Totally forgot to post on the blog thing here that I added a page on Old Norse Pronunciation, covering several different points in the development from Common West Norse to Modern Icelandic.

I said it on the page and I’ll say it again here: 100% technical accuracy is highly unlikely. But it’s also not a shot in the dark. Using historical linguistics we can, to a large extent (with a lot of help from a 12th-century Icelander’s description of his own language) recreate the phonemic structure of the language (that is, not the actual sounds, or phones). Within that structure there is plenty of room for both temporal and regional variation. However, the changes that are noted are likely the ones that, once they happened, stuck and spread, making way for future developments in the language leading to the Icelandic that is spoken today.

So no, this is not perfect, and even if it were, I would have no way of knowing, but I feel relatively confident that it’s at least an improvement over most of what can be found on the internet and definitely helpful for a student trying to understand the relationships between sounds.

If anyone has any questions or suggestions, feel free to let me know.

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.