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SCANDINAVIAN LANGUAGES


Björn Haldorsen (d. 1794), edited in 1814 by Rask. Cleasby-Vigfússon's dictionary mentioned above also pays some attention to the modern language. A really convenient Modern Icelandic dictionary is still wanting, the desideratum being only partly supplied by J. Thorkelsson's excellent Supplement til islandske ordbøger, iii. (1890-1894).

II. Norwegian or Norse.—The Old Norwegian language (till the Reformation) was not, like the modern language, confined Old Norwegian. to Norway and the Faeroes, but was, as already stated, for some time spoken in parts of Ireland and the north of Scotland, the Isle of Man, the Hebrides, Shetland and Orkney (in the last two groups of islands it continued to survive down to the end of the 18th century), and also in certain parts of western Sweden as at present defined (Bohuslän, Särna in Dalarna, Jämtland and Härjedalen).

Our knowledge of it is due only in a small measure to runic inscriptions, for these are comparatively few in number (about 150), and of trifling importance from a philological point of view, especially as they almost wholly belong to the period between 1050 and 1350,[1] and consequently are contemporary with or at least not much earlier than the earliest literature. The most important are the detailed one of Karlevi on Öland, wherein a Norwegian poet (towards 1000) in so-called “dróttkuǽtt” metre celebrates a Danish chief buried there, and that of Frösö in Jämtland, which (about 1050) mentions the christianizing of the province. The whole literature preserved is written in the Latin alphabet. The earliest manuscripts are not much later than the oldest Old Icelandic ones, and of the greatest interest. On the whole, however, the earliest Norwegian literature is in quality as well as in quantity incomparably inferior to the Icelandic. It amounts merely to about a score of different works, and of these but few are of any literary value. A small fragment (Cod. AM. 655. 4to, Fragm. ix., A, B, C), a collection of legends, no doubt written a little before 1200, is regarded as the earliest extant manuscript. From the very beginning of the 13th century we have the Norwegian Book of Homilies (Cod. AM. 619, 4to) and several fragments of law-books (e.g. the older Gulaþingslaw and the older Eiðsivaþingslaw). Of later manuscripts the so-called legendary Olafssaga (Cod. Delag. 8, fol.), from about 1250, deserves mention. The chief manuscript (Cod. AM. 243 B., fol.) of the principal work in Old Norwegian literature, the Speculum regale or Konungsskuggsiá (“Mirror for Kings,”) is again a little later. The masses of charters which—occurring throughout the whole middle age of Norway from the beginning of the 13th century—afford much information, especially concerning the dialectical differences of the language, are likewise of great philological importance.

As in Old Icelandic so in Old Norwegian we do not find the most primitive forms in the oldest MSS. that have come down to us; for Form of the language. that purpose we must recur to somewhat later ones, containing old poems from times as remote as the days of Ƿorbiorn Hornklofi (end of the 9th century). It has already been stated that the language at this epoch differed so little from other Scandinavian dialects that it could scarcely yet be called by a distinctive name, and also that, as Icelandic separated itself from the Norwegian mother-tongue (about 900), the difference between the two languages was at first infinitely small—as far, of course, as the literary language is concerned. From the 13th century, however, they exhibit more marked differences; for, while Icelandic develops to a great extent independently, Norwegian, owing to geographical and political circumstances, is considerably influenced by the Eastern Scandinavian languages. The most important differences between Icelandic and Norwegian at the epoch of the oldest MSS. (about 1200) have already been noted. The tendency in Norwegian to reduce the use of the so-called u-Umlaut has already been mentioned. On the other hand, there appears in Norwegian in the 13th century another kind of vowel-assimilation, almost unknown to Icelandic, the vowel in terminations being in some degree influenced by the vowel of the preceding syllable. Thus, for instance, we find in some manuscripts (as the above-mentioned legendary Olafssaga) that the vowels e, o, ø and long a, æ are followed in terminations by e, o; i, u, y, and short a, æ, on the other hand, by i, u—as in bøner, prayers, konor, women; but tiðir, times, tungur, tongues. The same fact occurs in certain Old Swedish manuscripts. When Norway had been united later with Sweden under one crown (1319) we meet pure Suecisms in the Norwegian literary language. In addition to this, the 14th century exhibits several differences from the old language: rl, rn are sometimes assimilated into ll, nn—as kall (elder karl), man, konn (korn), corn, prestanner (prestarnir), the priests; i passes into y before r, l—as hyrðir (hirðir), shepherd, lykyl (lykill), key; final -r after a consonant is changed into -ar, -er, -ir, -or, -ur or -ær, sometimes only -a, -e, -æ,—as hester (hestr), horse, bøker (bøkr), books, the names þolleifær (þorleifr), Guðlæifæ (Guðleifr). About the beginning of the 15th century initial kv occurs for old hv (not, however, in pronouns, which take kv only in western Norway), as the local name Ǫviteseið (hvítr, white). During the 15th century, Norway being united with Denmark, and at intervals also with Sweden, a great many Danisms and a few Suecisms are imported into the language. As Suecisms we may mention the termination -in of the 2nd pers. plur. instead of -ir, - (as vilin, you will). The most important Danisms are the following: b, d and g are substituted for p, t and k—as in the local names Nabø (earlier Napa), Tvedæ sogn (þveita sókn); -a in terminations passes into -e—as høre (høyra) to hear, søghe (søkia), to seek; single Danish words are introduced—as iek (ek), I, se (siá), to see; spørge (spyria), to ask, &c. Towards the end of the middle ages the Danish influence shows an immense increase, which marks the gradual decline of Norwegian literature, until at last Norwegian as a literary language is completely supplanted by Danish. During the 15th century Norway has hardly any literature except charters, and as early as the end of that century by far the greatest number of these are written in almost pure Danish. In the 16th century, again, charters written in Norwegian occur only as rare exceptions, and from the Reformation onward, when the Bible and the old laws were translated into Danish, not into Norwegian, Danish was not only the undisputed literary language of Norway, but also the colloquial language of dwellers in towns and of those who had learned to read.

