Old Norse

Old Norse was a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements from about the 9th to the 13th century.

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.[2]

Old Norse was divided into three dialects: Old West Norse, Old East Norse, and Old Gutnish. Old West and 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, the more obscure dialectal 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 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 dansk tunga). Another term, used especially commonly with reference to West Norse, was norrœnt mál or norrǿnt mál ("Nordic/Northern speech"). Today Old Norse has developed into the modern North Germanic languages Icelandic, Faroese, Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish, of which Norwegian, Danish and Swedish retain considerable mutual intelligibility.

Old Norse
Dǫnsk tunga ("Danish tongue")
Native toScandinavia
RegionNordic countries, Great Britain, Ireland, Isle of Man, Normandy, Newfoundland, the Volga and places in-between
EraEvolved from Proto Norse in the 8th century, developed into the various North Germanic languages by the 14th century
Early forms
Runic, later Latin (Old Norse alphabet)
Language codes
ISO 639-2non
ISO 639-3non
Glottologoldn1244[1]

Geographical distribution

Old norse, ca 900
The approximate extent of Old Norse and related languages in the early 10th century:
  Old West Norse dialect
  Old East Norse dialect
  Other Germanic languages with which Old Norse still retained some mutual intelligibility

Old Icelandic was very close to Old Norwegian, and together they formed the Old West Norse dialect, which was also spoken in settlements in Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man and northwest England, and in Norse settlements in Normandy.[3] The Old East Norse dialect was spoken in Denmark, Sweden, settlements in Kievan Rus',[4] 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 there.[4] 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.

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 of Orkney and Shetland; 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 union.

Among these, Icelandic and the closely related Faroese have changed the least from Old Norse in the last thousand years, although 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 loanwords. It also influenced the development of the Norman language, and through it and to a smaller extent, that of modern French.

Of the modern languages, Icelandic is the closest to Old Norse. 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 as in the other North Germanic languages.

Faroese retains many similarities but is influenced by Danish, Norwegian, and Gaelic (Scottish and/or Irish).[5] Although Swedish, Danish and the Norwegian languages have diverged the most, they still retain mutual intelligibility.[6] 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.[7]

Other influenced languages

Various other languages, which are not closely related, have been heavily influenced by Norse, particularly the Norman language. Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Lithuanian, Finnish, Latvian and Estonian 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; see Rus (name), 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 the Irish language – many but not all are associated with fishing and sailing.[8][9][10][11] A similar influence is found in Scots Gaelic, with over one hundred loanwords estimated to be in the language, many of which, but not all, are related to fishing and sailing.[12][13]

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.

Old Norse has had nasalized versions of all nine vowel places.[cv 1] 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.[cv 1] 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.[14] However, the distinction still holds in Dalecarlian dialects.[15] The dots in the following vowel table separate the oral from nasal phonemes.

Generic vowel system c. 9th–12th centuries
Front vowels Back vowels
Unrounded Rounded Unrounded Rounded
Close iĩ ĩː y ỹː uũ ũː
Mid e ẽː øø̃ øːø̃ː oõ õː
Open, open-mid ɛɛ̃ ɛːɛ̃ː œœ̃ aã ãː ɔɔ̃ ɔːɔ̃ː

Note: The open or open-mid vowels may be transcribed differently:

  • /æ/ = /ɛ/
  • /ɒ/ = /ɔ/
  • /ɑ/ = /a/

Sometime around the 13th century, /ɔ/ (spelled ǫ) merged with /ø/ or /o/ in all dialects except Old Danish. In Icelandic, all /ɔ/ (ǫ) merged with /ø/. 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 /øː/ (spelled œ) with /ɛː/ (spelled æ) and /ɛ/ (spelled ę) with /e/ (e).

Generic vowel system c. 13th–14th centuries
Front vowels Back vowels
Unrounded Rounded Unrounded Rounded
High i y u
Mid e ø øː o
Low/Low-mid ɛ ɛː a  
History of Old Norse and Old Icelandic vowels
Proto-Germanic Northwest Germanic Primitive Old West Norse Old Icelandic
(1st Grammarian)
Later Old Icelandic Example (Old Norse)
a a a ⟨a⟩ a a land "land" < *landą
a a (+i-mut) ɛ ⟨ę⟩ e ⟨e⟩ e menn "men" < *manniz
a a (+u/w-mut) ɔ ⟨ǫ⟩ ɔ ø ⟨ö⟩ lǫnd "lands" < *landu < *landō; söngr "song" < sǫngr < *sangwaz
a a (+i-mut +w-mut) œ ⟨ø₂⟩ ø ø ⟨ö⟩ gøra "to make" < *garwijaną
æː aː ⟨á⟩ láta "to let" < *lētaną
æː aː (+i-mut) ɛː ⟨æ⟩ ɛː ɛː mæla "to speak" < *mālijan < *mēlijaną
æː aː (+u-mut) ɔː ⟨ǫ́⟩ ɔː aː ⟨á⟩ mǫ́l "meals" < *mālu < *mēlō
e e e ⟨e⟩ e e sex "six" < *seks; bresta "to burst" < *brestaną
e e (+u/w-mut) ø ⟨ø₁⟩ ø ø ⟨ö⟩ tøgr "ten" < *teguz
e e (broken) ea ⟨ea⟩ ja ⟨ja⟩ ja gjalda "to repay" < *geldaną
e e (broken +u/w-mut) eo/io ⟨eo⟩/⟨io⟩ jo > jɔ ⟨jǫ⟩ jø ⟨jö⟩ skjǫldr "shield" < *skelduz
eː ⟨é⟩ lét "let (past tense)" < *lēt
i i i ⟨i⟩ i i mikill "great" < *mikilaz
i i (+w-mut) y ⟨y⟩ y y(ː) slyngva "to sling" < *slingwaną
iː ⟨í⟩ líta "to look" < *lītaną
oː ⟨ó⟩ fór "went" < *fōr; mót "meeting" < mōtą
oː (+i-mut) øː ⟨œ⟩ øː ɛː ⟨æ⟩ mœðr "mothers" < *mōdriz
u u u ⟨u⟩ u u una "to be content" < *unaną
u u (+i-mut) y ⟨y⟩ y y kyn "race" < *kunją
u u (+a-mut) o ⟨o⟩ o o fogl/fugl "bird" < *fuglaz; morginn "morning" < *murganaz
uː ⟨ú⟩ drúpa "to droop" < *drūpaną
uː (+i-mut) yː ⟨ý⟩ mýss "mice" < mūsiz
ai ai ai, ɛi ⟨ei⟩ ɛi ɛi bein, Gut. bain "bone" < *bainą
ai ai (+w-mut) øy ⟨ey⟩, ⟨øy⟩ øy ⟨ey⟩[16] ɛy kveykva "to kindle" < *kwaikwaną
au au au ⟨au⟩ au au lauss "loose" < *lausaz
au au (+i-mut) øy ⟨ey⟩, ⟨øy⟩ øy ⟨ey⟩ ɛy leysa "to loosen" < *lausijaną
eu eu eu ⟨eu⟩ jú ⟨jú⟩ djúpr "deep" < *deupaz
eu eu (+dental) eo ⟨eo⟩ jó ⟨jó⟩ bjóða/bjúða "to offer" < *beudaną
lost komȧ < *kwemaną "to come, arrive"; OWN vėtr/vėttr < vintr < *wintruz "winter"
Ṽː Ṽː Ṽː Ṽː lost hȧ́r "shark" < *hanhaz; ȯ́rar "our" (pl.) < *unseraz; ø̇́rȧ "younger" (acc. neut. wk.[cv 1]) < *junhizą [17]

Consonants

Old Norse has six plosive phonemes, /p/ being rare word-initially and /d/ and /b/ pronounced as voiced fricative allophones between vowels except in compound words (e.g. veðrabati), already in the Proto-Germanic language (e.g. *b *[β] > [v] between vowels). The /ɡ/ phoneme was pronounced as [ɡ] after an n or another g and as [k] before /s/ and /t/. Some accounts have it a voiced velar fricative [ɣ] in all cases, and others have that realisation only in the middle of words and between vowels (with it otherwise being realised [ɡ]).[18][19] The Old East Norse /ʀ/ was an apical consonant, with its precise position is unknown; it is reconstructed as a palatal sibilant[20]. It descended from Proto-Germanic /z/ and eventually developed into /r/, as had already occurred in Old West Norse.

