Old Norwegian

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Old Norwegian
Old Norwegian: norrǿnn mál[1]
Bokmål: gammelnorsk
Nynorsk: gamalnorsk
Region Kingdom of Norway (872–1397)
Era 11th–14th century
Early forms
Language codes
ISO 639-3 None (mis)
Glottolog None
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Old Norwegian (Norwegian: gammelnorsk and gam(m)alnorsk), 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 Old Norn and Old Faroese. Its distinction from Old West Norse is a matter of convention. Traditionally, Old Norwegian has been divided into the main dialect areas of North Western, Outer South Western, Inner South Western, Trøndersk, North Eastern, and South Eastern.[citation needed]

Phonological and morphological features

One of the most important early differences between Old Norwegian and Old Icelandic is that h in the consonant combinations hl-, hn- and hr- was lost in Old Norwegian around the 11th century, while being preserved in Old Icelandic. Thus, one has e.g. Old Icelandic hlíð 'slope', hníga 'curtsey' and hringr 'ring' vs Old Norwegian líð, níga and ringr, respectively.[citation needed]

Many Old Norwegian dialects feature a height based system of vowel harmony: Following stressed high vowels (/i/, /iː/, /y/, /yː/, /u/, /uː/) and diphthongs (/ei/, /ey/, /au/), the unstressed vowels /i/ and /u/ appear as i, u, while they are represented as e, o following long non-high vowels (/eː/, /øː/, /oː/, /æː/, /aː/). The situation following stressed short non-high vowels (/e/, /æ/, /ø/, /a/, /o/, /ɔ/) is much debated and was apparently different in the individual dialects.[2]

The u-umlaut of short /a/ (written ǫ in normalized Old Norse) is not as consistently graphically distinguished from non-umlauted /a/ as in Old Icelandic, especially in writings from the Eastern dialect areas. It is still a matter of academic debate whether this is to be interpreted phonologically as a lack of umlaut or merely as a lack of its graphical representation.[citation needed]

Old Norwegian had alternative dual and plural first person pronouns, mit, mér, to the Common Norse vit, vér.[3]

Old Norn

Old Faroese

Middle Norwegian

The Black Death struck Norway in 1349, killing over 60% of the population.[4] This probably precipitated the current process of language development.[citation needed] The language in Norway after 1350 up to about 1550 is generally referred to as Middle Norwegian. The language went through several changes: morphological paradigms were simplified, including the loss of grammatical cases and the levelling of personal inflection on verbs. A vowel reduction also took place, in some dialects, including in parts of Norway, reducing many final unstressed vowels in a word to a common "e".

The phonemic inventory also underwent changes. The dental fricatives represented by the letters þ and ð disappeared from the Norwegian language, either merging with their equivalent stop consonants, represented by t and d, respectively, or being lost altogether.

See also

External links

  • «Kulturformidlingen norrøne tekster og kvad» Norway.
  • «Medieval Nordic Text Archive» Organization working with Medieval Nordic texts.
  • «Dokumentasjonsprosjektet» Includes old Norse dictionary and includes Diplomatarium Norvegicum which is a collection of texts from before 1570 (originally 22 books with 19 000 documents) and Regesta Norvegica which contains letters and official documents (it's a more detailed description on "Om Regesta Norvegica") from 822 to 1390. This page is partly available in English. (not Regesta Norvegica)
  • Old Norwegian online dictionary


  1. ^ "norsk". Bokmålsordboka / Nynorskordboka. Language Council of Norway. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  2. ^ Homepage of a symposium on Old Norwegian vowel harmony, held in Bergen in March 2015 (in Norwegian)
  3. ^ Richard Cleasby, Guðbrandur Vigfússon — An Icelandic-English Dictionary (1874). Eirligr-Ekkill
  4. ^ Harald Aastorp (2004-08-01). "Svartedauden enda verre enn antatt". Forskning.no. Retrieved 2009-01-03.
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