My #1 language learning tool — the Icelandic viking metal band Skálmöld — is releasing a live CD/DVD of their concert with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra (Sinfóníuhlómsveit Íslands) on December 17th.

If you don’t know them, they have two albums, both of which are concept albums telling heavily Norse myth-inspired stories. The first, Baldur, is about a farmer named Baldur taking up sword and shield to avenge the death of his family (with the help of the gods). The second, Börn Loka, follows Hilmar Baldursson as he encounters each of Loki’s (genitive: Loka) children (nominative: barn ‘child’, plural: börn… you do not get a free pass on grammar for this post).

The lyrics are very cool and actually make great motivation for listening closely and trying to understand (though be aware that it’s usually not exactly beginner-level), but my primary reason for mentioning them (other than that everyone likes the music… even my mom kind of likes them) is that it’s a good idea to listen to the sounds of a language you’re learning spoken by natives.

Both albums have lyrics strictly following ríma-style metres. I’ve found that the alliteration and rhyme makes it much easier to pick up on things your untrained ears might otherwise miss. The vocals are primarily death-metal style. I find them fairly understandable but I’ve been listening to death metal for 10+ years so maybe I’m not the best judge there… but there is also plenty of clean singing and some old-style chanting and lots of choir vocals.

Here is a video they just posted from the upcoming live album of the song Hel from Börn Loka, featuring Edda Tegeder Óskarsdóttir from the awesome death metal band Angist:

I recommend following along with the lyrics, which can be found here:

Gjöriðið svo vel og góða skemmtun :þ


Page on genitives

Sorry for the long time with no updates – I actually picked kind of a bad time to start this website and I’ve been busy with things so I forced myself to make an update this morning.

I posted a page describing Icelandic genitives, along with instructions for the two most commonly encountered problems for English-speakers: using the word ásatrúar, and making a Norse-y patronymic/matronymic-style name. I include instructions on using Beygingarlýsing íslensks nútímamáls to look up different forms of words including genitives, with lots of pictures and a few tricks for when you don’t quite know what to search for.

The post can be found here:

I also rearranged the links at the top of the page so that they make some kind of sense, now that there’s a little bit of actual content on the site.

New page on younger fuþark vowels

It always disappoints me that there aren’t more people into the actual viking runes. I think it’s because the vowel system is confusing. I try to explain it in a way that makes sense. I mostly ignore the ą́ss rune ᚮ but I do discuss nasalization a little bit.

Update to /ʀ/ Page

Instead of starting to work on new pages like I should, I’ve continued reading about /ʀ/, partially to make sure what I’ve said so far is right, and partially because it really is a pretty complicated subject with a lot of nuance.

Anyway, I found two things which I thought were interesting, the first being that I can read Norwegian (never tried before! But it’s like Danish – which I can kind of read – except that it makes sense), and the second being that there are loanwords from North Germanic languages into Saami that may be helpful in determining the identify of /ʀ/.

So that you don’t have to go digging through the page to see what I added, here it is:

I’ve just read, in Frå urnordisk til norrønt språk by Odd Einar Haugen, that Harald Bjorvand, a Norwegian historical linguist, pointed out that the Proto-Norse word *diuʀą (“animal”; cognate to deer; ON dýr) was adopted into the Saami languages as divra. I’m afraid I don’t know much about Saami languages. Looking through an article, On Germanic-Saami contacts and Saami prehistory by Ante Aikio, which notes a variety of North Germanic loanwords into older Saami languages at various points in time, it seems most instances of Germanic /ʀ/ became Saami /s/ (Proto-Norse *haitaʀ ‘hot’> Northwest Saami *hājttēs > Northern Saami háittis ‘very hot (of a stove)’).

However I did find two other interesting examples mentioned…

  • Proto-Norse(?) *hrauʀōʀ ‘groin’ (plural) > Pre-Saami *rawša ‘udder’
  • Proto-Norse(?) *nāƀiʀōʀ ‘birch bark’ > Pre-Saami *napra ‘birch bark’

The š, I would have to believe, represents /ʃ/, which is the English ‘sh’ sound. That’s what it usually represents anyway.

The reason I question-marked the ‘Proto-Norse’ is that the dating of the first seems uncertain, and because Aikio protests that the second was actually *ƀirōʀ, with a “regular” /r/ instead of a /ʀ/, on the grounds that Saami wouldn’t have taken it as an /r/. But if Harald is right about divra, I wonder if that may be evidence that /ʀ/was analyzed by Saami speakers in different ways depending on whether or not it came at the end of a word.

Harald Bjorvand considers the sound of /ʀ/ to be the raised alveolar non-sonorant trill [], which is the ř-sound in the Czech name Dvořák, like the composer.