  Labial Dental Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Labiovelar Glottal
Plosive p b t d k ɡ
Nasal m n (ŋ)
Fricative f (v) θ (ð) s (ɣ) h
Trill r
Approximant ʀ j w
Lateral approximant l

The consonant digraphs hl, hr, hn occurred word-initially. It is unclear whether they were sequences of two consonants (with the first element realised as /h/ or perhaps /x/) or as single voiceless sonorants /l̥/, /r̥/ and /n̥/ respectively. In Old Norwegian, Old Danish and later Old Swedish, the groups hl, hr, hn were reduced to plain l, r, n, which suggests that they had most likely already been pronounced as voiceless sonorants by Old Norse times.

The pronunciation of hv is unclear, but it may have been /xʷ/ (the Proto-Germanic pronunciation), /hʷ/ or /ʍ/. Unlike the three other digrapghs, it was retained much longer in all dialects. Without ever developing into a voiceless sonorant in Icelandic, it instead underwent fortition to a plosive /kv/, which suggests that instead of being a voiceless sonorant, it retained a stronger frication.

Orthography

Unlike Proto-Norse, which was written with the Elder Futhark, runic Old Norse was originally written with the Younger Futhark, which only had 16 letters. Because of the limited number of runes, several runes were used for different sounds, and the distinction between long and short vowels wasn't retained 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 called vend was used briefly for the sounds /u/, /v/, and /w/. 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 non-phonemic difference between the voiced and the voiceless dental fricative is marked—the oldest texts as well as runic inscriptions 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.

Accent

Primary stress in Old Norse falls on the word stem, so that hyrjar would be pronounced /ˈhyr.jar/. In compound words, secondary stress falls on the second stem (e.g. lærisveinn, /ˈlɛːɾ.iˌswɛinː/).[21]

Phonological processes

Ablaut

Ablaut 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

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 /y/, /yː/, /ø/, /øː/, /ɛ/, /ɛː/, /øy/,[16] and all /ɛi/ were obtained by i-umlaut from /u/, /uː/, /o/, /oː/, /a/, /aː/, /au/, and /ai/ respectively. Others were formed via ʀ-umlaut from /u/, /uː/, /a/, /aː/, and /au/.[3]

Some /y/, /yː/, /ø/, /øː/, and all /ɔ/, /ɔː/ were obtained by u-umlaut from /i/, /iː/, /e/, /eː/, and /a/, /aː/ respectively. See Old Icelandic for information on /ɔː/.

/œ/ was obtained through a simultaneous u- and i-umlaut of /a/. 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.[cv 2]

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

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. Compare West Old Norse fǫður (accusative of faðir, 'father'), vǫrðr (guardian/caretaker), ǫrn (eagle), jǫrð ('earth', Modern Icelandic: jörð), mjǫlk ('milk', Modern Icelandic: mjólk) with Old Swedish faður, varðer, örn, jorð and Modern Swedish örn, jord, mjölk with the latter two demonstrating the u-umlaut found in Swedish.[22][23]

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 land, lond and lönd respectively, in contrast to the Swedish plural land 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 jord mentioned above), and even i-stem nouns and root nouns, such as Old West Norse mǫrk (mörk in Icelandic) in comparison with Modern and Old Swedish mark.[23]

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.[3] While West Norse only broke e, East Norse also broke i. The change was blocked by a v, l, or r preceding the potentially-broken vowel.[3][24]

Some /ja/ or /jɔ/ and /jaː/ or /jɔː/ result from breaking of /e/ and /eː/ respectively.[cv 3]

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.[cv 4] 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 blása 'to blow', has third person present tense blæss for "[he] blows" rather than *blæsr (*blæsʀ).[25] Similarly, the verb skína 'to shine' had present tense third person skínn (rather than *skínr, *skínʀ); while kala 'to cool down' had present tense third person kell (rather than *kelr, *kelʀ).

The rule is not absolute, with certain counter-examples such as vinr, which has the synonym vin, yet retains the unabsorbed version, and jǫtunn, where assimilation takes place even though the root vowel, ǫ, is short.

The clusters */Clʀ, Csʀ, Cnʀ, Crʀ/ cannot yield */Clː, Csː, Cnː, Crː/ respectively, instead /Cl, Cs, Cn, Cr/.[26] The effect of this shortening can result in the lack of distinction between some forms of the noun. In the case of vetr, the nominative and accusative singular and plural forms are identical. The nominative singular and nominative and accusative plural would otherwise have been OWN *vetrr, OEN *vintrʀ. These forms are impossible because the cluster */Crʀ/ cannot be realized as /Crː/, nor as */Crʀ/, nor as */Cʀː/. The same shortening as in vetr also occurs in lax = laks (as opposed to *lakss, *laksʀ), botn (as opposed to *botnn, *botnʀ), and jarl (as opposed to *jarll, *jarlʀ).

Furthermore, wherever the cluster */rʀ/ is expected to exist, such as in the male names Ragnarr, Steinarr (supposedly *Ragnarʀ, *Steinarʀ), the result is apparently always /rː/ rather than */rʀ/ or */ʀː/. This is observable in the Runic corpus

Phonotactics

Blocking of ii, uu

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.[3] At the beginning of words, this manifested as a dropping of the initial j 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.[27] The jj and ww of Proto-Germanic became ggj and ggv respectively in Old Norse, a change known as Holtzmann's law.[3]

Epenthesis

An epenthetic vowel became popular by 1200 in Old Danish, 1250 in Old Swedish and Norwegian, and 1300 in Old Icelandic.[28] An unstressed vowel was used which varied by dialect. Old Norwegian exhibited all three: /u/ was used in West Norwegian south of Bergen, as in aftur, aftor (older aptr); North of Bergen, /i/ appeared in aftir, after; and East Norwegian used /a/, after, aftær.[16]

Grammar

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

Gender

Old Norse had three grammatical genders – masculine, feminine and neuter. Adjectives or pronouns referring to a noun must mirror the gender of that noun, so that one says, "heill maðr!" but, "heilt barn!" As in other languages, the grammatical gender of an impersonal noun is generally unrelated to an expected natural gender of that noun. While indeed karl, "man" is masculine, kona, "woman", is feminine, and hús, house, is neuter, so also are hrafn and kráka, 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,[29] and all feminine words have identical nominative and accusative plurals.[30]

The gender of some words' plurals does not agree with that of their singulars, such as lim and mund.[cv 5] Some words, such as hungr, have multiple genders, evidenced by their determiners being declined in different genders within a given sentence.[31][32]

Hierarchy

Old Norse inherited the Proto-Germanic feature of having neuter as the default gender.[33] This means that when the gender of a noun is unknown, adjectives and pronouns referencing it use the neuter gender forms, rather than the masculine or feminine. Thus, if speaking or writing to a general audience, one would say velkomit, "well is it come," rather than velkominn or velkomin, "well is [he or she] come," as one does not know whether the person hearing it is going to be male or female.

One generally sees adjectives in their neuter form when used pronominally for this reason. For words more commonly used in this way (rather than to describe a noun) one sees their neuter forms more often than their masculine or feminine. Normally the masculine form would be the most beneficial form of an adjective to learn first, given that the majority of nouns are masculine.[34] In these cases, however, the most practical form to learn first would be the neuter.