Dialectical differences, as above hinted, occur in great number in the Norwegian charters of the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries. Dialects. Especially marked is the difference between the language of western Norway, which, in many respects, shows a development parallel to that of Icelandic, and the language of eastern Norway, which exhibits still more striking correspondences with contemporary Old Swedish. The most remarkable characteristics of the eastern dialects of this epoch are the following:— a is changed into æ in the pronouns þænn, this, þæt, that, and the particle þær, there (the latter as early as the 13th century), and later on (in the 14th century) also in terminations after a long root syllable—as sendæ, to send, høyræ, to hear (but gera, to do, vita, to know); ia passes (as in Old Swedish and Old Danish) into —as hiærta (lcel. hiarta), heart; y sometimes passes into iu before r, l—as hiurder, shepherd, lykiul, key, instead of hyrðir, lykyl (older still, hirðir, lykill; see above); final -r after a consonant often passes into -ar, -ær, sometimes only into -a, -æ—as prestar (prestr), priest; bøkar (bøkr), books; dat. sing. brøða (brøðr), (to a) brother; tl passes into tsl, sl—as lisla (litla), (the) little, the name Atsle, Asle (Atle); rs gives a “thick” s-sound (written ls)—as Bærdols, genitive of the name Bergþórr; nd, ld are assimilated into nn, ll—as bann (band), band, the local name Vestfoll (Vestfold); and (as far back as the 13th century) traces occur of the vowel assimilation, “tiljævning,” that is so highly characteristic of the modern Norwegian dialects—as vuko, vuku, for vaku (Icel. vǫko, -u), accusative singular of vaka, wake, mykyll for mykill, much. On the other hand, as characteristics of the western dialects may be noted the following: final -r after a consonant passes into -ur, -or, or -ir, -er—as vetur (vetr), winter, rettur (réttr), right, aftor (aftr), again; sl passes into tl—as sytla (sýsla), charge; hw is changed into kw also in pronouns—as kuer (huerr), who, kuassu (huersu), how.

This splitting of the language into dialects seems to have continued to gain ground, probably with greater rapidity as a Norwegian literary language no longer existed. Thus it is very likely that the present dialectical division was in all essentials accomplished about the year 1600; for, judging from the first work on Norwegian dialectology,[2] the Søndfjord (Western Norway) dialect at least possessed at that time most of its present features. A little clog-calendar of the year 1644 seems to prove the same regarding the Valders (Southern Norway) dialect. How far the Old Norwegian dialects on the Faeroes, in Ireland and Scotland, on the Scottish islands, and on the Isle of Man differed from the mother-tongue it is impossible to decide, on account of the few remnants of these dialects which exist apart from local names, viz. some charters (from the beginning of the 15th century onward) from the Faeroes, Shetland and the Orkneys, and a few runic inscriptions from the Orkneys (thirty in number), and the Isle of Man (about thirty in number).[3] These runic inscriptions, however, on account of their imperfect orthography, throw but little light on the subject. Of the Orkney dialect we know at least that initial hl, hn, hr still preserved h in the 13th century—that is, at least two hundred years longer than in Norway.

Old Norwegian grammar has hitherto always been taken up in connexion with Old Icelandic, and confined to notes and appendices Grammatical treatment. inserted in works on Icelandic grammar. A systematic treatise on Old Norwegian grammar is still wanting, with the exception of a short work by the Danish scholar N. M. Petersen (d. 1862), which, although brief and decidedly antiquated, deserves all praise. Among those who in recent days have above all deserved well for the investigation of the Old Norwegian may be mentioned, as to the grammar, the Swede E. Wadstein and the Norwegian M. Hægstad; as to the lexicography, the Norwegian E. Hertzberg, for the law terms, and O. Rygh (d. 1899), for the local names, while the personal names are collected by the Swede E. H. Lind. A most valuable collection of materials

  1. The latest rune-stones are from the end of the 14th century. Owing to influence of the learned, such stones appear again in the 17th century, e.g. in Telemarken.
  2. C. Jensen's Norsk dictionarium eller glosebog (1646).
  3. See P. M. C. Kermode, Manx Crosses (1907).