which many Old Norse poems from the ''Poetic Edda'' are preserved. Thought to ...
copy does as well. However, the 13th-century Codex Regius copy of the
Poetic Edda The ''Poetic Edda'' is the modern name for an untitled collection of Old Norse anonymous narrative poetry, narrative poems, which is distinct from the ''Prose Edda'' written by Snorri Sturluson. Several versions exist, all primarily of text from ...
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, () merged to ().


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: , > , .


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 became .


Text example

The following text is from , 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 Uncial is a majusculeGeoffrey Glaister, Glaister, Geoffrey Ashall. (1996) ''Encyclopedia of the Book''. 2nd edn. New Castle, DE, and London: Oak Knoll Press & The British Library, p. 494. script (styles of handwriting), script (written entirely ...
. 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 Conservatism is a Philosophy of culture, cultural, Social philosophy, social, and political philosophy that seeks to promote and to preserve traditional institutions, practices, and values. The central tenets of conservatism may vary in r ...
of the two in both the ancient and the modern languages, sometimes by a profound margin. The language is called "runic" because the body of text appears in
runes Runes are the letter (alphabet), letters in a set of related alphabets known as runic alphabets native to the Germanic peoples. Runes were used to write various Germanic languages (with some exceptions) before they adopted the Latin alphabet, a ...
. 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 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 ...
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 Westro- and North Bothnia, Skåne,
Blekinge Blekinge (, old da, Bleking) is one of the traditional provinces of Sweden, Swedish provinces (), situated in the southern coast of the geographic region of Götaland, in southern Sweden. It borders Småland, Scania and the Baltic Sea. It is ...
, Småland, 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 Dalarna () is a ''Provinces of Sweden, landskap'' (historical province) in central Sweden. English exonyms for it are Dalecarlia () and the Dales. Dalarna adjoins Härjedalen, Hälsingland, Gästrikland, Västmanland and Värmland. It is also ...
, Sweden, and in Jutlandic dialects in Denmark. The -phoneme did also occur after consonants (kw-, tw-, sw- etc.) in Old East Norse and did so into modern times in said Swedish dialects and in a number of others. Generally, the initial w-sound developed into in dialects earlier than after consonants where it survived much longer. 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 > and > started in mid-10th-century Denmark. Compare runic OEN: , , , , ; with Post-runic OEN: , , , , ; OWN: '' feigr'', '' geirr'', '' haugr'', , ; from PN , , , + 'maidendom; virginity', '(wild) animal'. Feminine o-stems often preserve the plural ending , while in OWN they more often merge with the feminine i-stems: (runic OEN) , , , versus OWN , and (modern Swedish , , ("suns, havens, scales"); Danish has mainly lost the distinction between the two stems, with both endings now being rendered as or alternatively for the o-stems). Vice versa, masculine i-stems with the root ending in either or tended to shift the plural ending to that of the ja-stems while OEN kept the original: , and versus OWN '' drengir'', ("elks") and '' bekkir'' (modern Danish '' drenge'', '' elge'', '' bænke'', modern Swedish '' drängar'', , ). The plural ending of ja-stems were mostly preserved while those of OWN often acquired that of the i-stems: , , versus OWN ("beds"), '' bekkir'', '' vefir'' (modern Swedish , , ).


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
isogloss An isogloss, also called a heterogloss (see #Etymology, Etymology below), is the geographic boundary of a certain linguistics, linguistic feature, such as the pronunciation of a vowel, the meaning of a word, or the use of some morphological or s ...
es going from
Zealand Zealand ( da, Sjælland ) at 7,031 km2 is the largest and most populous islands of Denmark, island in Denmark proper (thus excluding Greenland and Disko Island, which are larger in size). Zealand had a population of 2,319,705 on 1 January ...
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 . This vowel came to be epenthetic, particularly before ''-ʀ'' endings. At the same time, the voiceless
stop consonant In phonetics, a plosive, also known as an occlusive or simply a stop, is a pulmonic consonant in which the vocal tract is blocked so that all airflow ceases. The occlusion may be made with the tongue tip or blade (, ), tongue body (, ), l ...
s ''p'', ''t'' and ''k'' became voiced plosives and even
fricative consonant A fricative is a consonant produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together. These may be the lower lip against the upper teeth, in the case of ; the back of the tongue against the soft palate in ...
s. Resulting from these innovations, Danish has (cake), (tongues) and (guests) whereas (Standard) Swedish has retained older forms, , and (OEN , , ). Moreover, the Danish
pitch accent A pitch-accent language, when spoken, has word Accentuation, accents in which one syllable in a word or morpheme is more prominent than the others, but the accentuated syllable is indicated by a contrasting pitch (music), pitch (tone (linguisti ...
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. (lukewarm), from . The Dalecarlian dialects developed independently from Old Swedish and as such can be considered separate languages from Swedish.


Text example

This is an extract from , 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 Gutnish), also historically spelled Gottland or Gothland (), is Sweden's largest island. It is also a Provinces of Sweden, province, Counties of Sweden, county, Municipalities of Sweden, municipality, and List of dio ...
'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 in , and was not subject to anticipatory assimilation to as in e.g. Old Icelandic , and . 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. versus mainland .