Morphology

Nouns, adjectives and pronouns were declined in four grammatical cases—nominative, accusative, genitive and dative, 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 is used partitively, and quite often in compounds and kennings (e.g.: Urðarbrunnr, the well of Urðr; Lokasenna, the gibing of Loki).

There were several classes of nouns within each gender, the following is an example of the "strong" inflectional paradigms:

The strong masculine noun armr (English arm)
Case Singular Plural
Nominative armr armar
Accusative arm arma
Genitive arms
Dative armi ǫrmum/armum
The feminine noun hǫll (OWN), hall (OEN) (English hall)
Case Singular Plural
Nominative-Accusative hǫll/hall hallir/hallar (OEN)
Genitive hallar halla
Dative hǫllu/hallu hǫllum/hallum
The neuter noun troll (English troll):
Case Singular Plural
Nominative-Accusative troll troll
Genitive trolls trolla
Dative trolli trollum

In addition to these examples there were the numerous "weak" noun paradigms, which had a much higher degree of syncretism between the different cases in its paradigms, 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. troll (a troll) – trollit (the troll), hǫll ( a hall) – hǫllin (the hall), armr (an arm) – armrinn (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, 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, unique in medieval Europe. Most of the surviving literature was written in Iceland. Best known are the Norse sagas, the Icelanders' sagas and the mythological literature, but there also survives a large body of religious literature, translations into Old Norse of courtly romances, classical mythology, and the Old Testament, as well as instructional material, grammatical treatises and a large body of letters and official documents.[35]

Dialects

Most of the innovations that appeared in Old Norse spread evenly through the Old Norse area. As a result, the dialects were very similar and considered to be the same language, a language that they sometimes called the Danish tongue (Dǫnsk tunga), sometimes Norse language (Norrœnt mál), as evidenced in the following two quotes from Heimskringla by Snorri Sturluson:

Móðir Dyggva var Drótt, dóttir Danps konungs, sonar Rígs er fyrstr var konungr kallaðr á danska tungu.

Dyggvi's mother was Drott, the daughter of king Danp, Ríg's son, who was the first to be called king in the Danish tongue.

Heimskringla, Ynglinga saga § 20. Dauði Dyggva

...stirt var honum norrœnt mál, ok kylfdi mᴊǫk til orðanna, ok hǫfðu margir menn þat mᴊǫk at spotti.

...the Norse language was hard for him, and he often fumbled for words, which amused people greatly.

Heimskringla, Saga Sigurðar Jórsalafara, Eysteins ok Ólafs § 35(34). Frá veðjan Haralds ok Magnús

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.[36] 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) meaning : Veðr and Thane and Gunnar raised this stone after Haursi, their father. God help his spirit:

The OEN original text above is transliterated according to traditional scholarly methods, wherein u-umlaut is not regarded in runic Old East Norse. Modern studies have shown that the positions where it applies are the same as for runic Old West Norse. An alternative and probably more accurate transliteration would therefore render the text in OEN as such:

Some past participles and other words underwent i-umlaut in Old West Norse but not in Old East Norse dialects. Examples of that are Icelandic slegið/sleginn and tekið/tekinn, which in Swedish are 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.[37] These differences can also be seen in comparison between Norwegian and Swedish.

Old West Norse

The combinations -mp-, -nt-, and -nk- mostly merged to -pp-, -tt- and -kk- in Old West Norse at around the 7th century, marking the first distinction between the Eastern and Western dialects.[38] The following table illustrates this:

English Old West Norse Old East Norse Proto-Norse
mushroom s(v)ǫppr svamper *swampuz
steep brattr branter *brantaz
widow ekkja ænkia *ain(a)kjōn
to shrink kreppa krimpa *krimpan
to sprint spretta sprinta *sprintan
to sink søkkva sænkva *sankwian

An early difference between Old West Norse and the other dialects was that Old West Norse had the forms "dwelling", "cow" (accusative) and trú "faith" whereas Old East Norse had , 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 come down to us 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.[39]

Old Icelandic

In Iceland, initial /w/ before /ɾ/ was lost.[cv 6] Compare Icelandic rangur with Norwegian vrangr, OEN vrangʀ. This change is shared with Old Gutnish.[28]

A specifically Icelandic sound, the long, u-umlauted A, spelled Ǫ́ and pronounced /ɔː/, developed circa the early 11th century.[cv 1] It was short-lived, being marked in the Grammatical Treatises and remaining until the end of the 12th century.[cv 1]

/w/ merged with /v/ during the 12th century.[3] This caused /v/ to become an independent phoneme from /f/, and the written distinction of ⟨v⟩ for /v/ from medial and final ⟨f⟩ to become merely etymological.

Around the 13th century, Œ/Ǿ (/øː/) merged to Æ (/ɛː/).[cv 7] 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.[cv 7] 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 frequently mix up the letters chosen to distinguish them in others.[cv 7][40]

Towards the end of the 13th century, Ę (/ɛ/) merged to E (/e/).[cv 8]

Old Norwegian

Around the 11th century, Old Norwegian ⟨hl⟩, ⟨hn⟩, and ⟨hr⟩ became ⟨l⟩, ⟨n⟩, and ⟨r⟩. It is debatable whether the ⟨hC⟩ sequences represented a consonant cluster, /hC/, or a devoicing, /C̥/.

Orthographic evidence suggests that, in a confined dialect of Old Norwegian, /ɔ/ may have been unrounded before /u/, so that u-umlaut was reversed where the u had not been eliminated. e.g. ǫll, ǫllum > ǫll, allum.[41]

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 /θ/, and some /ð/ merged to /t/, so that Old Icelandic Þórðr becomes Tortr.

Text example

The following text is from Alexanders saga, an Alexander romance. The manuscript, AM 519 a 4to, is dated c. 1280. The facsimile demonstrates the sigla used by scribes to write Old Norse. Many of these 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 the standard normalization system's. Comparing this to the spelling of the same text in Modern Icelandic shows that, while pronunciation has changed greatly, spelling has changed little.

Digital facsimile of the manuscript text[42] The same text with normalized spelling[42] The same text in Modern Icelandic

[...] ſem oꝩın͛ h̅ſ brıgzloðo h̅o̅ epꞇ͛ þͥ ſe̅ ſıðaʀ mon ſagꞇ verða. Þeſſı ſveın̅ aͬ.* ꝩar ıſcola ſeꞇꞇr ſem ſıðꝩenıa e͛ ꞇıl rıkra man̅a vꞇan-lanꝺz aꞇ laꞇa g͛a vıð boꝛn̅ ſíıƞ́ Meıſꞇarı ꝩar h̅o̅ ꝼengın̅ ſa e͛ arıſꞇoꞇıleſ heꞇ. h̅ ꝩar harðla goðꝛ clercr ⁊ en̅ meſꞇı ſpekıngr aꞇ ꝩıꞇı. ⁊ er h̅ ꝩͬ .xíí. veꞇᷓ gamall aꞇ allꝺrı nalıga alroſcın̅ aꞇ ꝩıꞇı. en ſꞇoꝛhvgaðꝛ u̅ ꝼᷓm alla ſına ıaꝼnallꝺꝛa.

[...] sem óvinir hans brigzluðu honum eftir því, sem síðarr man sagt verða. þessi sveinn Alexander var í skóla settr, sem siðvenja er til ríkra manna útanlands at láta gera við bǫrn sín. meistari var honum fenginn sá, er Aristoteles hét. hann var harðla góðr klerkr ok inn mesti spekingr at viti. ok er hann var 12 vetra gamall at aldri, náliga alroskinn at viti, en stórhugaðr umfram alla sína jafnaldra, [...]

[...] sem óvinir hans brigsluðu honum eftir því, sem síðar mun sagt verða. Þessi sveinn Alexander var í skóla settur, sem siðvenja er til ríkra manna utanlands að láta gera við börn sín. Meistari var honum fenginn sá, er Aristóteles hét. Hann var harðla góður klerkur og hinn mesti spekingur að viti og er hann var 12 vetra gamall að aldri, nálega alroskinn að viti, en stórhugaður umfram alla sína jafnaldra, [...]

* a printed in uncial. Uncials not encoded separately in Unicode as of this section's writing.

Old East Norse

Rökstenen
The Rök Runestone in Östergötland, Sweden, is the longest surviving source of early Old East Norse. It is inscribed on both sides.

Old East Norse, between 800 and 1100, is called Runic Swedish in Sweden and Runic Danish in Denmark, but for geographical not 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 archaic 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 archaic in form, especially Swedish (which is still true for modern Swedish compared to Danish). In essence it matches or surpasses the archaicness of post-runic Old West Norse which in its turn is generally more archaic 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.

Monophthongization of æi > ē and øy, au > ø̄ started in mid-10th-century Denmark.[16] 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 *faigiaz, *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, *vāgaʀ while 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 while 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, *væfiaʀ while OWN beðir (beds), bekkir, vefir (modern Swedish bäddar, bäckar, vävar).

Old Danish

Until the early 12th century, Old East Norse was very much a uniform dialect. It was in Denmark that the first innovations appeared that would differentiate Old Danish from Old Swedish (Bandle 2005, Old East Nordic, pp. 1856, 1859) 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, /hɾ/ merged with /ɾ/ during the 9th century.[43] 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 endings.[28] At the same time, the voiceless stop consonants p, t and k became voiced plosives and even fricative consonants. Resulting from these innovations, Danish has kage (cake), tunger (tongues) and gæster (guests) whereas (Standard) Swedish has retained older forms, kaka, tungor and gäster (OEN kaka, tungur, gæstir).

Moreover, the Danish pitch accent shared with Norwegian and Swedish changed into stød around this time.

Old Swedish

At the end of the 10th and early 11th century initial h- before l, n and r was still preserved in the middle and northern parts of Sweden, and is sporadically still preserved in some northern dialects as g-, e.g. gly (lukewarm), from hlýʀ. The Dalecarlian dialects developed independently from Old Swedish[44] and as such can be considered separate languages from Swedish.

Text example

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

Dræpær maþar svænskan man eller smalenskæn, innan konongsrikis man, eigh væstgøskan, bøte firi atta ørtogher ok þrettan markær ok ænga ætar bot. [...] Dræpar maþær danskan man allæ noræn man, bøte niv markum. Dræpær maþær vtlænskan man, eigh ma frid flyia or landi sinu oc j æth hans. Dræpær maþær vtlænskæn prest, bøte sva mykit firi sum hærlænskan man. Præstær skal i bondalaghum væræ. Varþær suþærman dræpin ællær ænskær maþær, ta skal bøta firi marchum fiurum þem sakinæ søkir, ok tvar marchar konongi.

If someone slays a Swede or a Smålander, a man from the kingdom, but not a West Geat, he will pay eight örtugar and thirteen marks, but no weregild. [...] If someone slays a Dane or a Norwegian, he will pay nine marks. If someone slays a foreigner, he shall not be banished and have to flee to his clan. If someone slays a foreign priest, he will pay as much as for a fellow countryman. A priest counts as a freeman. If a Southerner is slain or an Englishman, he shall pay four marks to the plaintiff and two marks to the king.

Västgötalagen

Old Gutnish

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 /w/ in initial /wɾ/, which it shares with the Old West Norse dialects (except Old East Norwegian[45]), but which is otherwise abnormal. Breaking was also particularly active in Old Gutnish, leading to e.g. biera, unlike mainland bera.[28]

Text example

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:

So gingu gutar sielfs wiliandi vndir suia kunung þy at þair mattin frir Oc frelsir sykia suiariki j huerium staþ. vtan tull oc allar utgiftir. So aigu oc suiar sykia gutland firir vtan cornband ellar annur forbuþ. hegnan oc hielp sculdi kunungur gutum at waita. En þair wiþr þorftin. oc kallaþin. sendimen al oc kunungr oc ierl samulaiþ a gutnal þing senda. Oc latta þar taka scatt sinn. þair sendibuþar aighu friþ lysa gutum alla steþi til sykia yfir haf sum upsala kunungi til hoyrir. Oc so þair sum þan wegin aigu hinget sykia.

So, by their own will, the Gotlanders became the subjects of the Swedish king, so that they could travel freely and without risk to any location in the Swedish kingdom without toll and other fees. Likewise, the Swedes had the right to go to Gotland without corn restrictions or other prohibitions. The king was to provide protection and help, when they needed it and asked for it. The king and the jarl shall send emissaries to the Gutnish thing to receive the taxes. These emissaries shall declare free passage for the Gotlanders to all locations in the sea of the king at Uppsala and likewise for everyone who wanted to travel to Gotland.

Gutasaga, § Inträdet i Sverige

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:

  • Nounsanger (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)
  • Verbsare (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)
  • Adjectivesflat (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)
  • Adverbsthwart/athwart (þvert)
  • Prepositionstill (til), fro (frá)
  • Conjunction – though/tho (þó)
  • Interjectionhail (hæill), wassail (ves hæill)
  • Personal pronounthey (þæiʀ), their (þæiʀa), them (þæim) (for which the Anglo-Saxons said híe,[46][47] hiera, him)
  • Prenominal adjectivessame (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 every day English speech as they are part of the very core of the modern English vocabulary.

Words like "bull" and "Thursday" are more difficult when it comes to their origins. "Bull" may be from either Old English "bula" or Old Norse "buli", while "Thursday" may be a borrowing, or it could simply be 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

Development of Old Norse vowels to the modern Scandinavian languages
Old Norse Modern
Icelandic
Modern
Faroese
Modern
Swedish[48]
Modern
Danish[48]
Examples[n 1]
a ⟨a⟩ a(ː)[n 2] a/ɛaː[n 2] a/ɑː[n 2] ⟨a⟩;
ɔ/oː ⟨å⟩ (+ld,rd,ng)
⟨a⟩;
ɔ/ɔː ⟨å⟩ (+rd)
ON land "land": Ic/Fa/Sw/Da/No land;
ON dagr "day": Ic/Fa dagur, Sw/Da/No dag;
ON harðr "hard": Ic/Fa harður, Sw/Da hård, No hard;