Text example

The is the longest text surviving from
Old Gutnish Old Gutnish or Old Gotlandic was a North Germanic language spoken on the Baltic Sea, Baltic island of Gotland. It shows sufficient differences from the Old West Norse and Old East Norse dialects that it is considered to be a separate branch. ...
. 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 Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family, with its earliest forms spoken by the inhabita ...
and Old Norse were related languages. It is therefore not surprising that many words in Old Norse look familiar to English speakers; e.g., (arm), (foot), (land), (full), (to hang), (to stand). This is because both English and Old Norse stem from a
Proto-Germanic 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 ...
mother language. In addition, numerous common, everyday Old Norse words were adopted into the Old English language during the
Viking Age The Viking Age () was the period during the Middle Ages when Norsemen known as Vikings undertook large-scale raiding, colonizing, conquest, and trading throughout Europe and reached North America. It followed the Migration Period and the Germ ...
. A few examples of Old Norse
loanword A loanword (also loan word or loan-word) is a word at least partly assimilated from one language (the donor language) into another language. This is in contrast to cognates, which are words in two or more languages that are similar because the ...
s in modern English are (English/Viking Age Old East Norse), in some cases even displacing their Old English cognates: * Nouns – ''anger'' (), ''bag'' (), ''bait'' (, , ), ''band'' (), ''bark'' (, stem ), ''birth'' (), ''dirt'' (), ''dregs'' (), ''egg'' (, related to OE. cognate which became Middle English /), ''fellow'' (), ''gap'' (), ''husband'' (), ''cake'' (), ''keel'' (, stem also , ), ''kid'' (), ''knife'' (), ''law'' (, stem ), ''leg'' (), ''link'' (), ''loan'' (, related to OE. cognate , cf. lend), ''race'' (, stem ), ''root'' (, related to OE. cognate , cf. wort), ''sale'' (), ''scrap'' (), ''seat'' (), ''sister'' (, related to OE. cognate ), ''skill'' (/), ''skin'' (), ''skirt'' ( vs. the native English ''shirt'' of the same root), ''sky'' (), ''slaughter'' (), ''snare'' (), ''steak'' (), ''thrift'' (), ''tidings'' (), ''trust'' (), ''window'' (), ''wing'' () * Verbs – ''are'' (, displacing OE ), ''blend'' (), ''call'' (), ''cast'' (), ''clip'' (), ''crawl'' (), ''cut'' (possibly from ON ), ''die'' (), ''gasp'' (), ''get'' (), ''give'' (/, related to OE. cognate ), ''glitter'' (), ''hit'' (), ''lift'' (), ''raise'' (), ''ransack'' (), ''rid'' (), ''run'' (, stem , related to OE. cognate ), ''scare'' (), ''scrape'' (), ''seem'' (), ''sprint'' (), ''take'' (), ''thrive'' (), ''thrust'' (), ''want'' () * Adjectives – ''flat'' (), ''happy'' (), ''ill'' (), ''likely'' (), ''loose'' (), ''low'' (), ''meek'' (), ''odd'' (), ''rotten'' (/), ''scant'' (), ''sly'' (), ''weak'' (), ''wrong'' () * Adverbs – ''thwart/athwart'' () * Prepositions – ''till'' (), ''fro'' () * Conjunction – though/tho () * Interjection – ''hail'' (), ''wassail'' () * Personal pronoun – ''they'' (), ''their'' (), ''them'' () (for which the Anglo-Saxons said , , ) * Prenominal adjectives – ''same'' () 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: while Old English ). 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 ). While the number of loanwords adopted from the Norse was not as numerous as that of
Norman French Norman or Norman French (, french: Normand, Guernésiais: , Jèrriais: ) is a Romance language which can be classified as one of the Langues d'oïl, Oïl languages along with French language, French, Picard language, Picard and Walloon language, ...
or
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around present-day Rome, but through ...
, 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 or Old Norse , while "Thursday" may be a borrowing or simply derive from the Old English , which could have been influenced by the Old Norse cognate. The word "are" is from Old English /, 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 Words of Old Norse origin have entered the English language, primarily from the contact between Old Norse and Old English during colonisation of eastern and northern Anglo-Saxon England, England between the mid 9th to the 11th centuries (see als ...
* * Old Norse morphologyThe grammar of the language. * Old Norse orthographyThe spelling of the language *
Old Norse poetry Old Norse poetry encompasses a range of verse forms written in Old Norse, during the period from the 8th century (see Eggjum stone) to as late as the far end of the 13th century. Most of the Old Norse poetry that survives was preserved in Iceland ...
*
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 languages, Indo-European language spoken in Scandinavia that is thou ...
The Scandinavian dialect of Proto-Germanic that developed into Old Norse


Dialectal information

*
Greenlandic Norse Greenlandic Norse is an extinct North Germanic languages, North Germanic language that was spoken in the Norse colonization of North America#Norse Greenland, Norse settlements of Greenland until their demise in the late 15th century. The langua ...
*
History of Danish The Danish language developed during the Middle Ages out of Old East Norse, the common predecessor of Danish and Swedish language, Swedish. It was a late form of common Old Norse. The Danish philologist Johannes Brøndum-Nielsen divided the hist ...
* History of Icelandic *
Old Gutnish Old Gutnish or Old Gotlandic was a North Germanic language spoken on the Baltic Sea, Baltic island of Gotland. It shows sufficient differences from the Old West Norse and Old East Norse dialects that it is considered to be a separate branch. ...
*
Old Norwegian Old Norwegian ( no, gammelnorsk and ), also called Norwegian Norse, is an early form of the Norwegian language that was spoken between the 11th and 14th century; it is a transitional stage between Old West Norse and Middle Norwegian, and also Norn ...
* 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 Project Gutenberg (PG) is a Virtual volunteering, volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works, as well as to "encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks." It was founded in 1971 by American writer Michael S. Hart and is the ...
*


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 The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin, UT, or Texas) is a public university, public research university in Austin, Texas. It was founded in 1883 and is the oldest institution in the University of Texas System. With 40,916 undergraduat ...

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 {{Authority control 8th-century establishments in Europe 14th-century disestablishments in Europe Languages attested from the 8th century Languages extinct in the 14th century Norse, Old North Germanic languages