ON langr "long": Ic/Fa langur, Sw lång, Da/No lang

ja ⟨ja⟩ ja(ː) ja/jɛaː (j)ɛ(ː) ⟨(j)ä⟩ jɛ: ⟨jæ⟩;
jæ: ⟨je⟩ (+r)
ON hjalpa "to help": Ic/Fa hjálpa, Sw hjälpa, Da hjælpe, No hjelpe;
ON hjarta "heart": Ic/Fa hjarta, Sw hjärta, Da hjerte, NB hjerte, NN hjarta/hjarte
aː ⟨á⟩ au(ː) ɔ/ɔaː ɔ/oː ⟨å⟩ ɔ/ɒ: ⟨å⟩ ON láta "to let": Ic/Fa láta, Sw låta, Da lade, No la
ɛː ⟨æ⟩ ai(ː) a/ɛaː ɛ(ː) ⟨ä⟩ ON mæla "to speak": Ic/Fa mæla;
ON sæll "happy": Ic sæll, Fa sælur, Sw säl, Da sæl
e ⟨e⟩ ɛ(ː) ɛ/eː ON menn "men": Ic/Fa menn, Sw män, Da mænd, No menn;
ON bera "to bear": Ic/Fa bera, Sw bära, Da/No bære, NN bera;
ON vegr "way": Ic/Fa vegur, Sw väg, Da vej, No veg/vei
eː ⟨é⟩ jɛ(ː) a/ɛaː ⟨æ⟩ ON lét "let" (past): Ic lét, Fa læt, Sw lät, NN lét
i ⟨i⟩ ɪ(ː) ɪ/iː ɪ/iː ⟨i⟩ e ⟨i⟩/
eː ⟨e⟩
ON kinn "cheek": Ic/Fa kinn, Sw/Da kind, No kinn
iː ⟨í⟩ i(ː) ʊɪ(ː)
ʊt͡ʃː ⟨íggj⟩[n 3]
⟨i⟩ ON tíð "time": Ic/Fa tíð, Sw/Da/No tid
ɔ ⟨ǫ⟩ ø > œ(ː) ⟨ö⟩ œ/øː ⟨ø⟩, ɔ/oː ⟨o⟩ ⟨a⟩;
⟨o⟩;[n 4]
⟨ø⟩ (+r);[n 4]
⟨å⟩ (+ld,rd,ng)
ON hǫnd "hand": Ic hönd, Fa hond, Sw/NN hand, Da/NB hånd;
ON nǫs "nose": Ic nös, Fa nøs, Sw/No nos, Da næse;
ON ǫrn "eagle": Ic/Sw örn, Fa/Da/No ørn;
ON sǫngr "song": Ic söngur, Fa songur, Sw sång, Da/NB sang, NN song
jɔ ⟨jǫ⟩ jø > jœ(ː) ⟨jö⟩ jœ/jøː ⟨jø⟩ (j)œ/(j)øː ⟨(j)ø⟩ ON skjǫldr "shield": Ic skjöldur, Fa skjøldur, Sw sköld, Da/No skjold;
ON bjǫrn "bear": Ic/Sw björn, Fa/Da/NN bjørn
ɔː ⟨ǫ́⟩ aː > au(ː) ⟨á⟩ ɔ/ɔaː ⟨á⟩, œ/ɔuː ⟨ó⟩ ɔ/oː ⟨å⟩ ⟨å⟩ ON (*tǫ́) "toe": Ic/Fa , Sw/Da/No
o ⟨o⟩ ɔ(ː) ɔ/oː ɔ/oː ⟨o⟩ ON morginn/morgunn "morning": Ic morgunn, Fa morgun, Sw/NN morgon, Da/NB morgen
oː ⟨ó⟩ ou(ː) œ/ɔuː
ɛkv ⟨ógv⟩[n 3]
ʊ/uː ⟨o⟩ ⟨o⟩ ON bók "book": Ic/Fa bók, Sw/No bok, Da bog
u ⟨u⟩ ʏ(ː) ʊ/uː ɵ/ʉː ⟨u⟩ ON fullr "full": Ic/Fa fullur, Sw/Da/No full
uː ⟨ú⟩ u(ː) ʏ/ʉuː
ɪkv ⟨úgv⟩[n 3]
⟨u⟩ ON hús "house": Ic/Fa hús, Sw/Da/No hus
jó ⟨jó⟩ jou(ː) jœ/jɔuː
(j)ɛkv ⟨(j)ógv⟩[n 3]
jɵ/jʉː ⟨ju⟩ ⟨y⟩ ON bjóða "to offer, command": Ic/Fa bjóða, Sw bjuda, Da/No byde
jú ⟨jú⟩ ju(ː) jʏ/jʉuː
(j)ɪkv ⟨(j)úgv⟩[n 3]
ON djúpr "deep": Ic/Fa djúpur, Sw djup, Da dyb, NB dyp, NN djup
ø ⟨ø⟩ ø > œ(ː) ⟨ö⟩ œ/øː ⟨ø⟩ œ/øː ⟨ö⟩ ON gøra "to prepare": Sw göra
øː ⟨œ⟩ ɛː > ai(ː) ⟨æ⟩ ⟨ø⟩ ON grœnn "green": Ic grænn, Fa grønur, Sw grön, Da grøn, No grønn
y ⟨y⟩ ɪ(ː) ɪ/iː ⟨ö⟩;
⟨y⟩[n 5]
ON dyrr "door": Ic/Fa dyr, Sw dörr, Da/No dør
ON fylla "to fill": Ic fylla, Fa/Sw fylla, Da fylde, No fylle
yː ⟨ý⟩ i(ː) ʊɪ(ː)
ʊt͡ʃː ⟨ýggj⟩[n 3]
ʏ/yː ⟨y⟩ ⟨y⟩ ON dýrr "dear": Ic dýr, Fa dýrur, Sw/Da/No dyr
ɛi ⟨ei⟩ ei(ː) aɪ(ː)
at͡ʃː ⟨aiggj⟩[n 3]
e(ː) ⟨e⟩ ⟨e⟩ ON steinn "stone": Ic steinn, Fa steinur, Sw/Da/NB sten, NN stein
œy[16] ⟨ey⟩ ei(ː) ɔɪ(ː) ⟨oy⟩
ɔt͡ʃː ⟨oyggj⟩[n 3]
œ/øː ⟨ö⟩ ⟨ø⟩ ON ey "island": Ic ey, Fa oyggj, Sw ö, Da ø, No øy
ɔu ⟨au⟩ øy(ː) ɛ/ɛɪː ⟨ey⟩
ɛt͡ʃː ⟨eyggj⟩[n 3]
ON draumr "dream": Ic draumur, Fa dreymur, Sw dröm, Da/NB drøm, NN draum
  1. ^ Bokmål norwegian – a mixture of Danish and pure Norwegian; Nynorsk norwegian – mostly based on West Norwegian dialects and without Danish influence; No = same in both forms of Norwegian.
  2. ^ a b c Vowel length in the modern Scandinavian languages does not stem from Old Norse vowel length. In all of the modern languages, Old Norse vowel length was lost, and vowel length became allophonically determined by syllable structure, with long vowels occurring when followed by zero or one consonants (and some clusters, e.g. in Icelandic, most clusters of obstruent to obstruent + [r], [j] or [v], such as [pr], [tj], [kv] etc.); short vowels occurred when followed by most consonant clusters, including double consonants. Often, pairs of short and long vowels became differentiated in quality before the loss of vowel length and thus did not end up merging; e.g. Old Norse /a aː i iː/ became Icelandic /a au ɪ i/, all of which can occur allophonically short or long. In the mainland Scandinavian languages, double consonants were reduced to single consonants, making the new vowel length phonemic.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i When not followed by a consonant.
  4. ^ a b ⟨o⟩ or (before /r/) ⟨ø⟩ in some isolated words, but the tendency was to restore ⟨a⟩.
  5. ^ When un-umlauted */u/ is still present elsewhere in the paradigm.
Pronunciation of vowels in various Scandinavian languages
Spelling Old Norse Modern
Icelandic
Modern
Faroese
Modern
Swedish
⟨a⟩ a a(ː) a/ɛaː a/ɑː
⟨á⟩ au(ː) ɔ/ɔaː
⟨ä⟩ ɛ/ɛː
⟨å⟩ ɔ/oː
⟨æ⟩ ɛː ai(ː) a/ɛaː
⟨e⟩ e ɛ(ː) ɛ/eː e/eː
⟨é⟩ jɛ(ː)
⟨i⟩ i ɪ(ː) ɪ/iː ɪ/iː
⟨í⟩ i(ː) ʊɪ(ː)
⟨o⟩ o ɔ(ː) ɔ/oː ʊ/uː; ɔ/oː
⟨ó⟩ ou(ː) œ/ɔuː
⟨ǫ⟩ ɔ
⟨ǫ́⟩ ɔː
⟨ö⟩ ø > œ(ː) œ/øː
⟨ø⟩ ø œ/øː
⟨œ⟩ øː
⟨u⟩ u ʏ(ː) ʊ/uː ɵ/ʉː
⟨ú⟩ u(ː) ʏ/ʉuː
⟨y⟩ y ɪ(ː) ɪ/iː ʏ/yː
⟨ý⟩ i(ː) ʊɪ(ː)
⟨ei⟩ ɛi ei(ː) aɪ(ː)
⟨ey⟩ œy[16] ei(ː) ɛ/ɛɪː
⟨oy⟩ ɔɪ(ː)
⟨au⟩ ɔu øy(ː)

See also

Dialectal information

References

  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Old Norse". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Torp & Vikør 1993.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Adams 1899, "Scandinavian Languages", pp.336–338
  4. ^ a b "Nordiska språk", Nationalencyklopedin (in Swedish), § Historia, §§ Omkring 800–1100, 1994
  5. ^ van der Auwera & König 1994, "Faroese" (Barnes & Weyhe), p. 217.
  6. ^ Moberg et al. 2007.
  7. ^ See, e.g., Harbert 2007, pp. 7–10
  8. ^ Farren, Robert (2014), Old Norse loanwords in modern Irish (thesis), Lund University
  9. ^ Borkent, Aukje (2014), Norse loanwords in Old and Middle Irish (thesis), Utrecht University
  10. ^ "Some Irish words with Norse Origins", irisharchaeology.ie, 21 Nov 2013
  11. ^ Greene, D. (1973), Almqvist, Bo; Greene, David, eds., "The influence of Scandinavian on Irish", Proceedings of the Seventh Viking Congress, Dundalgan Press, Dundalk, pp. 75–82
  12. ^ Stewart, Thomas W. (Jr.) (2004), "Lexical imposition: Old Norse vocabulary in Scottish Gaelic", Diachronica, 21 (2): 393–420, doi:10.1075/dia.21.2.06ste
  13. ^ Henderson, George (1910), The Norse influence on Celtic Scotland, pp. 108–204
  14. ^ Bandle 2005, Ch. XVII §202 "The typological development of the Nordic languages I: Phonology" (H. Sandøy) : Old East Nordic, p.1856, 1859.
  15. ^ Bandle 2005, Ch. XVII §202 "The typological development of the Nordic languages I: Phonology" (H. Sandøy) : Old West Nordic, p.1859.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Bandle 2005, Ch.XIII §122 "Phonological developments from Old Nordic to Early Modern Nordic I: West Scandinavian." (M. Schulte). pp. 1081–96; Monophthongization: p.1082; /øy/: p. 1082; Reduced vowels: p. 1085
  17. ^ Haugen 1950, pp. 4–64.
  18. ^ Robinson, Orrin W. (1993), Old English and Its Closest Relatives, p. 83
  19. ^ Sweet 1895, p. 5
  20. ^ Bandle 2005, Ch. XVII §202 "The typological development of the Nordic languages I: Phonology" (H. Sandøy) : Common Nordic, p.1855.
  21. ^ Vigfússon & Powell 1879, Ch. 1
  22. ^ Benediktsson, H. (1963), "Some Aspects of Nordic Umlaut and Breaking", Language, 39 (3): 409–31, doi:10.2307/411124, JSTOR 411124
  23. ^ a b Iversen 1961, p. 24-
  24. ^ Bandle 2005, Ch. XVII §202 "The typological development of the Nordic languages I: Phonology" (H. Sandøy) : Proto-Nordic, p.1853.
  25. ^ Old Norse for Beginners, Lesson 5.
  26. ^ Noreen, Adolf. Altnordische Grammatik I: Altisländische und altnorwegische Grammatik. pp. 200–202, 207 (§ 277, § 283).
  27. ^ Noreen, A. G., Abriss Der Altnordischen (Altislndischen) Grammatik (in German), p. 12
  28. ^ a b c d Bandle 2005
  29. ^ Old Norse for Beginners, Neuter nouns.
  30. ^ Old Norse for Beginners, Feminine nouns.
  31. ^ Menota & 2.0, Ch. 8 §3.2.1 "Gender2
  32. ^ Zoëga 1910, H: hungr.
  33. ^ Rice, Steinmetz, Early England and the Great Gender Shift: Old English and Old Norse Straddling the Horns of the Default Dilemma
  34. ^ Tosterud, Trond (Sep 2006), "Gender assignment in Old Norse", Lingua, 116 (9): 1441–63, doi:10.1016/j.lingua.2004.06.015
  35. ^ See, e.g., O'Donoghue & ?, p. 22–102
  36. ^ "The Old Norse dialect areas", aveneca.com, 2009, archived from the original on 7 Jul 2011
  37. ^ Hellquist, Elof, ed. (1922), ""stark"", Svensk etymologisk ordbok [Swedish etymological dictionary] (in Swedish), p. 862
  38. ^ Bandle 2005, Ch. XVII §202 "The typological development of the Nordic languages I: Phonology" (H. Sandøy) : Old East Nordic, pp. 1856, 1859.
  39. ^ Sturtevant, Albert Morey (1953), "Further Old Norse Secondary Formations", Language, 29 (4): 457, doi:10.2307/409955, JSTOR 409955
  40. ^ See Codex Regius
  41. ^ Hock, Hans Henrich (1986), Principles of Historical Linguistics, p. 149
  42. ^ a b van Weenen, Andrea de Leeuw (ed.), "(Manuscript AM 519 a 4to) "Alexanders saga"", Medieval Nordic Text Archive www.menota.org, fol. 1v, lines 10–14
  43. ^ Wills, Tarrin (2006), The Anonymous Verse in the Third Grammatical Treatise
  44. ^ Kroonen, Guus, "On the origins of the Elfdalian nasal vowels from the perspective of diachronic dialectology and Germanic etymology" (PDF), inss.ku.dk (Presentation), retrieved 27 January 2016, (Slide 26) §7.2 quote: "In many aspects, Elfdalian, takes up a middle position between East and West Nordic. However, it shares some innovations with West Nordic, but none with East Nordic. This invalidates the claim that Elfdalian split off from Old Swedish."
  45. ^ Noreen, Adolf. Altnordische Grammatik I: Altisländische und altnorwegische Grammatik. p. 211 (§ 288, note 1).
  46. ^ O'Donoghue & ?, pp. 190–201.
  47. ^ Lass 1993, pp. 187–188.
  48. ^ a b Helfenstein, James (1870). A Comparative Grammar of the Teutonic Languages: Being at the Same Time a Historical Grammar of the English Language. London: MacMillan and Co.

Cleasby-Vigfússon

  1. ^ a b c d e Cleasby & Vigfússon 1874, p.1, "A"
  2. ^ Cleasby & Vigfússon 1874, pp. 761–2 (Introduction to Letter Ö (Ø))
  3. ^ Cleasby & Vigfússon 1874, pp. xxix–xxx "Formation of Words" : Vowel Changes
  4. ^ Cleasby & Vigfússon 1874, p. xvi "Strong Nouns" – Masculine – Remarks on the 1st Strong Masculine Declension, 3.a
  5. ^ Cleasby & Vigfússon 1874, p. 389 col.1, "LIM"; p. 437, col.1 "MUND"
  6. ^ Cleasby & Vigfússon 1874, p. 481 "R"
  7. ^ a b c Cleasby & Vigfússon 1874, p. 757 "Æ"
  8. ^ Cleasby & Vigfússon 1874, pp. 113–4 "E"

Sources

Dictionaries

Grammars

Old Norse texts

Language learning resources

External links

Heiti

A heiti (Old Norse heiti [hɛitɪ], Modern Icelandic [heiːtɪ], pl. heiti "name, appellation, designation, term") is a synonym used in Old Norse poetry in place of the normal word for something. For instance, Old Norse poets might use jór "steed" instead of the prosaic hestr "horse".

Jörmungandr

In Norse mythology, Jörmungandr (Old Norse: Jǫrmungandr, pronounced [ˈjɔrmunˌɡandr̥], meaning "huge monster"), also known as the Midgard (World) Serpent (Old Norse: Miðgarðsormr), is a sea serpent, the middle child of the giantess Angrboða and Loki. According to the Prose Edda, Odin took Loki's three children by Angrboða—the wolf Fenrir, Hel, and Jörmungandr—and tossed Jörmungandr into the great ocean that encircles Midgard. The serpent grew so large that he was able to surround the earth and grasp his own tail. As a result, he received the name of the Midgard Serpent or World Serpent. When he releases his tail, Ragnarök will begin. Jörmungandr's arch-enemy is the thunder-god, Thor. It is an example of an ouroboros.

Kenning

A kenning (Old Norse pronunciation: [cʰɛnːɪŋg], Modern Icelandic pronunciation: [cʰɛnːiŋk]) is a type of circumlocution, in the form of a compound that employs figurative language in place of a more concrete single-word noun. Kennings are strongly associated with Old Norse and later Icelandic and Old English poetry.

They usually consist of two words, and are often hyphenated. For example, Old Norse poets might replace sverð "sword" with an abstract compound such as "wound-hoe" (Egill Skallagrímsson: Höfuðlausn 8) or a genitive phrase such as randa íss "ice of shields" (Einarr Skúlason: 'Øxarflokkr' 9). Modern scholars have also applied the term kenning to similar figures of speech in other languages, especially Old English.

List of Germanic deities

In Germanic paganism, the indigenous religion of the ancient Germanic peoples who inhabited Germanic Europe, there were a number of different gods and goddesses. Germanic deities are attested from numerous sources, including works of literature, various chronicles, runic inscriptions, personal names, place names, and other sources. This article contains a comprehensive list of Germanic deities outside the numerous Germanic Matres and Matronae inscriptions from the 1st to 5th century CE.

List of Germanic heroes

This is a list of Germanic heroes.

Midgard

Midgard (an anglicised form of Old Norse Miðgarðr; Old English Middangeard, Swedish and Danish Midgård, Old Saxon Middilgard, Old High German Mittilagart, Gothic Midjun-gards; "middle yard") is the name for Earth (equivalent in meaning to the Greek term οἰκουμένη, "inhabited") inhabited by and known to humans in early Germanic cosmology, and specifically one of the Nine Worlds in Norse mythology.

Muspelheim

In Norse mythology, Muspelheim (Old Norse: Múspellsheimr), also called Muspell (Old Norse: Múspell), is a realm of fire.

The etymology of "Muspelheim" is uncertain, but may come from Mund-spilli, "world-destroyers", "wreck of the world".

Norsemen

The Norse people or Norsemen were a group of Germanic people who inhabited Scandinavia and spoke what is now called the Old Norse language between c. 800 and 1300 AD. The language belongs to the North Germanic branch of the Indo-European languages and is the predecessor of the modern Germanic languages of Scandinavia. In the late eighth century Norsemen embarked on a massive expansion in all directions. This was the start of the Viking Age.

In English-language scholarship since the nineteenth century, the Viking Age Norsemen, seafaring traders, settlers and warriors have commonly been referred to as Vikings. The Norse Scandinavians established polities and settlements in what are now England, Scotland, Iceland, Wales, the Faroe Islands, Ireland, Russia, Belarus, Greenland, France, Belgium, Ukraine, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, Poland and Canada as well as southern Italy.

Odin

In Germanic mythology, Odin (; from Old Norse: Óðinn, IPA: [ˈoːðinː]) is a widely revered god. In Norse mythology, from which stems most surviving information about the god, Odin is associated with wisdom, healing, death, royalty, the gallows, knowledge, battle, sorcery, poetry, frenzy, and the runic alphabet, and is the husband of the goddess Frigg. In wider Germanic mythology and paganism, Odin was known in Old English as Wōden, in Old Saxon as Wōdan, and in Old High German as Wuotan or Wōtan, all stemming from the reconstructed Proto-Germanic theonym *wōđanaz.

Odin is a prominently mentioned god throughout the recorded history of the Germanic peoples, from the Roman occupation of regions of Germania through the tribal expansions of the Migration Period and the Viking Age. In the modern period, Odin continued to be acknowledged in the rural folklore of Germanic Europe. References to Odin appear in place names throughout regions historically inhabited by the ancient Germanic peoples, and the day of the week Wednesday bears his name in many Germanic languages, including English.

In Old English texts, Odin holds a particular place as a euhemerized ancestral figure among royalty, and he is frequently referred to as a founding figure among various other Germanic peoples, including the Langobards. Forms of his name appear frequently throughout the Germanic record, though narratives regarding Odin are mainly found in Old Norse works recorded in Iceland, primarily around the 13th century. These texts make up the bulk of modern understanding of Norse mythology.

In Old Norse texts, Odin is depicted as one-eyed and long-bearded, frequently wielding a spear named Gungnir, and wearing a cloak and a broad hat. He is often accompanied by his animal companions and familiars—the wolves Geri and Freki and the ravens Huginn and Muninn, who bring him information from all over Midgard—and rides the flying, eight-legged steed Sleipnir across the sky and into the underworld. Odin is the son of Bestla and Borr and has two brothers, Vili and Vé. Odin is attested as having many sons, most famously the gods Thor (with Jörð) and Baldr (with Frigg), and is known by hundreds of names. In these texts, he frequently seeks greater knowledge, at times in disguise (most famously by obtaining the Mead of Poetry), makes wagers with his wife Frigg over the outcome of exploits, and takes part in both the creation of the world by way of slaying the primordial being Ymir and giving the gift of life to the first two humans Ask and Embla. Odin has a particular association with Yule, and mankind's knowledge of both the runes and poetry is also attributed to him, giving Odin aspects of the culture hero.

In Old Norse texts, female beings associated with the battlefield—the valkyries—are associated with the god and Odin oversees Valhalla, where he receives half of those who die in battle, the einherjar. The other half are chosen by the goddess Freyja for her afterlife location, Fólkvangr. Odin consults the disembodied, herb-embalmed head of the wise being Mímir for advice, and during the foretold events of Ragnarök, Odin is told to lead the einherjar into battle before being consumed by the monstrous wolf Fenrir. In later folklore, Odin appears as a leader of the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession of the dead through the winter sky. He is associated with charms and other forms of magic, particularly in Old English and Old Norse texts.

Odin is a frequent subject of study in Germanic studies, and numerous theories have been put forward regarding his development. Some of these focus on Odin's particular relation to other figures; for example, the fact that Freyja's husband Óðr appears to be something of an etymological doublet of the god, whereas Odin's wife Frigg is in many ways similar to Freyja, and that Odin has a particular relation to the figure of Loki. Other approaches focus on Odin's place in the historical record, a frequent question being whether the figure of Odin derives from Proto-Indo-European religion, or whether he developed later in Germanic society. In the modern period, Odin has inspired numerous works of poetry, music, and other forms of media. He is venerated in most forms of the new religious movement Heathenry, together with other gods venerated by the ancient Germanic peoples; some branches focus particularly on him.

Old Norse orthography

The orthography of the Old Norse language was diverse, being written in both Runic and Latin alphabets, with many spelling conventions, variant letterforms, and unique letters and signs. In modern times, scholars established a standardized spelling for the language. When Old Norse names are used in texts in other languages, modifications to this spelling are often made. In particular, the names of Old Norse mythological figures often have several different spellings.

The appearance of Old Norse in a written runic form first dates back to approximately 200–300 A.D. While there are remains of Viking runestones from the Viking Age today they are rare, and vary in use of orthography depending on when they were created. Rune stones created near the end of the Viking Age tend to have a greater influence from Old English runes.

An understanding of the writing system of Old Norse is crucial for fully understanding the Old Norse language. Studies of remaining rune stones from the Viking Age reveal many nuances about the spoken language, such as the constant use of alliteration. A comparison of various whetstones from this time period with the works of Snorri Sturluson reveal that alliteration was common in many Old Norse writings, and were not only present in skaldic works. This would then suggest that the Vikings closely tied their language to their auditory sense, which in turn would have helped with the continual transfer of their cultural memory, which was also closely tied to their 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, but there are also 122 preserved poems in Swedish rune inscriptions, 54 in Norwegian and 12 in Danish.Poetry played an important role in the social and religious world of the Vikings. In Norse mythology, Skáldskaparmál (1) tells the story of how Odin brought poetry to Asgard, which is an indicator of the significance of poetry within the contemporary Scandinavian culture.

Old Norse poetry is characterised by alliteration, a poetic vocabulary expanded by heiti, and use of kennings. An important source of information about poetic forms in Old Norse is the Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson.

Old Norse poetry is conventionally, and somewhat arbitrarily, split into two types—Eddaic poetry (also sometimes known as Eddic poetry) and skaldic poetry. Eddaic poetry includes the poems of the Codex Regius and a few other similar ones. Skaldic poetry is usually defined as everything else not already mentioned.

Old Norse religion

Old Norse religion is the most common name for a branch of Germanic religion which developed during the Proto-Norse period, when the North Germanic peoples separated into a distinct branch of the Germanic peoples. It was displaced by Christianity during the Christianization of Scandinavia. Scholars reconstruct aspects of North Germanic religion by historical linguistics, archaeology, toponymy, and records left by North Germanic peoples, such as runic inscriptions in the Younger Futhark, a distinctly North Germanic extension of the runic alphabet. Numerous Old Norse works dated to the 13th century record Norse mythology, a component of North Germanic religion.

Old Norse religion was polytheistic, entailing a belief in various gods and goddesses. Norse mythology divided these deities into two groups, the Æsir and the Vanir, who engaged in an ancient war until realising that they were equally powerful. Among the most widespread deities were the gods Odin and Thor. This world was inhabited also by various other mythological races, including giants, dwarfs, elves, and land-spirits. Norse cosmology revolved around a world tree known as Yggdrasil, with various realms existing alongside that of humans, named Midgard. These include multiple afterlife realms, several of which are controlled by a particular deity.

Transmitted through oral culture rather than through codified texts, Old Norse religion focused heavily on ritual practice, with kings and chiefs playing a central role in carrying out public acts of sacrifice. Various cultic spaces were used; initially, outdoor spaces such as groves and lakes were typically selected, but by the third century CE cult houses were also purpose built for ritual activity. Norse society also contained practitioners of Seiðr, a form of sorcery which some scholars describe as shamanistic. Various forms of burial were conducted, including both inhumation and cremation, typically accompanied by a variety of grave goods.

Throughout its history, varying levels of trans-cultural diffusion occurred among neighbouring peoples, such as the Sami and Finns. By the twelfth century Old Norse religion had succumbed to Christianity, with elements continuing into Scandinavian folklore. A revival of interest in Old Norse religion occurred amid the romanticist movement of the nineteenth century, during which it inspired a range of artworks. It also attracted the interest of political figures, and was used by a range of right-wing and nationalist groups. Academic research into the subject began in the early nineteenth century, initially influenced by the pervasive romanticist sentiment.

Ragnar Lodbrok

Ragnar Lodbrok or Lothbrok (Old Norse: Ragnarr Loþbrók, "Ragnar shaggy breeches", contemporary Norse: Ragnar Loðbrók) is a legendary Norse Viking hero and ruler, known from Viking Age Old Norse poetry and sagas. According to that traditional literature, Ragnar distinguished himself by many raids against Francia and Anglo-Saxon England during the 9th century. There is no known evidence to substantiate that he actually existed under this name and outside of the mythology associated with him.

Saga

Sagas are stories mostly about ancient Nordic and Germanic history, early Viking voyages, the battles that took place during the voyages, and migration to Iceland and of feuds between Icelandic families. They were written in the Old Norse language, mainly in Iceland.The texts are tales in prose which share some similarities with the epic, often with stanzas or whole poems in alliterative verse embedded in the text, of heroic deeds of days long gone, "tales of worthy men," who were often Vikings, sometimes pagan, sometimes Christian. The tales are usually realistic, except legendary sagas, sagas of saints, sagas of bishops and translated or recomposed romances. They are sometimes romanticised and fantastic.

Troll

A troll is a class of being in Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore. In Old Norse sources, beings described as trolls dwell in isolated rocks, mountains, or caves, live together in small family units, and are rarely helpful to human beings.

Later, in Scandinavian folklore, trolls became beings in their own right, where they live far from human habitation, are not Christianized, and are considered dangerous to human beings. Depending on the source, their appearance varies greatly; trolls may be ugly and slow-witted, or look and behave exactly like human beings, with no particularly grotesque characteristic about them.

Trolls are sometimes associated with particular landmarks, which at times may be explained as formed from a troll exposed to sunlight. Trolls are depicted in a variety of media in modern popular culture.

Valkyrie

In Norse mythology, a valkyrie (; from Old Norse valkyrja "chooser of the slain") is one of a host of female figures who choose those who may die in battle and those who may live. Selecting among half of those who die in battle (the other half go to the goddess Freyja's afterlife field Fólkvangr), the valkyries bring their chosen to the afterlife hall of the slain, Valhalla, ruled over by the god Odin. There, the deceased warriors become einherjar (Old Norse "single (or once) fighters"). When the einherjar are not preparing for the events of Ragnarök, the valkyries bear them mead. Valkyries also appear as lovers of heroes and other mortals, where they are sometimes described as the daughters of royalty, sometimes accompanied by ravens and sometimes connected to swans or horses.

Valkyries are attested in the Poetic Edda (a book of poems compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources), the Prose Edda, the Heimskringla (both by Snorri Sturluson) and the Njáls saga (one of the Sagas of Icelanders), all written—or compiled—in the 13th century. They appear throughout the poetry of skalds, in a 14th-century charm, and in various runic inscriptions.

The Old English cognate terms wælcyrge and wælcyrie appear in several Old English manuscripts, and scholars have explored whether the terms appear in Old English by way of Norse influence, or reflect a tradition also native among the Anglo-Saxon pagans. Scholarly theories have been proposed about the relation between the valkyries, the Norns, and the dísir, all of which are supernatural figures associated with fate. Archaeological excavations throughout Scandinavia have uncovered amulets theorized as depicting valkyries. In modern culture, valkyries have been the subject of works of art, musical works, comic books, video games and poetry.

Yggdrasil

Yggdrasil (; from Old Norse Yggdrasill, pronounced [ˈyɡːˌdrasilː]) is an immense mythical tree that connects the nine worlds in Norse cosmology.

Yggdrasil is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. In both sources, Yggdrasil is an immense ash tree that is center to the cosmos and considered very holy. The gods go to Yggdrasil daily to assemble at their things, traditional governing assemblies. The branches of Yggdrasil extend far into the heavens, and the tree is supported by three roots that extend far away into other locations; one to the well Urðarbrunnr in the heavens, one to the spring Hvergelmir, and another to the well Mímisbrunnr. Creatures live within Yggdrasil, including the dragon Níðhöggr, an unnamed eagle, and the stags Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór.

Conflicting scholarly theories have been proposed about the etymology of the name Yggdrasill, the possibility that the tree is of another species than ash, its connection to the many sacred trees and groves in Germanic paganism and mythology, and the fate of Yggdrasil during the events of Ragnarök.

Yule

Yule or Yuletide ("Yule time" or "Yule season") is a festival observed by the historical Germanic peoples. Scholars have connected the Wild Hunt, the god Odin, and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht. It later underwent Christianised reformulation resulting in the term Christmastide.

Terms with an etymological equivalent to Yule are used in the Nordic countries for Christmas with its religious rites, but also for the holidays of this season. Today Yule is also used to a lesser extent in the English-speaking world as a synonym for Christmas. Present-day Christmas customs and traditions such as the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar, Yule singing, and others stem from pagan Yule. Today the event is celebrated in Heathenry and some other forms of Modern Paganism.

Álfheimr

Alfheim (Old Norse: Álfheimr, "Land Of The Elves" or "Elfland"), also called Ljosalfheim (Ljósálf[a]heimr, "home of the light-elves"), is one of the Nine Worlds and home of the Light Elves in Norse mythology.

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